(Note to our U.K. readers—in the U.S., the phrase "p*ss off" doesn't mean "go away" like it does for you, it means "to make angry" or "to become angry.")
Okay, I said I was going to take the day off today, but some things just pi...er, make me angry.
Let me parse this ridiculous story for you.
Two competing local news organizations in a medium-sized metropolitan market. The first is a print newspaper with a website, the second is website-only.
Local high school is remodeled. Newspaper #1 (N1) sends one of its photographers, who also happens to be a TOP reader, to take a picture of it. He does; N1 publishes the article and picture (in August, 2008); all is well. Because it's work for hire, the rights to the photograph of the high school belong to N1.
At some point, somebody at the high school discovers the picture on the internet, nabs it, and puts it up on the high school's website. Well, it's the high school, right? Everybody likes the high school, everybody likes local kids, everybody's just being neighborly. So, N1 doesn't object. No harm, no foul.
Then, News Organization #2 (NO2) needs a picture of the high school for an unrelated story of its own (in May, 2010). Do they send their own photographer to take a picture of the high school? They do not. Instead, they just go to the high school's website and nab a picture from there, figuring the high school won't mind.
Got that so far? NO2 has unwittingly stolen a picture belonging to its direct competitor, N1, through an unrelated intermediary.
This is a bit much for N1, so its publisher sends a nice, friendly, casual email (I've seen it) to the high school and to NO2, claiming ownership of the photograph and asking both entities to take it down from their respective websites.
The high school complies, and takes the picture down right away.
But get this. Instead of taking N1's picture off its website, NO2 goes to the trouble of publishing a story ridiculing and criticizing N1 for requesting that it take the picture down. As if N1 were being petty and unreasonable.
A few choice absurdities from the comments to NO2's article: "The school website is a government entity. If the gov has it out there for public consumption, it's public domain. Anyone can use it." (What, everyone is free to make up their own internet law now?) "It's a public place and a picture that could have been taken by anyone, anytime." (Right. Good argument: it's not very valuable, therefore it's okay to steal it. If the picture is so easy to take, then why didn't NO2 just go take one?) "[N1] was actually the real OFFENDER and maybe even broke the law. They actually put their own name on the photo which is government property and claimed it as their own private property." (That's a good one: turn the issue inside out. Like the photographer doesn't know his own picture.)
At least one smart commenter figured out that the creator's name—oops, it's an N1 photographer!—is embedded in the file.
Sh...er, stuff happens
Every now and then, I take a snippet of text from one of my own articles and do a Google search on it. Occasionally, I'll turn up what's called a "spam blog"—someone who sets up their own website attempting to sell ads and affiliations and populates it with stolen content. The thing to do in that situation is to contact the offending site's internet service provider (ISP) and file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Takedown Notice. The ISP will then request that the infringing material be taken down. If it isn't, it can pull the plug on the infringing website.
So the funny part of this story is that N1 could potentially get the plug pulled on its competitor's website—if they really wanted to get strict about it.
Occasionally, too, I'll get a request from a rights holder informing me that I've published their photograph on this site and asking me to take it down. That has only happened twice since 2005—I'm pretty careful about what I use and how—but in both cases I took down the material in dispute immediately. That's what NO2 should have done. It's what any internet content provider should do when challenged over rights, unless it is completely sure of its position.
Oh, and as every internet content provider ought to know: just because you find something on a particular internet site doesn't automatically mean that it originated there, or that the place where you found it necessarily owns the rights to it. People do publish things on the internet that don't belong to them. Imagine that. (And imagine not knowing that.)
Keeping you posted
Inadvertently publishing copyrighted material belonging to your direct competitor would be seen as a huge embarrassment by most news outfits. They'd make amends as quickly as possible and hope as few people as possible took notice of it. They certainly wouldn't want guys like me writing about it.
I'll be following this story next week. We'll see if the Publisher of N1 decides to file a formal Takedown Notice, or if NO2 wakes up, sees the error of its ways, and removes the infringing material voluntarily. If it doesn't, I'll name names. I'll call out the offending news site and its publisher. A news organization that inadvertently steals its direct competitor's property isn't so bad—mistakes happen—but one that subsequently brags about it deserves some bad publicity.
The best thing, of course, would have been for NO2 to send its own photographer to take its own picture for its own story. Then it would own the rights to its own content and nothing would be in dispute.
MikeUPDATE: "NO2" has now removed the infringing material from its website.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
"Getting p*ssed or being p*ssed is the one that causes all the confusion because it's about alcohol over here. It's quite normal to talk about going out on the p*ss, too—same thing.
"Meeting Americans in college was funny for them and for us—not only did they all have big-screen accents and look the wrong way when crossing the road but they kept talking about being 'really p*ssed' in the most unexpected situations and (funniest of all) would make casual references to a body part called the fanny. Fanny as body part is something very different over here—though it's in roughly the same area of the body, over here, a fanny is something a man doesn't have. An American asking where he could buy a fanny pack could instantly silence a room of noisy London students out on the p*ss. Good times…."