CityTV Steals Images, Forced To Give On-Air Apology

Last modified on May 22nd, 2008

I read this article this morning, and as a photographer, found it rather surprising. A few weeks ago CityTV used some guy’s photos off of Flickr and used them in an on-air broadcast. The person who took them did talk to someone from CityTV, but did not give them permission to use the photos.

Nonetheless, they aired the photos without any sort of attribution. Obviously the person who took them was upset, and appealed to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) about it. After nine months, the CBSC finally ruled that CityTV should be forced to apologize on air:

As a result, City must issue a rare on-air statement at least twice, during prime time, over the next ten days. That statement will follow a script set by the CBSC, stating that, in part, the news organization breached the aforementioned Code of Ethics and “included three still photographs of the injured burglar without providing any credit to the photographer, whose identity was known to the broadcaster. By failing to provide that accreditation, the broadcaster has failed to honour the intellectual property rights of the photographer.”

What worries me about this particular case is that there seems to be a clause in Canadian Copyright Law which (for whatever reason) news agencies think they can lift photos. Here’s a quote from the directory of CityTV:

The Director also noted that “Canadian copyright law recognizes that third party materials like photos may be used for the purposes of news reporting. It was in that context that we used this photo.”

If that’s the case, then CC licensing seems almost like a waste of time. And if that clause is not meant to apply in this context, then I find it disappointing that an on-air organization would breach the electronic CC license that was placed on the photos. Ultimately they used someone’s photos for commercial means and without any form of attribution, which was outside of the scope of the license applied to the photos. If I were to use CityTV footage on my blog without attribution, I would bet I would get a nice cease and desist letter forcing me to take it down in no time. That they think the laws should be different in each direction seems characteristic of most large media conglomerates these days.