The Great British Bake Off copyright grab: We can use your #ExtraSlice Twitter images but not give you credit

Images shared on the #ExtraSlice hashtag. I don't know who took these - they waived their moral rights

Images shared on the #ExtraSlice hashtag. I don’t know who took these* – they waived their moral rights

This year’s series of The Great British Bake Off has a social media-savvy spin-off: An Extra Slice.

It’s a mix of interviews, punditry and contributions from audience members and viewers. But the programme makers have a curious approach to copyright law which users of Twitter and Instagram may be ‘agreeing’ to without knowing about it.

The official Twitter account for the programme -@BritishBakeOff – regularly directs followers to tweet contributions under the hashtag #ExtraSlice, as well as a direct email address.

The @BritishBakeOff Twitter account bio says that those images “may be used on air” – but what it doesn’t say is that “We have decided that we don’t have to give you credit for them“. It also doesn’t mention their use on social media.

Unfortunately the Bake Off Twitter bio uses a broken link to the terms (ow.ly/zN5L) which generates a security warning before taking you to an error page. The fact that this hasn’t been spotted suggests no one is bothering to click on it.

deadlink bake off

Once you do track down those terms on the production company’s site (not the BBC’s), however, some strange passages jump out. Most notably this one:

"you agree to waive irrevocably all moral rights of whatever nature in the Material."

“you agree to waive irrevocably all moral rights of whatever nature in the Material.”

Moral rights are the rights to be identified as the author(s) of any copyrighted works. These are separate to economic rights: the right to charge money, or not, for the work.

Moral rights cannot be given to someone else

Moral rights cannot be sold or transferred. For example, Michael Jackson could buy the economic rights to Lennon and McCartney’s songs, but he could never buy the moral right to be identified as the writer of those songs (This will become important later in the post!)

However, moral rights do have to be asserted, and they can be waived (the Association of Photographers has some concerns about both).

In case there’s any confusion, a second passage later on repeats the claim more explicitly:

“You acknowledge that we are not obliged to … accord you any credit in respect of such use, whether or not you have identified yourself (by your real name or otherwise) in submitting the Material.”

It’s not initially clear why the programme makers would insist upon such terms. These rights are, after all, not about money but about authorship.

The show itself takes a relatively traditional approach with the ‘your photos’ section, crediting “Alice” and “Jake from London”:

It may be that the terms are ‘laundry list’ terms drawn up by someone who wants to cover all bases, or that programme makers don’t want to have to name, or fully name, the person who submitted a photo, humorous comment, poem or recipe used on air. “Alice”, after all, may prefer to be credited properly.

Either way, it’s lazy. And with copyright such a sensitive subject online – particularly with recipes – these terms have the potential to blow up in the creators’ faces.

The Cooks Source recipe controversy: 

Cleland Thom, author of the books Internet Law and Facebook for Journalists, feels that the terms are exploitative:

“I think these T&Cs must be the most comprehensive exploitation of people’s copyright I’ve ever seen. The only thing they’ve missed is extending their rights to cover the moon and other planets. I’d rename the programme the Great British Ripoff.

Of course there’s little guarantee that anyone using the #SecondSlice hashtag has ever seen the @BritishBakeOff biography, their dead link, or the page it should be linking to.

Many Twitter clients automatically add hashtags to replies to tweets containing them, as do users. It’s unlikely that using #SecondSlice could be enforced as informed agreement.

Thom adds that requiring users to “irrevocably” waive their rights is problematic, and probably not enforceable:

“The only way a the creator of a copyright work can ‘waive’ their moral rights is to choose not to exercise them. But in my view, they are legally entitled to re-assert them any time.

“You can ‘choose’ to waive them, or ‘unwaive them’, whenever you like … and change your mind…”

Bake Off asserts its own ‘moral rights’ – over images it didn’t create

Perhaps the biggest clue to why Bake Off want users to waive their moral rights lies in the Great British Bake Off’s own assertion of its moral rights over every image they tweet – including images that they did not create.

Here, for example, is the image sent in by “Alice” – credited vaguely in the accompanying tweet but not in the image itself.

At this point we’ve moved from simply preventing users asserting their own moral rights, to beginning to transfer those moral rights to the programme. As explained earlier, this is not allowed. Cleland Thom says: “My view is they can’t do that.”

Then there are these images – were these photos really taken by Bake Off? (Thanks to Jonathan Cresswell for identifying two that were from a show, now removed)

bake off twitter image

bake off: scary unicorn cake  bake off: brian blessed-like cake

Here is the whole passage of those terms in full: extra slice terms and conditions twitter

UPDATE (February 12 2015): Cleland Thom points me to this article about intellectual property and Love Productions.

“With ideas for programmes and formats not directly protected by copyright law, to borrow terminology from the show’s most fear inducing round, it’s something of a technical challenge, protecting a brand such as the Bake Off.

“Unable to copyright the idea, Love Productions can instead define and register each of the various intellectual property ingredients such as the music, graphics or phrases that contribute to the overall flavour of the programme. Understanding, defining and protecting the different elements that are part of the mixture is the path to an IP platform that others will struggle to eat into.”

*Images by (in order): @charlesroper; Liz Hanson (@chrisaliz1); @NordicLaura (two images); Emily Sadler (@emilysadler1197) Alice Adores Apparel (@AliceAdores); @BritishBakeOff; @budgetjett; @AngieHoneybun

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One thought on “The Great British Bake Off copyright grab: We can use your #ExtraSlice Twitter images but not give you credit

  1. Pingback: What you read most on the Online Journalism Blog in 2014 | Online Journalism Blog

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