Tag Archives: flickr

Finding images and multimedia for your news project (without breaking copyright laws)

For copyright reasons image is not available (badge)

Whether you need an image for your blog post, a soundtrack to your video or that YouTube clip for your documentary, if you’re dealing with multimedia it’s likely you’ll end up using – or wanting to use – someone else’s work as part of your own.

Here are some basic tips on finding and using multimedia across the web in a way that won’t (hopefully) land you in hot water.

The public domain myth

One of the mistakes that has repeatedly landed journalists and their employers in trouble is confusion over the term “public domain“.

Public domain has two possible meanings. In copyright terms, public domain refers to work whose copyright has expired, meaning that anyone can use it without having to ask the copyright holder. Disney – a fierce lobbyist itself for extending copyright – has used ‘public domain’ material as the basis for most of its cartoons, from the work of the Grimm Brothers to a host of other fairy tales, myths and legends.

But sometimes you will hear journalists talk about something being “in the public domain“, in other words ‘public’. For instance, when the Irish Daily Mail published photos of an air traffic controller from her website, they defended the decision on the grounds that the image was “in the public domain”.

But this is not the same.

For example, pretty much every piece of media, almost by definition, is “in the public domain”. Newspapers and magazines sit on the newsstands; television and radio reports are broadcast on huge city centre screens and speakers.

But if you take that content and reproduce it in its entirety without permission, you are breaking copyright law.

It seems odd that media organisations so used to protecting their own, very public, content, should think that another person’s photo, or video, or report, should be fair game because it is “in the public domain”. But they do.

If you want public domain (in the sense of ‘copyright expired’) content, there are some useful sources. The Public Domain Review, for example, publishes a range of public domain work and has this guide to finding them. And Angela Grant writes here about finding public domain video, among other things (note that Angela refers to US law, not that of other countries).

But never assume something is public domain because it is “in public”.

One point to make: while an image, story, or composition may be out of copyright, its performance, re-design or re-telling may not.

Just ask Disney.

Creative Commons – making UGC copyright explicit

If you’re dealing with content that’s been published on a platform like Flickr or YouTube, you may be able to find out the copyright status of that content relatively easily.

Both allow users to easily establish copyright through the Creative Commons licence. You can either look for that licence in the relevant part of the page hosting the content.

On YouTube it is under the video:

Where to find a YouTube video's licensing information - image from YouTube. Click to see original in context.

Where to find a YouTube video’s licensing information – image from YouTube.

On Flickr this is on the right hand side under License:

Look for an image’s licensing information on Flickr on the right hand column. Make sure you click on that licence to find out what terms it requires.

Look for an image’s licensing information on Flickr on the right hand column.

Make sure you click on that licence to find out what terms it requires.

Creative Commons, for example, has a number of elements:

  • Whether the material can be used only in noncommercial contexts, or for commercial use as well
  • Whether the material can be adapted and changed, or must be left unchanged
  • Whether you must use the same CC licence if you use this material (e.g. you cannot use a noncommercial licence but then allow your work to be used commercially)
  • Whether you must attribute the work (this is where many people breach the licence)

If you’re unsure of where your work fits against those criteria (for example, whether it’s considered as “commercial”), then approach the copyright holder for clarity. Remember that the CC licence is only a default position, and can be negotiated. Also, if you cannot get any response and decide to publish anyway, your attempts to contact the copyright holder will be important if there are any legal proceedings.

If you want others to publish their content under a CC licence, it helps if you publish at least some of your own work under a CC licence too. Indeed, if it contains other CC material, their licences may require you to.

Flickr and YouTube aren’t the only sites that use Creative Commons licences, of course. To search for media under a CC licence (including on those sites), use the search facility on the Creative Commons site and select the engine you want to search through.

If you’re running a hyperlocal site, or any site that needs images of places, check out Geograph, which hosts Creative Commons-licensed images of locations around the UK.

There are also specialist sites for sharing music under CC, such as Freesound.

Even if the media you are interested in using does not use a CC licence, of course, you can still approach the copyright holder for permission to use it.

Embedding versus re-broadcasting

If the media is hosted on a platform like YouTube, you may be able to embed it on a webpage without seeking permission at all: if the creator* has enabled embedding then they would have little argument in suing for breach of copyright because:

  • By enabling embedding they have given an ‘implied’ right; and
  • They could stop you publishing it instantly by disabling embedding.
  • Also, your embedding of their media would not lead to any loss of revenue (as advertising can be embedded too), so it is unlikely that there would be any damages to sue for.

*note: this does not apply to video created by other people and uploaded by someone other than the copyright holder.

UPDATE: Interestingly on this note, in March 2014 Getty Images made it possible to embed 35 million of its images for non-commercial use:

“In essence, anyone will be able to visit Getty Images’ library of content, select an image and copy an embed HTML code to use that image on their own websites. Getty Images will serve the image in a embedded player – very much like YouTube currently does with its videos – which will include the full copyright information and a link back to the image’s dedicated licensing page on the Getty Images website.”

Reality bites

Of course, it’s one thing to talk about the strict legal position, and another to talk about what actually happens. Journalists regularly publish content that breaks the law – but make a judgement about the likelihood of ending up in court over that. For example, I can say that the Queen is corrupt (a defamatory statement) and be almost certain that the Queen is not going to sue me (because she has a history of not doing so).

Media lawyers are not just there to advise publishers on their strict legal position, but on the balance of risk involved, and how to reduce those risks. While you cannot always avoid risks, you can avoid them in simple ways:

  • Always try to establish the copyright situation regarding any media you use: who holds the copyright (there may be more than one copyright owner: for example, performer and composer), and what are the terms of the licence?
  • Try to contact the copyright holder if you’re in any doubt – even if you can’t contact them your efforts to do so will help you if you do end up in court.
  • Always attribute authorship and link to the source (this can be done in title credits, captions and/or links on the host webpage). Copyright claims normally revolve around loss of earnings: anything that may have contributed to that (i.e. not linking to the source) will likely add to damages.

Minimal cost and royalty free

‘Royalty free’ is a vague term which is often confused with, simply, ‘free’. It most often refers to media which is paid for once and can then be used multiple times in different contexts.

For example, you might pay for a CD of ‘royalty free’ music or sound effects which can be used across multiple video projects – saving you the hassle of acquiring permissions every time for different music.

Or you might buy a CD of royalty free images (clip art, for example) that you can use across various design projects.

If you’re studying in a school of media, or working in a large media organisation, they will probably have some royalty free media for students or employees to use – so ask around to find out what’s available.

But don’t use it for the sake of it: the quality can vary. In addition, many other media projects may have relied on the same libraries, so you can lose distinctiveness.

You should also be aware that the licences of even so-called ‘royalty free’ material can be restrictive: the Wikipedia entry on royalty free music notes that “the royalty-free music license at SmartSound states “You must obtain a “mechanical” license for replication of quantities in excess of 10,000 units.” (Read the licence here)

Thankfully for those who want more diversity, the internet has made new types of royalty free media – and new pricing – possible, as a wider range of photographers and other media creators can now sell their work through online marketplaces.

Pond5 has sound effects, photos, video, illustrations, music and even After Effects projects from $2 up – as well as occasional free materialiStockphoto covers most of those, and adds Flash files too – again at often very cheap prices. Quality, however, does cost more.

Stock.XCHNG deserves special mention, boasting that it is the world’s “leading free stock photo site” and hosting thousands of royalty free images. Even if the image is ‘free’, however, it’s only free under the terms of the licence – so always check them.

You can find many more sources by searching for articles like this on the ‘best places to get free images’.

On the audio front, there are sites like Audiosocket, which allow you to browse and licence independent music for your film (if you use Vimeo you can also add this through their music store).

If you know of other sources or issues to consider in finding material for multimedia, I’d love to know.

For more on these issues, and for related tools and links, see my bookmarks at http://delicious.com/paulb/creativecommons

Finding images and multimedia for your news project (without breaking copyright laws)

For copyright reasons image is not available (badge)

Image by gaelx

Whether you need an image for your blog post, a soundtrack to your video or that YouTube clip for your documentary, if you’re dealing with multimedia it’s likely you’ll end up using – or wanting to use – someone else’s work as part of your own.

Here are some basic tips on finding and using multimedia across the web in a way that won’t (hopefully) land you in hot water. Continue reading

Disproving the police account of Tomlinson’s death (How “citizen journalism” aided two major Guardian scoops part 2)

This is the second of a three-part guest post by Paul Lewis that originally appeared in the book Investigative Journalism: Dead or Alive? You can read the first part here.

The investigation into Tomlinson’s death began in the hours after his death on 1 April 2009, and culminated, six days later, in the release of video footage showing how he had been struck with a baton and pushed to the ground by a Metropolitan police officer, Simon Harwood. The footage, shot by an American businessman, was accompanied by around twenty detailed witness accounts and photographs of the newspaper seller’s last moments alive and successfully disproved the police’s explanation of the death.

The result was a criminal investigation, a national review of policing, multiple parliamentary inquiries and, by May 2011, an inquest at which a jury concluded Tomlinson had been “unlawfully killed”. At the time of writing, Harwood, who was on the Met’s elite Territorial Support Group, was awaiting trial for manslaughter.

In media studies, the case was viewed as a landmark moment for so-called “citizen journalism”. Sociologists Greer and Laughlin argue the Tomlinson story revealed a changing narrative, in which the powerful – in this case, the police – lost their status of “primary definers” of a controversial event.

Significantly, it was the citizen journalist and news media perspective, rather than the police perspective, that was assimilated into and validated by the official investigations and reports. Ultimately, it was this perspective that determined “what the story was”, structured the reporting of “what had happened and why” and drove further journalistic investigation and criticism of the Metropolitan Police Services.

The initial account of Tomlinson’s death put out by police was that he died of a heart attack while walking home from work in the vicinity of the protests, and that protesters were partly to blame for impeding medics from delivering life-saving treatment. Neither of these claims were true, but they fed into coverage that was favourable to police.

A public relations drive by the Met and City of London police was bolstered by “off the record” briefings to reporters that suggested – also wrongly – that Tomlinson’s family were not surprised by his death and upset by internet speculation it could be suspicious. These briefings contributed to a broader media narrative that endorsed police and criticised protesters.

How the police account left so many questions unanswered

The morning after father of nine died, the newspaper he had been selling outside Monument tube station, the Evening Standard, carried the headline: “Police pelted with bricks as they help dying man.” But it was plain to us, even at an early stage, that there could be more to the story. The overlydefensive police public relations campaign gave the impression there was something to hide. Embedded in the small-print of press releases, there were clues – such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s notification of the death – that left unanswered questions.

Most obviously, anyone who had ventured near to the protests near the Bank of England on the evening Tomlinson died would have known he collapsed in the midst of violent clashes with police. It seemed implausible, even unlikely, that the death of a bystander would not have been connected in some way to the violence. But pursuing this hunch was not easy, given the paucity of reliable information being released by police, who at times actively discouraged us from investigating the case.

All that was known about Tomlinson in the 48 hours after his death was that he had been wearing a Millwall football t-shirt. That, though, was enough to begin pursuing two separate lines of inquiry. One involved old school “shoe leather”; trawling through notepads to identify anyone who may have been in the area, or know someone who was, who could identify Tomlinson from press photographs of him lying unconscious on the ground.

That yielded one useful eye-witness, with photographic evidence of Tomlinson alive, with images of him walking in apparent distress, and lying at the feet of riot police 100 yards from where he would eventually collapse. Why was Tomlinson on the ground twice, in the space of just a few minutes? And if those photographs of the father of nine stumbling near police officers, moments before his death, were put online, would anyone make the connection?

Becoming part of a virtual G20 crowd

The answer was yes, as a direct result of the second line of inquiry: by open sharing information online, both through internet stories and Twitter, we became part of a virtual G20 crowd that had coalesced online to question the circumstances of his death. In this environment, valuable contributions to the debate, which were more sceptical in tone than those adopted by other media organisations, worked like online magnets for those who doubted the official version of events. Twitter proved crucial to sharing information with the network of individuals who had begun investigating the death of their own accord.

I had signed-up to the social media website two days before the protest, and became fascinated with the pattern of movement of “newsworthy” tweets. For example, a YouTube video uploaded by two protesters who did not see the assault on Tomlinson, but did witness his collapse minutes later and strongly disputed police claims that officers treating him were attacked with bottles, was recommended to me within seconds of being uploaded. Minutes later, Twitter investigators had identified the protesters in the film and, shortly after that, found their contact details.

Similarly, those concerned to document Tomlinson’s last moments alive, including associates of the anarchist police-monitoring group Fitwatch, were using the internet to organise.

Through Twitter I discovered there were Flickr albums with hundreds of photographs of the vicinity of this death, and dissemination of blog-posts that speculated on how he may have died. None of these images of course could be taken at face value, but they often contained clues, and where necessary the crowd helped locate, and contact, the photographer.

Journalists often mistakenly assume they can harness the wisdom of an online crowd by commanding its direction of travel. On the contrary, in digital journalism, memes (namely, concepts that spread via the internet) take their own shape organically, and often react with hostility to anyone who overtly seeks to control their direction. This is particularly the case with the protest community, which often mistrusts the so-called mainstream media. Hence it was incumbent on me, the journalist, to join the wider crowd on an equal playing-field, and share as much information as I was using as the investigation progressed.

Establishing authenticity and context

There were times, of course, when we had to hold back important material; we resisted publishing images of Tomlinson at the feet of riot police for four days, in order to establish properly their authenticity and context.

Internet contact usually does not suffice for verification, and so I regularly met with sources. I asked the most important witnesses to meet me at the scene of Tomlinson’s death, near the Bank of England, to walk and talk me through what they had seen. We only published images and video that we had retrieved directly from the source and later verified.

A different standard applies to sharing images already released on Twitter, where journalists such as National Public Radio’s Andy Carvin in the US have proven the benefits from sharing information already in the public domain to establish its significance and provenance. The break, though, as with most scoops, was partly the result of good luck, but not unrelated to the fact that our journalism had acquired credibility in the online crowd.

Chris La Jaunie, an investment fund manager, who had recorded the crucial footage of Harwood pushing Tomlinson on a digital camera, had become part of that crowd too, having spent days monitoring coverage on the internet from his office in New York. He knew the footage he had was potentially explosive. The options available to Mr La Jaunie were limited. Fearing a police cover-up, he did not trust handing over the footage. An alternative would have been to release the video onto YouTube, where would it lack context, might go unnoticed for days and even then could not have been reliably verified.

He said he chose to contact me after coming to the conclusion that ours was the news organisation which had most effectively interrogated the police version of events. It was more than a year later that my colleague Matthew Taylor and I began inquiring into the death of Mubenga. By then we had recognised the potential reach of Twitter for investigative journalism and our decision to openly investigate the death of the Angolan failed asylum seeker was a deliberate one.

Not all investigations are suited to transparent digging, and, indeed, many stories still demand top secrecy. This has been true for the three outstanding UK investigations of our times: the Telegraph’s MPs’ expenses scandal and, at the Guardian, the investigations into files obtained by WikiLeaks and phone-hacking by the News of the World. However, Tomlinson had shown that open investigations can succeed, and there were parallels with the death of Mubenga.

In the third and final part, published tomorrow, Lewis explains how he used Twitter to pursue that investigation into the death of Jimmy Mubenga, and the crucial role of verification.

10 things you can tweet about on Twitter

Don’t worry, I’ll get over this Twitter thing very soon, but for now I want to address all of the ill informed coverage that stifles use of Twitter because it can’t see beyond a) celebrities using it and b) the Facebook-style status update thing.

If you’re struggling to think of what to talk about on Twitter, here are some suggestions: Continue reading

Magazine production and interactivity – what the students did

I’ve just been casting my eye over the Magazine Production work of two groups of second year students on the journalism degree I teach on. In addition to design and subbing, they were assessed on ‘web strategy’ – in other words, how they approached distribution online.

To give this a little context: early in the module ideas for magazines had to be pitched to the student union for financial backing in a Dragons’ Den-style competition (where among other things they had to address web strategy and business model). One idea per class ‘won’, which the whole class then had to work together to produce.

The winning ideas were: Nu Life – a magazine aimed at international students; and Skint - a money-saving guide with a particular focus on food. This is what they did…

The social network as web hub

Both groups created a Ning social network as the hub of their activity. Nu Life‘s pulled RSS feeds from the magazine blog and from local news services, in addition to having blog posts on the Ning itself, hosting images, originally produced video, an event, and forums. Continue reading

They’re not “geeks” – they’re early adopters

Last week I was at a magazine publishers talking about social media platforms, when it was put to me that the platform I was talking about was “mainly used by Valley types”, and why should journalists invest time in a platform when the majority of readers of more conservative titles don’t use it?

It’s a recurring question – so much so that I have decided to present my answer here. I’d welcome any additions. Continue reading

BASIC Principles of Online Journalism: C is for Community & Conversation (pt1: Community)

In the final parts of this series I look at two concepts that have become increasingly central to online journalism in the post-Web 2.0 era: community and conversation. I look at why journalists need to understand how both have changed, how they are linked, and how to embrace them in your work processes.

Conversation and community have always been the lifeblood of journalism. Good journalism has always sought to serve a community; commercially, journalism has always needed large or affluent communities to support it. And good journalism – whether informative or sensationalist – has always generated conversation. Continue reading

A week in online journalism: roundup

Allison White has written this wonderful roundup of last week’s news for the OJB. But now she’s got a job. Persuade her to do this again in the comments…

Google

-Announced no desire to create content and will respect copyright.

It added face-blur technology to its Street View mapping serivce to protect privacy. Also speculation from Groves Media on whether this technology is more of a threat to civil liberties than CCTV.

Microsoft

-Looking to limit the kinds of computers that can use their low-cost OS, making them poor computers even if they could be better and still be as cheap. Continue reading

RSS + social media = “Passive-Aggressive Newsgathering” (A model for the 21st century newsroom part 2 addendum)

Passive aggressive newsgathering

Just when I thought I’d put the 21st century newsroom to bed, along comes a further brainwave about conceptualising newsgathering in an online environment (the area I covered in part 2: Distributed Journalism). It seems to me that the first stage for any journalist or budding journalist lies along two paths: subscribing to a reliable collection of RSS feeds (and email alerts); and exploring a collection of networks. The first part is passive; the latter, more active. So I’ve called it, tongue-in-cheek, “Passive-Aggressive Newsgathering”. But if that sounds too Woody Allen for you, you could call it “Aggregating-Networking Newsgathering”.

Not quite as catchy, though, is it? Continue reading