Copyright theft – it’s a topic I’ve written about plenty of times in the past but this week I’ve experienced it first hand as well.
Right on my doorstep, a local website decided to take a large chunk of my published article and photographs and pass them off as their own content.
It was a wholesale attempt to populate a site which seeks advertising with content which I’d published for community benefit at the hyperlocal website I set up a few years ago (RichmondNoticeboard.com).
Once the initial shock had worn off I set about getting my ten articles and two photographs removed from www.catterick.org. And here’s where the first of the problems arose – zero contact details.
Despite the fact the site purports to sell advertising, there’s no hint about who runs the site or any contact details.
As they also publish on Facebook, that seemed to offer the best route to redress. I posted on their page, pointing out the content had not been authorised for use on the site. Then started the Facebook process to report copyright abuse.
At this point someone responded – maybe the possibility of a Facebook takedown is threat enough to get a response, these days.
Whoever it was gave this cryptic explanation: “Hi very sorry about that, Sever has been moved, auto poster was gathering richmond data and posting it via rss, Having few technical issues after migration won’t happen again, all post have been deleted off the site.”
So, an apology when caught red-handed. But as far as I’m aware, an apology doesn’t count for much when a burglar makes off with some jewellery or a shoplifter legs it out of the store.
An apology, doesn’t make it any less of a theft and blaming it on technology is not only lame, but also still doesn’t make it any less of a theft. And while my content has now been removed, I see the site is still populated with plenty of content from national newspapers and others with no attribution, links or explanation.
This cavalier attitude towards copyright ownership is annoyingly common it would seem. North News picture agency boss Ted Ditchburn put his finger on it when I wrote about his problems with photo thieves for Prolific North.
“My own view is that this is a problem that arises in part because people seem to feel copyright theft doesn’t count as serious theft for some reason.”
On sharing my woes on Facebook, I also encountered a sort of resigned acceptance that this is simply the way of the world – that publishing a picture online will very likely lead to it being stolen. Shrug.
But in what other area of life would we find that acceptable? “Well I bought an expensive TV so it was bound to get stolen” or “I made a beautiful piece of furniture – thieves. Never mind.”
I don’t think we should just accept that’s the way things are, it doesn’t have to be like this.
But in order to take any action, the first step is to find an actual person to deal with. In this case the anonymous Facebook responder refused to give me the site’s business address – claiming it was personal! Update: We have since been in contact and I now have assurances this won’t happen again.
As ‘Buster’ pointed out on my previous story:
“There is a Copyright small claims court (IPEC small claims track) that will deal with cases up to a value £10000 without the need for a solicitor as it, like other small claims courts, is designed to allow the parties to represent themselves. If the photographer is an NUJ member they can get help and advise from their union. There is no “good faith” or “I did not know” defence for copyright infringement as in general, ignorance of the law is not a defence.
He also recommended this article on the subject which I’m sharing here in case any of you are unfortunate enough to find yourselves in a similar position.