Wednesday, 5 October 2011

normal service 2

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.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Late night? Hm.

Can one assume that the sender of the email was suitably refreshed - and not with lashings of ginger beer?

Was said...

The Chronicle's reaction doesn't surprise me.

The editor got quite belligerent when I informed her that her reporters had printed a story based on false information put out by the Labour administration. She point blank refused to correct it, resorting to tautology to defend the paper's position. I have a statement from Council officers which demonstrated that the Chronicle article was based on a false assertion. I was quite surprised that ascertaining the true facts of the matter appeared to be incidental to the reporting of the "story".

But it wasn't a "one-off". They have subsequently published two stories about me that were false on several points of fact. Asking them to correct them would have been an obviously futile exercise so I didn't bother.

As for your use of the photograph, fair dealing with a work for the purpose of criticism does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement and provided that the work has been made available to the public. It should be noted that fair use of a photograph doesn't extend to use of it for the purposes of news reporting.

However, your post was clearly a criticism, the photograph an essential part of that criticism and the source was acknowledged.

That is UK law. The US has far broader definitions of Fair Use. I am not sure about Fair Use under French law but would be surprised if it was stricter than UK law.

As for permission. You do not require to have permission from anyone if a photograph is taken in or from a public area. However, in this case a school would be deemed to be private property and permission required.

That said, a parent or guardian taking a picture of, for example, a sports day would not require permission to take photographs but the rules are different for "official" photographs includng use by the school or media.

For The Chronicle to take a picture for official use sanctioned by the school, the photographer would require the permission of the school. That usually entails conforming to whatever policy a particular school has in place. The NSPCC recommends that that both the parent and child are made aware of the context in which the photograph will be used.

It is also possible that the Data Protection Act has been broken if parental permission was not obtained.

Whether the law has been broken would therefore depend on the policy in place at the individual school.

Augustus "Cocklecarrot" Carp LLB (Failed) said...

I am not entirely sure that M’Learned Was is 100% correct in the matter of Dead Tree Press –v- Griffiths. One reason why the paper will want to retain and exert their control over the picture is so that they can make money from it by selling it on, or reproducing it in other ways. Think of it on mousemats, mugs, T-shirts, glossy posters for your bedroom wall and the like. We would all want to buy one,. But now the market in this important piece of contemporary reportage has been ruined by carelessly exposing it to an unsuspecting world. What would be your reaction if someone was given a samizdat copy of your most admirable e-book, and then forwarded it on a million times?

Jane Griffiths said...

er, Gus, that is precisely what did happen with my book. Maybe not a milion, but a lot. I didn't really mind. I made enough money from it to buy myself some bits of e-gadgetry. But you are right, I had not considered the commercial potential value of this particular piece of exploitation. I'll know better next time. And it wasn't Was I took my legal advice from.