Whats yours is mine, whats mine is mine : Protecting image rights

In a postprint world, who “owns” still images? And will anyone ever figure out a better business model than lifting content and getting away with it?

So says Adage’s Simon Dumenco in his SEO headline friendly article Exclusive! First Pics of Adorable Montauk Monster Quintuplets!

The article questions how photographers and owners of images will be protected from copyright theft when the organisations that pay them die.

Dumenco makes a good point. Many bloggers consider the use of pictures as part of fair use, a myth I looked at recently.   And despite the best efforts of the mainstream media to protect the investment they make in exclusive/celebrity pictures the blogasphere re-publishes with impunity.

If you’re a regular reader of blogs, consider the fact that the vast majority of images you see on them are not funded by the blogs but are, um, borrowed from the mainstream media.

Community protection

But I’m not quite sure what alternative Dumenco is adovcating or who he is more annoyed at and in that sense I think his premise that the mainstream media supply blog images is flawed. I think that even if the minority of images on blogs come from the mainstream media now, it won’t be long before community sites like Flickr overtake them. Why? Because community sites and the implementation of creative commons is a better bet for photographers protecting their content.

Dumenco illustrates his point by referencing the Olympics

…with the Olympics in full swing, it occurs to me that, for the first time in modern Olympic history, a critical mass (surely millions) of consumers will take in iconic images from the event not from media that pay for the images but from media

I would edit that slightly to

…with the Olympics in full swing, it occurs to me that, for the first time in modern Olympic history, a critical mass (surely millions) of consumers will take iconic images from the event and the media take these images and not pay for them

Protecting rights

To take Dumensco’s main point,  protection that is the key here. But we need to ask who we are protecting.

The current rules if copyright protect the organisation who owns it rather than the people who create it. Worse still those large media organisations will take UGC from the web and use it with impunity – do as we say not as we do.

The rules do need to change to protect those who take the pictures but there needs to be more recognition that not all the people who take the iconic images we see in the media are taken by pros.

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The virtuous circle of journalism process

Say a quite word of thanks dear reader to Mr Kevin Anderson. Why? Let me explain.

Yesterday I posted a graphic that tried to sum up some of the problems that still exist as we try and engage with community.

I’d been thinking about it because I’ve been updating content for my Digital newsroom module next semester. One of the things I found was that it was tricky to get the students to buy in to benefit of sharing. They got the power of the web to gather content but I guess you could say that they where still in that gatekeeper mentality.  Sharing photos on Flickr or using twitter was too geeky for them. It didn’t fit the journalistic process.

A phrase that popped in to my head, and I used a lot, was the ‘virtuous circle’. You give and people will give.

This strikes me more and more as a defining element of a journalist who understands how to work online. You only need to look at the debate around plagiarism and the link economy in journalism to see that.

Anyway, I promised a ramble post or two may follow. So in an effort to head one of those off here is a little video I made to try and explain my thinking. I’d love some feedback:

The virtuous circle from Digitaldickinson on Vimeo.

This isn’t original thought by any stretch of the imagination. The virtuous circle is not a new concept and if anyone else is talking in the same tones then I’d love to know. I’m also not trying to make a new ‘model’ here.  I based many of my lectures on Paul Bradshaw’s news diamond and the discussion that generated. All credit to him. The way that model was developed through his blog and the discussion it generated in my lectures is a fine example of that virtuous circle in action.

Yeah, yeah, Video shimdeo. What about Kevin Anderson you ask.

Well, Kevin picked up on my illustration and commented on how a different attitude can reap rewards.  Thanks to his concise example you have a hell of a lot less ramble to sit through.

A few years ago, colleagues asked me why bloggers responded to my interview requests when they had trouble getting a response. The problem was, they were often sending out form e-mail interview requests and treating bloggers, usually ordinary people, as if they were members of government or industry spokespeople. I usually started my search for a blogger through a blog search engine like Technorati. When I found a relevant post, I would quote the post and ask them if they wanted to join a discussion about the topic they had blogged about.

I also use Creative Commons licenced pictures in Guardian blog posts (Attribution licence that allows for commercial use). Unless, I’m really pressed for time, I send the Flickr user a short note and a link. They always thank me for being a good member of the community, and the sometimes even blog about the post. I’ve acted in good faith, and they have reciprocated by flagging up their photo on a Guardian post. We can be good members of both virtual and real world communities, and I think it’s one of the things that can rebuild journalists’ relationship with the people formerly known as the audience. Becoming better citizen journalists might just save professional journalism.

Thanks Kevin.

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It’s mine ya’hear. Mine. All mine: Ownership and innovation

From Flickr user Andyi

From Flickr user Andyi

It’s Carnival of Journalism time and Ryan Sholin steps up to the plate to host. He helpfully suggests a question to chew over for this months meeting of j-minds

What should news organizations stop doing, today, immediately, to make more time for innovation?

Great question?

A lot of people have already posted great suggestions so some of the following may be repetitive (still it’s better to add a voice then stay quiet in agreement isn’t it)

So, the question. What should they stop doing? My answer: Stop trying to own everything.

We have an interesting problem in journalism at the moment, we don’t know who we are. Ask anyone in your newsroom what the function of journalism is, what is it for, and you get a number of different answers. (I know, we have tried) All of them are challenging or challenged by the ‘new’ media landscape.

You may answer, we are the fourth estate, we tell the audience what other people don’t want them to know. But a new media advocate may say that the audience can do that for themselves now, and (often) better.

You may answer that it is to entertain. That’s a great one for upsetting ‘trad’ journalists. Remember sonny, this job isn’t about fun.

For every defining action there is an equal and opposite old media reaction.

So given that we aren’t sure what we are or why we do what we do anymore, we revert to what we know best. Consolidate and protect. We strengthen the fortifications and move as much of the ‘community’ in to the city walls as we can.This isn’t just illustrated in attitudes. You can see the very real evidence of this all around us in the industry.

If a news org wants to do user generated photography it doesn’t use flickr or Photobucket. It builds it’s own photo sharing service. If it wants to run a blog, does it use Movable Type of WordPress. No, it builds its own blogging platform.

Why? Because then they can own the conversation.

This ownership thing, it must happen on our terms, is the single biggest problem the industry has right now and that stops innovation.

When it comes to technology, ownership encourages imitation and stifles innovation. When it comes to staff, ownership means the structures are there to support the company not the individual. They pay to own the innovators and then stop them innovating (hey, at least they aren’t innovating for anyone else). And when it comes to audience, ownership means taking and never giving.

So what do we do about it.

I think the first thing we can do is look at the ownership mindset. We need to try and educate people to a couple of simple points:

Ownership and control are not the same thing. You can be seen as owning something but not have control. That can be positive or negative.

Ownership is temporary: You’ve all heard the term no one owns the news. That’s been interpreted as meaning that we need to monitise it in a way that makes the maximum amount of profit in the shortest time. No. It actually means you need to keep turning out stuff that people want to see and so keep coming back.

Within the news rooms we can do one simple thing: Give away the one thing that you do own – time.

Give everyone in the newsroom playtime. I’ve said this again and again and other organisations like Google have so obviously benefited from it. Give every member of your newsroom staff a day a month (maybe) where they can explore, learn and develop skills. That doesn’t need to be on the web. It could be learning photography. Learning to dance at a local community center. It doesn’t matter. The key thing is that you only expect one in return – they share that experience. There is no budget line. If you get a story from it – bonus. If a great idea comes out then even better. But everyone shares.

If you asked me what the function of journalism is I would say that its ‘to be part of the society we live in and contributing to a greater understanding of that society by sharing information.’

That’s not about owning

From Flickr user occ4m