Sunday, May 27, 2012

Citizen Journalism Fails Viewers at the BBC

Fact-checking took a holiday at the BBC today, as a credit line of "photo from activist" was used to identify propaganda promoting the activist's cause, on the front page of the BBC's website for an article titled "Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows." The problem? Among the many, is that this photograph, purported to have been taken on or about Friday, May 25th, 2012 in Houla, Syria, and represented in the photo caption as "believed to show the bodies of children...", was actually taken on May 27, 2003, 9 years earlier, in Al Musayyib, Iraq, by photographer Marco Di Lauro, a photojournalist for Reportage by Getty Images.

The front page of the website, below, shows the image in it's mis-credited and mis-represented form:
The image here shows the image on Di Lauro's website, with the proper caption:
"An Iraqi child jumps over a line of hundreds of bodies, in a school where they have been transported from a mass grave, to be identified. They were discovered in the desert in the outskirts of Al Musayyib, 40 km south of Baghdad. It has been estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 Iraqis had been reported missing in the region south of Baghdad. People have been searching for days for identity cards or other clues among the skeletons to try to find the remains of brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters and even children who disappeared when Saddam's government crushed a Shi'ite uprising following the 1991 Gulf War."
Di Lauro, who is a freelance photographer represented by Reportage by Getty Images, also licenses this image on the Getty website here.

As noted above, there are many problems - here are a few of them:
(Continued after the Jump)

Problem? Taking an Activist's image

It should not be the case that someone whom is identified as an "activist" should be given the credence of a journalist, and have their propaganda disseminated under that banner. A statement they make is (and must be) fact-checked, as should any visuals they provide. BBC Director of the World Service and Global News, Richard Sambrook, who wrote in Nieman Reports, from The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, of "Citizen Journalism and the BBC" during his tenure at the BBC, wrote at the time (Winter, 2005) "...From now on, news coverage is a partnership." Sambrook notes, accurately, "How can our journalistic reputation be protected when we are not fully in control of our content?" Indeed, Mr. Sambrook. This "partnership" was violated by an activist with their own agenda.

Problem? Citizen Journalists
It must be said that Sambrook is not now at the helm of any BBC division, but he was a reporter for the BBC and left in 2010. Surely, Sambrook's imprint was left on those who came after his departure. Sambrook defends citizen journalists, with initiatives like the BBC Action Network's iCan, saying "As someone who supports this new direction, I don’t suggest the BBC staff abdicate their responsibility for accuracy, fairness or objectivity. There will always be a central place for editorial judgment to be applied. That judgment is the essential brand value of major news organizations. As we open up to contributions from the public, we must do so in a way that is consistent with our editorial values." At that same time, Sambrook authored another article for Nieman Reports, touting "The BBC’s College of Journalism" writing "The BBC is establishing a College of Journalism to raise and support editorial standards...the Bollege of Journalism will also focus on ethics and values and building knowledge on key themes and issues, such as Europe and the Middle East...So far, 10,000 staffers have completed an online editorial policy course (the biggest BBC interactive training initiative yet), and 8,000 staff members have attended workshops on sources and attribution." It is clear that whomever edited the article must have missed that workshop on sources an attribution.

In that same issue of Nieman Reports, Santiago Lyon, at the time (and still) Director of Photography for the Associated Press and Lou Ferrara, who was an online editor for the Associated Press, wrote in an article "With Citizens’ Visual News Coverage Standards Don’t Change" that "‘In an era in which digital alteration of images is increasingly easy, credibility is everything.’" In fact, as they note of an image they saw on a BBC website, they (the AP) went through the process of locating the citizen photographer, obtained rights, and then distributed the image. Lyon's team, no doubt, also vetted the veracity of the image during that process. Of the veracity of all citizen journalism content "The same journalistic standards that are currently applied to mainstream media sources will need to be applied to all citizen-produced material. Verification is crucial."

Problem? Stealing from someone
This activist saw it fit to steal from a photographer. Di Lauro puts his life on the line to make a living and produce images that reveal to the world what is happening. He should be afforded the ability to continue to do so, and copyright, and rights to his images, gives him the ability to continue to tell the story.

Problem? No fact-checking. 

The caption attempts to offer an out, indicating "This image - which cannot be independently verified - is believed to show the bodies of children in Houla awaiting burial." According to the BBC, and other news sources, while there were at least 90 people killed, 32 were children under the age of 10. In 30 seconds, I was able to count about to 25 bodies in the row second from the left, and multiply that by 3 for the 3 center rows of the 5 depicted, and that's 75 estimating that there are also 25 on the two outer rows depicted and we're at 125. Clearly, there are way more than 32 bodies in this photograph, and there are even more than 90.

Clearly, more questions needed to be asked of the source.

Problem? No correction listed
An update of the story just before 8am GMT, did not list a correction, or editorial note about the mis-credited and mis-characterized photograph. The BBC simply made it as if it didn't exist and never did anything wrong. Di Lauro, and Getty Images have recourse for the theft of his intellectual property. While they of course have recourse with the activist, they also have recourse with the BBC as well.

Problem? Di Lauro had recourse - but his recourse would be much less, or non-existent, if Orphan Works had existed
There have been many conversations about the "orphaning" of photographs, whereby someone strips the metadata and and other indications of image ownership from an image, and then uses that image for their own purposes and ends, and when the actual creator of the photograph is identified, they are unable to stop the uses of their image - whether in an accurate depiction of something, or, in this case, as propaganda completely disconnected from the reality in the image. While it is reasonable to assume that a news organization, presented with the evidence of falsehood, would remove a mis-representing image, commercial entities, or uses where the users don't care or are otherwise unsavory, may well keep the image up, under the misguided notion that the end justifies the means. While the efforts to make orphaned works legally allowable in the United States (a dubious at best consideration relative to signatories to the Berne Convention, which would likely apply in this UK use) went away a few years back, the effort continues to percolate with people who believe much of intellectual property should not be given any control by it's creators. I would hope that even those orphan works proponents would agree that the theft of intellectual property in this manner should not be allowed in whatever final form they hope for in their legislative efforts.

In the end, it was because Di Lauro became aware of the theft of his image and the mis-characterization of it that the BBC no longer has it on their website. It was not because of the efforts of the editors of the BBC doing their due diligence. According to the screen grab the story was updated at 04:40 GMT, and the screen grab we have is timed at 12:26 GMT, so for at least 9 hours the BBC was profiting off of Di Lauro's image, and that is assuming that the photo was first posted during the 4:40am update, and taken down right after the screen shot was made. A screen shot a few hours later shows a video instead. How many other times has this happened? Whether it's a CNN iReporter, Fox News' uReport, being an MSNBC Citizen Journalist, or a part of the BBC's Action Network's iCan, Citizen Journalist representations must carry at least as high a burden of proof as that of professional journalists, if not higher. Interestingly enough, The BBC closed up their iCan experiment because, according to BBC News editor Peter Horrocks in this article "the level of involvement in it compared to the cost was inappropriate." As such, in April of 2008, just 5 years in, the grassroots effort wasn't working. While the iCan effort isn't exactly comparative to iReporters or uReporters, the notion of laying the responsibility on the public at large for engaging in reporting is fraught with pitfalls and risks. The BBC took a risk while their standards were on holiday, and that risky move failed them miserably.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Getty Images Returning to the Stock Market with an IPO?

According to the NASDAQ website (here) the Financial Times is reporting that Goldman Sachs has been retained to consider an IPO and other options. Photo Business News reported that federal regulators had approved Hellman & Friedman taking Getty private (Getty Images - Moving Forward, 3/19/08) at a rate of $2.1B (according to Forbes) and $2.4B according to the Nasdaq site. They are considering a valuation for the IPO of $4B. Getty at one point saw highs of $90+ a share in their heyday, before plummeting and then going private. With the Shutterstock IPO revealing their average stock sale of $2.05 per image in an SEC filing (as reported by Photo District News, here), how can Getty see a $4B valuation? Dubious, at best.
(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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Monday, May 14, 2012

USA Today ≠ US Presswire at US Olympic Media Summit (And Beyond)

When you think "olympic" the concept of "top of their game", or "monumental" comes to mind. While "Olympic" refers generally (and usually) to the Olympic Games, it is often used as a verb (no doubt much to the chagrin of Olympic Officials) to characterize the best. This year, when the Olympics arrives in London, it seems that USA Today is sending in the farm team rather than the best, when it comes to their photography staff, for the most part.

USA Today staff photographers with decades of experience covering sports were told last week that, well, their services wouldn't be needed in London. USA Today Sports Media Group Company, which now owns the US Presswire photo wire service, known to some as the "let's all work for photo credit, press-file hot dogs, and a few stock sales" photography operation, decided that they would choose the team going to cover the olympics this year, save for just one well regarded USA Today photographer. If there was any doubt that the staff will be wet behind the ears, you need look no further than the list of those credentialed - Richard Mackson's teenage kid seems to be credentialed as a part of the team of pros going over and she either just (or will soon) graduate from...wait for it... high school.

If you're looking to talk to the USA Today photo booth out at the Olympic Media Summit at the Hilton Anatole, going on today and tomorrow, they won't be there. Well, the booth is there - in Stemmons Ballroom C (on the right as you walk in), but it's not actually staffed by USA Today staffers - instead, it's staffed by US Presswire staff and contractors. So if you see someone wearing a USA Today credential, shirt, or beneath one of their banners, it's really a US Presswire person cloaked in the storied name of USA Today.

For decades, the USA Today photo staff has put forth the best of the best to cover the Olympics. So too has Sports Illustrated, and other storied organizations that see covering the Olympics as the pinnacle of sports photography. I am sure that Getty Images will be quite interested to know that US Presswire is parading around under the cloak of USA Today, seeing as the US Olympic Committee encourages people (here) to contact Getty for rights-manged images, noting "In addition, Getty Images has a vast archive of U.S. Olympic-related images." In fact, according to the Getty website here, they say "...As the official photographic agency of the International Olympic Committee since 1988, we have the imagery you need to set your Olympics coverage apart." While I am sure that USA Today has shared content with their sister organization (Gannett) newspapers in the past, it doesn't take much to consider that Getty's revenues will be affected by US Presswire syndicating their content from the Olympics outside of USA Today and Gannett. Then again, maybe not. Maybe Getty is right - their coverage may well be "...set...apart.." and not even in the same league as USPWs. In this case, Getty is the big leagues, and, yes, coming full circle, the USA Today team, filled with USPW photographers, seems to be the farm team.

I'm guessing that the new President and Publisher of USA Today, who will be reporting to Gannett (NYSE: GCI), Larry Kramer, (announced just today, here) will be wondering why a teenager is on the credentials list along with so many other US Presswire photographers when his thoroughbred sports photographers didn't make the cut. According to the USA Today article, he's in charge of the USA Today Sports Media Group, so this issue falls right under his responsibilities list.

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Copyright Small Claims Court - The Discourse of Benefits & Challenges

The US Copyright Office held a roundtable discussion today in Washington DC, at the George Washington University Law School on the subject of how (and if) to propose implementing a form of a Small Claims Court for copyright infringement claims. The roundtable was filled with rights-holders from around the country who came to share their views on the benefits and challenges that a Small Claims Court venue would have on rights-holders. In his opening remarks, David Kappos, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, said that the issue of an Intellectual Property "Small Claims" system is a "burning platform," that must be addressed.
(Continued after the Jump)

The Registrar of Copyrights, Maria Pallante (below right) listened intently throughout the discussions, as did David Carson (below left), counsel to the Copyright Office. Pallante is looking to increase the number of deposits, and to evolve the online registration system in a way that works for copyright owners, as well as make protecting copyrights easier for copyright holders.

The National Press Photographer's Association Advocacy Chair, Alicia Wagner Calzada, a highly regarded photographer, and also an attorney for the NPPA, make a number of points - among them the challenge that if the issue of fair use could 'eject' a claim from the Small Claims Court, that, for many photojournalists (and members of the NPPA) whose work is of a highly newsworthy nature, this is a common defense of infringements that NPPA members face, and would be problematic.

Calzada (above) said of the meeting "One thing appears clear--this is not a simple fix. The event was very productive in terms of shining a light on the challenges to crafting a small claims solution for copyright infringement. It is clear that there are genuine obstacles, including some constitutional issues. What I took away from the discussion is that the challenges are not insurmountable. It is, however, important to create a system that will uphold constitutional scrutiny or it will be a wasted effort."

Also on hand was counsel for the American Society of Media Photographers (below right rear), Victor Perlman, and Executive Director Eugene Mopsik (below center). The ASMP has maintained an ongoing relationship with the Copyright Office and Congress in many issues facing photographers today, and has done much to further photographers' interests and protect their rights. Mopsik said of the meeting "The GW Roundtable brought together some of the best IP experts from industry and education along with representatives from a broad spectrum of trade associations and interest groups. The day was spent in a combination of informational presentations followed by discussion of specific proposals for "Small Claims" solutions. It think that it was very valuable for Maria Pallante and the other Copyright Office and PTO representatives. It gave all of the attendees much to think about and was very useful in unveiling issues previously not considered."

On hand for the American Photographic Artists, Michael Grecco (below left), and the author of APA's proposal and highly respected copyright attorney David Nimmer (below right) spoke about the challenges of implementing a Small Claims Court and offered a solution to make it work. Grecco commented "The session was a think tank with some of the greatest minds in Copyright sussing out the possibilities of a Fast Track, or Small Claims system for Copyright issue." Interestingly, one of APA's comments that were a part of their proposal offerred that "The best protection for low-economic-value claims would arise from making automatic the recovery of attorney’s fees and statutory damages by prevailing plaintiffs. By contrast, current law affords those remedies only for the benefit of copyright proprietors who, prior to the commencement of infringement, have registered their work in the records of the United States Copyright Office. Accordingly, under existing law, infringement of then-unregistered works remains beyond practical redress." The proposal calls for a Small Claims Court to be "applicable to simple copyright infringement cases that seek to recover no more than $80,000. Consenting parties can have their positions quickly evaluated by a Magistrate Judge sitting in the appropriate United States District Court in which the case is pending."

ASMP's Mopsik said of the idea of Small Claims "ASMP supports an ADR solution to small claims and believes that it should be as easy and simple for a photographer to navigate as possible." and the NPPA's Calzada said "virtually any solution is years away, though I know that for photographers who deal in daily deadlines and constant infringements, it cannot happen soon enough. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait." APA's Grecco said "I was very proud that APA's proposal, written by attorney David Nimmer, with Special Counsel Edward C. Greenberg, it played a major role in todays discussions. It was the one proposal that could be enacted relatively quickly and easily in the existing Federal Court system and had a good chance of sustaining a Constitutional challenge."

Related - Comments & Proposals Submitted:

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