Saturday 26 February 2011

The politics of copyright

We see that the "Turning Bristol Red" blog is using one of our photographs of Jon Rogers. Not just embedding, but putting a complete new copy up on their own server:

That was a photograph staged as part of the ongoing treegate story. Yes, like Top Gear, sometimes things are rigged. It was Chris Hutt's funeral, Jon was one of the people who stood up said nice things about Chris: it was a year today that we were all down at the Zetland Road junction, where Chris presented Jon with the second place in the Antibicycle awards.

It's bit of a shame, therefore, that what was a deliberately staged photograph at Chris's funeral has become, well politicised. This doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the text, it's worth a read and the audience can come to their own conclusions, only that the Bristol Traffic team doesn't like making enemies, as it interferes with our strategic plans. We sometimes see Jon in the street, he stops and says hello. And last week one of our reporters bumped into Paul Smith over in Portishead, where Paul was polite, despite the fairly muddy condition of the reporter. If someone we know and respect -such as the Bristol Blogger- had wanted the pic, we'd have said "yes, go for it", but we're not so bemused by someone using it who hasn't yet done anything to help us, and without even asking.
This site doesn't make any declaration of how our pictures can be re-used. There's an implicit declaration of copyright there -that it is retained by the original photographers. If people want to use our photographs elsewhere, it is not merely polite to ask, it is a requirement -something that someone trained in law should realise. We are pleased that our work has ended up being used in the campaign leaflets of the Labour, Green and LD parties over the past few years -everyone who asked got the response "yes". But they asked, they didn't just take.

This is particularly ironic given one of the last acts of the labour government was the Digital Economy Bill, which has some pretty awful provisions on copyright in the internet era, as record and DVD companies don't understand about how networks work, and would rather we all sat at home paying a premium to consume whatever Sky TV beams to us, with the little TV box then uploading statistics on what we watched. Not, say uploading our own photographs or videos to youtube, to become our own media reporters, whether it's on traffic issues in the city centre or -far better and braver- filming the overthrow of dictatorships from your mobile phones as you stand up to rulers that have declared a state of emergency for forty years.

It's also amusing given the experience of Crap Walking and Cycling in Waltham Forest, who had some of their artwork used by their Local Labour party; quite a story [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], though we suspect Freewheeler would be happier if they actually addressed some of the issues that the photographs raise.

Darren, you can re-use the four photos on this posting. That's two of you, one of Gary Hopkins and one of the Eastville ward results where Glenn Vowles is not that far behind the conservatives.
But not the current Jon pic you are using, and if you want any of our others, email us first.
Next time we're at an election we'll try and get some less blurred ones of you. We hear Charlie Bolton will be standing again, and he shared his chips with us. Nobody else did that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am sorry and I have removed the pic. I'm relatively new to blogging and I thought the etiquette was to cite you and direct readers to your site since that's what been done to my blog in the last few months.

Apologies once again.