Tag Archives: copyright

An open letter to Rupa Huq, MP, regarding official Parliamentary videos

Dear Dr. Huq,

I have been very interested to read about your recent call for an end to the prohibition on the use of footage from official parliamentary broadcasts in satirical programmes, made at the behest of your brother-in-law and constituent, the television personality Charlie Brooker.


Rupa Huq 2015

Rupa Huq

I was equally disappointed at the stance of the (Conservative) Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling MP, who said:

it is very important that we make sure the coverage of this House is use in an appropriate way — I am not in favour of it being used for satire programmes.

He is wrong, because satire is not an inappropriate use of such footage, which is made with public funds.

But the right to use it in satire is not enough — we should all be able to use it wherever we want, freely. For example, on Wikipedia, for educational purposes. And for that reason, it should be made available under an “open licence”, allowing anyone to use it, for any purpose (subject, of course, to existing laws such as those on decency and defamation), with the only requirement being to attribute the source. (I have written previously about what open licensing is and why it should apply to media about politicians.)

Please take up Mr Grayling’s suggestion, and pursue your campaign with the Commons’ administration committee — but please don’t limit your request to the right to satirise. Please push for full open licensing.

Thank you.

Politician pin ups – open-licensed pictures, please

Politicians, like visits to the dentist and taxes, are a necessary evil. We all moan about them, but someone has to take care of the machinery of state.

So it’s important that we hold them to account, and elsewhere document their activities in a neutral way. Hyperlocal bloggers do the former, and the latter takes place on Wikipedia, and on sites like the excellent OpenlyLocal (both of whose content is open-licensed).

To illustrate such articles, bloggers and Wikipedians need photographs of the politicians (and senior officers). While it’s possible for individuals to take such pictures (and even open-license them, as I described previously), it would be better if such pictures were available from official channels. Such organisations already take or commission professional quality shots and make them available to the press. If they don’t already, they should make sure that their contract with photographers pays for full rights, enabling open-licensing.

I recently asked Birmingham City Council’s press office to make their pictures of members of BCC’s cabinet available under an open licence, and, to their credit, they did so. I was then able to use one of them on :

Wikipedia article using a picture open-licensed by Birmingham City Council

Some might ask “but what if the pictures are misused, to misrepresent those people”. Well, if someone’s going to do that, then they won’t bother about copyright anyway, and other laws (libel, human rights) already enable redress.

So come on all you councils, civil service departments, police forces/ authorities and so on — let us have pictures of your elected members and senior officers, free (i.e. with no “non-commercial” or “no derivatives” restrictions) for reuse on our blogs, Wikipedia and other sites. Major companies, too, could do this for their most-public board members.

Then there’s all public bodies’ other photographs. After all, West Midlands Police kindly agreed to my request to open-license the fantastic aerial shots from their helicopter…

St. Martin in the Bullring Church, Birmingham
Birmingham’s Bull Ring, from the West Midlands Police helicopter. Although this picture is ©WM Police, I can use it, here and on Wikipedia, because they kindly make it available under a CC-BY-SA licence

Open-licensing your images. What it means and how to do it.

I do a lot of editing on Wikipedia. Sometimes I approach someone connected with a subject I’m writing about (or the subject themself), and ask them to provide an “open licensed” image. In other words, an image whose copyright they own, but given a licence which allows anyone to reuse it, even for commercial purposes.

Noted art historian and television presenter Philip Mould kindly agreed to my request, and released this portrait of himself under a CC-BY-SA licence so I could use it on Wikipedia

With a few exceptions, only images made available under such licences can be used on Wikipedia.

Creative Commons

The commonest form of open licence is Creative Commons — a set of legalistic prose documents which cover various ways of licensing images.

Some Creative Commons include “non-commercial” clauses; these are incompatible with Wikipedia, because people are allowed to reuse content from Wikipedia in commercial situation, such as in newspapers or in apps which are sold for use on mobile devices (provided they comply with other licence terms).

The Creative Commons licences compatible with Wikipedia are:

  • Attribution Creative Commons (CC-BY)
  • Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA)

In which:

  • “Attribution” means that the copyright holder must be given a credit
  • “ShareAlike” means that if someone uses your picture, anything made with it must have the same licence
  • “NoDerivs” means that people cannot crop, recolour or otherwise change your picture when reusing it.

I took this image of John Madin, architect of Birmingham’s Rotunda and Central Library, and made it available under a CC-By-SA licence. You can use it, free, provided you credit me as the photographer

It’s important that anyone open licencing an image understands what that means. For example, Wikimedia (the organisation behind Wikipedia) suggests that people donating images are asked to agree to the following:

  • I acknowledge that I grant anyone the right to use the work in a commercial product, and to modify it according to their needs, as long as they abide by the terms of the license and any other applicable laws.
  • I am aware that I always retain copyright of my work, and retain the right to be attributed in accordance with the license chosen. Modifications others make to the work will not be claimed to have been made by me.
  • I am aware that the free license only concerns copyright, and I reserve the option to take action against anyone who uses this work in a libelous way, or in violation of personality rights, trademark restrictions, etc.
  • I acknowledge that I cannot withdraw this agreement…

(and yes, that wording has a CC-BY-SA licence!)

Which is the best licence to use?

That depends on the circumstances, but CC-BY-SA fits most cases, giving the re-user the greatest flexibility, while protecting the copyright holder’s right to be recognised.

So, how do I open-licence an image?

There are a variety of ways to open-licence an image. Here are some of the commonest:

  • Upload your images to Wikimedia Commons, the media repository for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects
  • Upload your images to Flickr, specifying one of the above open licences
  • Upload your images to your own website, with a clear and unambiguous statement that they are under a specified open licence

My images are on Flickr, how do I change the licence?

To open-licence a single image in Flickr:

Selecting an open licence in Flickr's pop-up dialogue

  • View the specific image
  • Under “Owner settings”, alongside current licence setting (perhaps “All Rights Reserved”), click “edit”
  • In the pop-up window, check one of the compatible licences
  • Save

[Postscript: My friend John Cummings wrote an equivalent guide for YouTube]

Won’t I lose money doing this?

the ingliston gorilla

kindly made this picture of Nicholas Monro’s statue of King Kong available under a CC-BY-SA licence, at my request, so I could use it on Wikipedia

Not necessarily. Some commercial photographers release low- or medium- resolution copies of their images, and sell high-resolution copies, but most people take images for personal purposes, which have no commercial value, and for which they will never be paid. Open-licensing them enables the community to benefit, at no cost to the photographer. Think of open-licensing your images as a way of giving back to the community which has given you so many open-source tools, without which the web would not work.

If this post has inspired you to openly-licence your images please let me know, in the comments.

And yes you can use other people’s open-licenced images, including many of mine, free. Help yourself!

Caveat

Yes, I know there are other open licences, and more complex use-cases. This is intended as a beginners’ guide. A competent lawyer will be able to provide you with legal advice. I offer more general advice to institutions wanting to open-licence their images or other content, or to work with the Wikipedia community, as part of my professional services.

Licence

This post is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (3.0 Unported) licence. Attribution should include a link to the post, or, in print, the short URL http://wp.me/p10xWg-jM.

The BBC’s fundamental misunderstanding of copyright

On 6 August, I sent a complaint to the BBC:

Your reporting of this evening’s riot in Tottenham included photographs which you said, were “from Twitter”.

You may have found them via that website but they would have been hosted elsewhere and taken by other photographers, whom you did not name and whose copyright you may have breached.

You have done this with other recent news stories such as the Oslo attacks.

This is not acceptable.

In future, please give proper credit to photographers.

Here’s their reply, with my annotations and emboldening:

Dear Mr MABBETT [I’ve no idea why thay capitalised that — AM]

Reference CAS-918869-HR7W5Y

Thank you for your contact.

I understand you were unhappy that pictures from Twitter are used on BBC programmes as you feel it may be a breach of copyright.

Twitter is a social network platform which is available to most people who have a computer and therefore any content on it is not subject to the same copyright laws as it is already in the public domain. The BBC is aware of copyright issues and is careful to abide by these laws.

I appreciate you feel the BBC shouldn’t be using pictures from Twitter [I didn’t say that — AM] and so I’ve registered your comment on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers as well as the programme makers and producers of ‘BBC News’.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

I’m speechless.

Update: I’ve sent a follow-up complaint to the BBC, you can see it below.

Update: Please note this comment, by Chris Hamilton, BBC News Social Media Editor.

Update: I have now received a further response from the BBC; quoted below with my reply to it.

Update: On 18 August, I received another response from the BBC; also quoted below.

Birmingham Post and Flickr images

PostBlog

I am shocked and more than a little disappointed to see that the picture used by the Birmingham Post in this blog post seen above, by the tiresome Roshan Doug, and credited, poorly, as “Photo from Flickr” (Why no mention of the photographer? Flickr is a hosting website, not a picture agency) is marked by the original photographer as “All rights reserved”. Perhaps I’m being overly cynical, and the Birmingham Post can reassure us that a cheque will be in the post to the photographer shortly. After all, Doug is apparently a magistrate, so wouldn’t condone anything like copyright theft, would he?

Update: Another post by Doug, “Where the weather suits my clothes – or not!” was using this “all rights reserved” image when I first captured it in my RSS reader:

PostBlog2b

but appears to be doing so no longer.

Second update: Within 30 minutes of my posting the above, and mentioning it on Twitter (where the Birmingham Post follow me) the image was removed from Doug’s blog.

Surface Unsigned: to be avoided

Like many others (see below) I’m seriously unimpressed that Surface Unsigned have tried to stifle reasonable criticism made on Created in Birmingham, by threatening legal action on what appear to be spurious grounds, in order to force the removal of this extract of their contract with performers:

As you must bring with you at least 25 people to your event you must sell at least 25 tickets for each round you play. If you do not sell 25 tickets you will still be allowed to play however you will NOT progress to the next round no matter how many Surface Ratings you receive.

I hope others will support Created in Birmingham by linking to the following blog posts, and adding them to social bookmarking sites like Ma.gnolia, Digg and Delicious.

Update: Curiously Jay Mitchell, the person behind Surface Unsigned, is involved in another event which openly advertises similar conditions.

Update: Dead link removed, 30 July 2010