The story continues. Sally Stevens (for it is she), editor-in-chief, Berkshire Media Group (or something equally prestigious), asks me, quite late last night (congrats Sal on your commitment to your duties) to confirm that I did not acquire the picture I published (she confirmed that the offending item featured Martin Salter and some children) from the Reading Chronicle website, despite the copyright mark on it. I was happy to confirm that I did not. (That's three confirms, sorry #stylefascist). Silence. Her request that I remove the Photo of Doom from this blog has not been repeated. If it is I will comply with it. Of course.
For those (including Sal it appears) who are unfamiliar with today's modern cyberweb doodah, it may be helpful to have the following explanation:
The Photo of Doom was in the dead-tree edition of the Reading Chronicle and was on the public newsstands at the latest by Friday 30th September. On that day it was not on the Reading Chronicle website at the time I looked there, about 1100. Since then it may have appeared there, I have not bothered to look, on the grounds of having a life and work to do. Were I to delete the P of D from this blog it would not disappear from the cyberweb, but would be cached somewhere, for anyone to find if they knew exactly what to look for. The blogpost which contained the P of D was also tweeted, and thus appears on the timelines of several hundred people on Twitter. If any of them retweeted it to other followers, then, who knows, it could be in a million places. This genie is not going back in the bottle.
The question I ask is why anyone is bothered. Especially why Mr Salter is bothered, given that he originally posed for a picture with some children, something he has been doing several times a week since the 1980s to my knowledge. Why would he be upset about it now? Sal S confirms (that word again) that it is essential to get parents' permission before phhotographs of children can be placed in the public domain, and they were so placed, so I have to assume that the correct permissions were in place before the P of D was taken. I believe schools usually seek a general permission from parents at the start of term, which is probably good enough in the UK (it would not be in France) and if the school in question did this there is nothing for them or the Chronicle to worry about.
Is there a copyright issue? Hard to say. I know something about copyright law, but even today the law is silent on many aspects of on-line publication by private individuals. If you, as a private individual, buy a paper copy of a newspaper, that paper becomes your property, to dispose of as you wish. Including scanning it and emailing it to anyone you please. Who do with it as they in turn please. It is every individual's responsibility to comply with copyright law, as with other laws. However, it would take a better lawyer than me (a qualified and expensive one, for preference) to determine whether publication of a picture originally intended for public display, on a US-hosted website, input in France, is actually meaningfully bound by UK copyright law at all. Or even EU law.
I leave this knotty issue to the best minds of a generation, or failing that the Reading Chronicle's copyright department and Messrs Salter and Howarth, who are having a naked conversation on the subject as I write this. And conclude by wondering why anyone cares enough to instruct a senior executive of a media conglomerate to send threatening late-night emails to a person in another country.