Saturday, 14 February 2009

Auntie's bloomer

Here's an interesting little story about the BBC being on the wrong side in a copyright infringement matter. They used an image which they picked up from the Internet - they say not direct from the photographer's Flickr page - and when it came to their attention offered him £75. I wonder how much BBCWorldwide, their commercial arm, would have charged if the situation had been the other way round?

One aspect that doesn't appear in the story is the extent of the due diligence carried out by the Beeb before they used the image. It's pretty obvious that an image on the Internet will be protected by somebody's copyright. If it's old, then perhaps copyright will have expired, but this was the Birmingham skyline. (That's Birmingham in the West Midlands, England's second city, not Birmingham, Alabama, though people who should know better do get the two confused: see this report - the fact that it's from the BBC appeals to my sense of irony.) Even if it's old, of course, perhaps one should assume that Getty or Corbis owns the copyright. And if it's Getty, a further irony is that a large part of its holdings was the Hulton Picture Library - which once belonged to the BBC ...

So what were the BBC doing reproducing someone else's copyright work at all, even (as they plead) off-air, without ensuring that all the boxes were ticked? Don't they have any images of their own?

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