Thou shalt not steal.

Seems pretty cut and dry to me.  Of course, nothing’s cut and dry when it comes to the online world.

Twice in a week I’ve heard of organizations taking another person’s photos and using them as their own — and it happened to be the same person’s work both times.

First, as I was perusing my usual daily dose of Richard Blumenthal news, I came across Team Blumenthal Tries To Blame Journalists for Vietnam Gaffe on BigJournalism.com, a “right-of-center” journalism watchdog site (more about them from Mediaite):

Screengrab from 5/21/10

Great photo of Blumenthal, right?  It looked familiar — as did its surroundings.  I had a hunch and checked the WNPR photo stream on Flickr and found…

Screengrab from 5/21/10

I pointed it out to the photographer, Chion Wolf, who pointed it out to someone at the offending site.  And since it now at least mentions her name on the story, I can only assume she’s okay with the whole thing.

I thought the whole “All rights reserved” language was pretty clear.   It smacks me as nervy for a website critiquing the faults of journalism to use photos without permission.

It also raises an issue of picking on the little guy:  The major media conglomerates, of course, have staff to seek out illegally used images and retrieve them from the ether.  What are smaller operations to do? If I hadn’t been dorky enough to seek out the lineage of that photo, when someone stumbled upon that page and used the photo, lost to history is the identity of the photographer.

The second discovery came today — also from WNPR — also from that (great) public radio station’s Flickr stream.  I’ll let news director John Dankosky explain on his Where We Blog blog, but in a nutshell, the National Republican Senatorial Committee apparently appropriated another of Ms. Wolf’s photos from the photo stream, this time for an ad attacking the democrat running for U.S. Senate.  Dankosky’s issue, rightly so, is that items produced as a part of his station’s news coverage should not be used (a) by political organizations without permission and (b) for partisan attack ads.

I’ll save you a lesson on “fair use”, but I hope for other journalists this serves as an important lesson:  Thou shalt play fairly.

(This piece’s headline should be attributed to “The Ten Commandments”.)

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