diamond geezer

 Wednesday, March 18, 2009

When I was little, even when I was quite a lot bigger, nobody ever tried to steal my photos. The only people who ever saw them were me and my family and that nice lady at the chemists who sent them off to the developers. I kept them in an album on a shelf in a cupboard, and no website owner ever spotted them.

Things are different today. I now keep my photos in an album on a website. I have more than 2500 photos on Flickr, which means that anybody can look at them, which is nice because it's good to share. But it also means that anybody can nick them, which was never the case with good old printed rectangles.

I attempt to prevent image theft. All of my Flickr photos have a licence attached, which tells would-be copiers what they are and aren't allowed to do with the image. I'm not completely over-protective in a "Thou shalt not use this photo ever" kind of a way. I'm perfectly happy to let people use one of my photos for non-commercial reasons so long as they credit where it's come from. That'd be a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative licence...
You are free to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work under the following conditions:
    » Attribution. You must give the original author credit.
    » Non-Commercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
    » No Derivative Works. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.
• For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the licence terms of this work.
• Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
I'd have hoped that this licence was crystal clear, especially amongst big media players who ought to know better. And indeed, many people understand perfectly and only re-use my photos with all due permissions. But some don't. And it appears to be very hard to stop them. Here are some examples...

Hoover BuildingPhoto: Hoover Building
Stolen by: Wickes
The well-known builders equipment company have been running an online competition to find "The Building Britain is Most Proud Of." The public nominated a shortlist, and that shortlist was then illustrated using photos stolen from Flickr. They nicked my photo of the Hoover Building, and they nicked Rick's photo of Leeds Town Hall and they nicked Dave's photo of Bletchley Park. They used 30 photos altogether, all without asking, which is quite appalling really. The competition looks to have been a biased washout, with 19 of the buildings gaining no votes whatsoever, and it closed last Friday so it's no longer possible to see what the fuss was all about. But it's nothing to be proud of. Shame on you, Wickes.

Beckton AlpRammey MarshPhotos: Beckton Alp / Rammey Marsh
Borrowed by: Walk London
Last year Walk London, the body which promotes London's strategic walks, published a set of five regional guides. They're glossy and attractive, designed to tempt you into trying a selection of waymarked strolls (although absolutely no use whatsoever if you fancy following the walk on the ground). And ooh look, there are two of my photos in the North East booklet. Rather worryingly I completely failed to notice this until somebody pointed them out yesterday, despite the fact that I've owned a copy of this leaflet for months and both photos have the caption "© Diamond Geezer" slapped over them. Walk London never asked for permission from me up front, but I think the terms of the licence are met. Sort of.

the meandering CuckmerePhoto: Cuckmere meander
Used correctly by: BBC Bitesize
The BBC will soon be revamping their revision website for GCSE students, and obviously the geography section would be incomplete with a picture of a meandering river. This shot from the Sussex coast is one of my favourite photos, and I'm well chuffed that half the nation's 16 year olds will be using it to further their fluvial understanding. The BBC played this one perfectly by the book, requesting written confirmation that I was happy with them using it on the Bitesize website. Well done BBC.

IKEA NeasdenPhoto: IKEA Neasden
Stolen by: The Daily Mail
When a nasty road accident occurs on the North Circular and you have no photographer in the area, what do you do? If you're the Daily Mail you nick my IKEA photo and use it on your newspaper website, that's what. I complained by telephone when a reader pointed out this transgression, and the Mail instantly apologised (because they know they're not supposed to do this sort of thing) and removed the picture. But perhaps I should have demanded appropriate financial settlement from them, just to make a point.

TICK Islington Tunnel: The Islington Liberal Democrats wanted an Islington photo for the header on their website, so they asked me nicely for use of my canal photo, so I said yes. Presumably no politician in Islington has a camera.
CROSS? Olympic Stadium: Jonathan uploaded my latest stadium photo to Twitpic so that he could add a funny caption. He's attributed it to me, sort of, but this still feels rather naughty.
And I suspect there are more stolen photos out there...

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