Fun With Fair Use: Daily Mail Steals Blogger’s Image, Refuses To Pay Up

Alice Taylor, CEO of Makielab and wife of BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow, took a nice snapshot of a anorexic mannequin in an “Always Skinny” display at the Gap. The mannequin is clearly emaciated and, skinny tights or no, probably should get some help. Alice snapped a picture, Cory posted it, all was right with the world.

The Daily Mail’s blogger, one Ariel Ramerez, asked if they could use the image in a blog post and Alice asked for a £250+ donation to a charity of her choice – a fair request, especially since she hates the Daily mail. Back and forth ensues, Ariel first:

Hello Alice,
Thank you for getting back to me. Appreciate it.
We are the MailOnline – the web portion.
Unfortunately, your listed price far exceeds our
budget – which also comes in $. We’d be happy to
make the donation however we would need it to
meet our budgetary constraints.

… and from Alice to Ariel:

Oh well – it’s a no then.
(IMHO, obv, the Mail can afford it, and
I have no love for that paper so
– apols!)
Thanks for the interest tho!

Case closed, right? Wrong. The image appeared on the Daily Mail unaltered next to a “post” on anorexic models (remember, news is what the editor sees on her way to work or, in this case, on BoingBoing). The best thing? The blogger used Taylor’s quotes from another piece she commented for in the Washington Post, a paper she does support. Not only did they steal her image, they stole her words.

Where does this leave us? Well, for one the Daily Mail has a history of copyright infringement when it comes to photography. For a title dedicated to the resale of images of Julia Roberts’ backside, it’s a pretty self-destructive stance to take.

Over the past few years, “amateur” bloggers have become surprisingly aware of photo rights and copyright. Except for a few rare occasions, for example, we use our own photos, press images, and creative commons photos. However, as mainstream news organizations moved towards blogging, they have yet to learn the same thing many bloggers learned five years ago – images belong to someone, somewhere. Just because you can get away with ganking someone’s shots without attribution doesn’t mean it’s the right way to run a railroad.

The line between public domain and private property, on the aggregate, is thin and rarely understood. Is my Twitpic my property? It’s public, after all. What about these images from GIS? Who owns the porkloin? Is it obvious?

Sites like GumGum offer strong methods for photographers to license their work, but if the blogger literally ignores a request not to publish an image without payment, how can any form of technology help?

This is the age-old problem of “user content creation:” it’s just about the swellest thing ever until someone abuses it. It’s tragedy of the commons – at some point someone is going to drive their ATV all over your public land and throw beer cans at your communal sheep. It’s just sad that these abusers are coming from old media and not necessarily the new.

Incidentally, if you want to donate to Alice’s favorite charities, MIND or ORG in the Daily Mail’s stead, feel free. I sent in 20 quid to pay down the Daily Mail’s debt to society in general.