By Ryan Austin
A Poynter article released April 11 described an incident of copyright infringement following the Southwest fuselage tear. Adam Hochberg wrote how media outlets ran a photo taken by Shawna Malvini Redden without permission or compensation. The image showed the damage to the fuselage, with the sky visible through the tear. Coincidentally, the CNN article linked above also appears to include Redden’s image without credit to Redden.
According to the article, some news organizations tell their writers to run a story without proper attribution or even verification of the image. Cathaleen Curtiss, former VP of global photography at AOL, was interviewed for the Poynter article. She stated that AOL’s policy while she was employed was to publish a photo and keep it on the AOL page for up to two hours. If the photographer could not be contacted in those two hours, the photo was taken down.
This incident of copyright infringement is alarming. As a student journalist, I would be irate if a major news outlet decided to run one of my images or videos without my permission. I find it ironic that media organizations are so quick to send a cease-and-desist letter to bloggers and amateur journalists when their own photos are stolen, but jump at the chance to run an image without permission or compensation because the image relates to a “hot” news story.
AOL’s policy of publishing images first, and attributing later, is despicable. The fact that AOL attempts to contact the photographer while the photo is running on their site does not change the fact that AOL has committed copyright infringement if it runs an image without permission.
In a field where copyright is essential, it is disturbing to think that the major news outlets have no issue with stealing from amateur photographers.
Where do you stand on this issue? Do you think it is okay for news organizations to take photos off of Flickr and Twitpic? What, if anything, should be done about this?