The Crazy Permission-Asking Media Scrum That Descends When Photographic News Happens On Twitter

from the insanity-in-the-making dept

As you may have heard last week, a British Airways plane caught fire as it was taxiing on the runway preparing for takeoff. Thankfully, everyone on board escaped with just a few minors scratches and bruises. The plane wasn't so lucky. However, there were lots of other people around on other flights witnessing the whole thing and -- not surprisingly -- many of them have Twitter accounts. And, as has become fairly standard when visual news breaks somewhere with people around, they started tweeting photos. Here's David L. Somers at 4:16pm:
And here's Bradley Hampton at 4:17pm:
And here's Eric Hays at 4:20pm:
There were a bunch of others as well, but those were three of the earliest that got the most attention.

Now, some of us might marvel at this amazing world we now live in, where everyone can be a broadcast reporter should news suddenly happen around them. It's kind of amazing. But, perhaps even more fascinating is the somewhat insane mainstream media scrum that immediately follows. All three of these guys were almost immediately bombarded with news producers from TV, newspaper and online media, all asking for permission to use their photos. This is just a sampling because if I posted them all, i think my hand would cramp up from cutting and pasting so many embed codes. Notice that a bunch of the requests come from the very same news organizations, many asking if they can use it on all platforms/affiliates and such:
















































































What's kind of amazing is that all three guys basically sat around after all this graciously giving permission to most of the requests over and over and over and over and over again. Some of the requests were more detailed. Some asked the tweeters to get in contact to sign something. The most forward one was the AP who actually sent a "social media release form" as an attached image to a tweet:
The Weather Channel wanted Eric to "verify" his permission:
A bunch of other people noticed the nutty scrum and had fun with it, including jokingly asking for permission to retweet, to share on other social networks, to describe on the radio, to draw the picture, to look at and (my favorite) to look at and then not have nightmares about flying.

So what to make of all this? On the one hand, it seems like a fairly strong graphical representation of permission culture these days. In nearly every one of these cases, the news organizations in question would likely have extremely strong fair use protections. And it doesn't look like any of the three guys above were looking to profit from their photos. To some extent, having taken and posted the photo may have actually been more of a nuisance for them, since they all then had to spend time responding to all those requests. As filmmaker Nina Paley has discussed in the past, permission culture gets super annoying when everyone has to keep asking, and you just want them to be free to use it. But, of course, in an age where every news organization is afraid to get hit with a massive damages award in a copyright lawsuit, they're all going to ask.

That system seems fairly broken. We have at least some solutions for this. Creative Commons can handle some of it, but Twitter has no way to officially designate a CC license on a photo you've posted. That would certainly help a lot. But, overall, the whole thing just seems silly. These photos are news -- and they're initially being posted on public social media for a reason -- because those who took them wanted them to be shared and spread. It seems silly that we need such an insane level of permission gating that every news agency on the planet has to bother these guys to ask for permission.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:38am

    Doesn't Twitter already have a TOS that all content on their platform be released under a certain retweet or maybe a reuse license or something?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:39am

    TL;DR! You quote that mass of drivel and expect anyone to read it all?

    And then accuse others of insanity!

    I skipped to last paragraph. CC is attempting copyright without teeth, and it's just not going to work. As with "Dan Bull", when the content is actually valuable, someone will TAKE IT.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:41am

      Re: TL;DR! You quote that mass of drivel and expect anyone to read it all?

      CC is attempting to, at least partially, do away with copy protections.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:46am

      Re: TL;DR! You quote that mass of drivel and expect anyone to read it all?

      CC is attempting copyright WITH TEETH. And it will work to whatever extent copyrigtht teeth.

      Some people WANT others to take and use their content. And some of that content is valuable. (See Open Source. Red Hat is a billion dollar company built on open source written by others.)

      CC is similar to open source. You can take it and use it -- as long as you comply with the terms of the license. No need to ask permission. Just comply with the CC license terms.

      It will work. It does work now. It will continue to work.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Shill Boss, 14 Sep 2015 @ 12:35pm

      Re: TL;DR! You quote that mass of drivel and expect anyone to read it all?

      Hey, haven't you read our new guidelines for shilling? If you're going to shill you must be

      A: Sober

      B: On your meds if you are on any

      C: Not high on illegal drugs.

      Keep them in mind while shilling.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Shill Boss, 14 Sep 2015 @ 12:39pm

        Re: Re: TL;DR! You quote that mass of drivel and expect anyone to read it all?

        Too bad it's hard to fire these guys because we can't easily find a suitable replacement. Sadly this is the best we've got. But don't tell that to our clients.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JMT (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 5:28pm

      Re: TL;DR! You quote that mass of drivel and expect anyone to read it all?

      "I skipped to last paragraph."

      That explains your very poor understanding of the topic, demonstrated by your unrelated Dan Bull reference.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:45pm

        Re: Re:

        Why is anyone surprised? out_of_the_blue has already admitted on multiple occasions that the refuses to read articles before spouting shit about them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:42am

    Stoking the ire

    I'm sure you're annoyed by these requests...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:44am

    Has the AP lost its mind? They had the balls to include a legal agreement that gives them unrestricted rights? Morons who sign such agreements when it concerns their own photographs is a moron for doing so.

    Reading through this article, the only thing that pissed me off was that agreement that the AP sent.

    For me, I would allow permission of anyone to use the photographs as long as they gave me credit for the photo. Any news organizations that had the balls to send an agreement like the AP did, I would not grant permission to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:24am

      Re:

      It's funny because if it's their photo it's all rights reserved. But when they want to use someone else's photo they want all rights granted to them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:50am

        Re: Re:

        It is organizations like the AP that should INSIST on Creative Commons licensing.

        The AP would not need to keep track of detailed rights, or the particular text of a permission grant from a particular photo owner. They would not need to ask for all rights.

        The AP would simply record who the owner of the photo is, which CC license it is under, and that would serve as a short easy to understand indication of what rights they have. For exmaple, all the AP needs to do is give credit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:44am

    Wait a couple weeks...

    These guys will then be sued by these news stations for posting the same pics because it was in their report.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:28am

      Re: Wait a couple weeks...

      Or their twitter accounts will at least be DMCA'd by the eleventy-billion news outlets who used their pics.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Hephaestus (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 12:03pm

        Re: Re: Wait a couple weeks...

        I was thinking the same thing. It would be stupid for them to allow the news agencies to use the photos, in the end some bot would eventually spot the photo, and issue/send a DMCA take down. The same way it happened in the Buffalo lake effect video ...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:47pm

        Re: Re: Wait a couple weeks...

        true dat

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Zonker, 14 Sep 2015 @ 5:06pm

        Re: Re: Wait a couple weeks...

        If I were them, I would require a promise not to claim DMCA ownership of my work later as a condition of use. Then when they break that promise and DMCA my tweet I can sue them for copyright infringement (violating the terms of my license).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 11:01pm

          Re: Re: Re: Wait a couple weeks...

          I can sue them for copyright infringement (violating the terms of my license).
          Well, maybe you can, but chances are that you lose on an infringment claim with this approach. You would probably only have a breach of contract claim.

          This area of law gets slightly complicated, and has a number of finer points.

          See, for example, Sun v Microsoft (9th Cir. 1999)
          Generally, a "copyright owner who grants a nonexclusive license to use his copyrighted material waives his right to sue the licensee for copyright infringement" and can sue only for breach of contract. If, however, a license is limited in scope and the licensee acts outside the scope, the licensor can bring an action for copyright infringement.
          (Citations omitted.)

          Note that case is merely a taste, and doesn't cover all the factors that may come into play.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:48am

    a few minors scratches

    Extraneous "s" in there....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:53am

    AP wants the ability to license the photo one time but also to license it to other regions without licensing it each time from the person who holds the rights to that photo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:55am

    Smart article, Mike, as usual, and funny too. Do you mind if I...?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Whatever (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:58am

    This story seems mostly to be an example of the simple concept that much of the mainstream media out there is respectful enough to actually ask permission to use an image that they may not have the rights to otherwise. Their questions were not to retweet it, but to actually run it on another medium altogether.

    It's not a question of "permission society", it's about respect, something that is often sorely lacking in the current grab all you can and run society.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      AJ, 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:21am

      Re:

      "something that is often sorely lacking in the current grab all you can and run society."

      Agreed. Between the copyright maximalist's grabbing up as much of the public domain as they can and locking it up for ridiculous amounts of time, to big media issuing blanket take down requests on content they don't even own, the total lack of respect is startling...this is indeed a welcome change. Perhaps a bit over the top, but welcome.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:23am

      Re:

      This has nothing to do with respect and everything to do with protection from lawsuits.

      Nevermind that the tenants of fair use allow journalists to use newsworthy images without asking permission, because you only need permission if it's infringing, and fair use is not infringing.

      And nevermind that everyone that's NOT a news organization will unhesitatingly retweet, share on facebook, email to friends, post on their blogs, upload to reddit, etc. any newsworthy or interesting photo they come across all without any show of disrespect.

      Putting something online, esp. an open forum like Twitter, is basically giving it to the world.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John85851 (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:43am

        Re: Re:

        I agree that the AP getting permission is their way of avoiding future issues where a photographer gets a big head and decides to sue the media for using his picture.

        However, like some other posters are saying, what protection does the photographer have when an AP's automated takedown bot sends him a takedown notice for "stealing" an AP photo?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 15 Sep 2015 @ 8:34am

        Re: Re:

        Nevermind that the tenants of fair use...

        Tenets.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:30am

      Re:

      it's about respect

      To anybody on the receiving end of such respect, it seems mush more like shark feeding time, with them as the food.

      A respectful press would have one or two agencies to request use of such photos on behalf of all news organizations.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The Groove Tiger (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:34am

      Re:

      The Masnick just hates it when Whatever sets planes on fire.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:41am

      Re:

      It's not a question of "permission society", it's about respect, something that is often sorely lacking in the current grab all you can and run society.

      "Grab all you can and run society" vs. "everything has to be owned" and we'll sue you to death to prove it? I guess you missed this line from the story?
      But, of course, in an age where every news organization is afraid to get hit with a massive damages award in a copyright lawsuit, they're all going to ask.

      Posting tweets is the modern equivalent of speaking to a room full of people, but we've encumbered it now with threats of lawsuits and requests to use statements said in public which should be covered by fair use exceptions written in the law. How is this an improvement over a default of permissiveness? How the hell is civilization going to continue to work when we're all gagged by default?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OldMugwump (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:40pm

      Respect

      Giving accurate credit to the source is showing respect.

      That's all that ought to be needed or expected.

      Once somebody posts something publicly, its....public.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Sheogorath (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 4:57pm

        Re: Respect

        Giving accurate credit to the source is showing respect.
        That's all that ought to be needed or expected. Once somebody posts something publicly, its... public.

        Yeah? You gonna be saying that after somebody posts one of your ebooks or artworks online for people to download without payment, making sure to credit you as the original creator? (-_Q)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:47pm

      Re:

      if it was about respect, they would just link to it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:47pm

      Re:

      "it's about respect"

      You seem intent on pontificating and commenting on various issues you have absolutely no understanding of, making yourself look the fool in the process, then getting angry when people realize what's happened.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:12am

    Creative Commons

    I am all for creative commons. If they want it, its theirs. It took little effort to take the picture or video then post it to twitter. IMO, nothing worth demanding any compensation,

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:24am

    This sounds like an article written by someone who's never done anything worth copying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:28am

    To tell the truth, this is actually a non article, or something made up to seem like it actually is news.

    How many news organizations have had to work with their lawyers because images or video's they have run with caused them problems? That happened in Staten Island over the police killing of a suspect.

    What do you expect? Even if that were not the case, what is wrong with a news organization asking if they can use the image. They probably do have the legal right to use it anyway, fair use or not. Politicians have the right to use certain parts of songs, but it is still a good idea to get permission.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:43am

      Re:

      The problem isn't that news organizations need to work with their lawyers - the problem is that lawyers are actually running the news organizations. Them and business types who care about nothing but profit. The actual journalists aren't in charge.

      If the news organizations would use and then defend their fair use rights instead of folding whenever it will cost them money, they wouldn't need to worry so much about it the second or 300th time.

      As far as politicians - that's an entirely different scenario. When you're a politician and advocating that someone vote for you, and using a song, you don't ask because you need permission - you ask because artist doesn't like you, they're going to speak out and be given attention for someone else.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 12:41pm

      Re:

      You seem to have missed the point. This article is not about the integrity or legal liability of the news organizations.

      It's about how completely fucked up our societal expectations are after generations of enduring and embracing the most distorted legal concepts ever invented.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JMT (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 6:05pm

      Re:

      "To tell the truth, this is actually a non article, or something made up to seem like it actually is news."

      Your opinion is not necessarily the truth.

      "Even if that were not the case, what is wrong with a news organization asking if they can use the image."

      The sheer ridiculous volume of tweets shown above show one thing wrong with it. As explained in the article, this would've been a major PITA for the recipients. The tweets mostly sound friendly and chummy, like they're doing you a solid by asking, but I'm sure these guys were pretty sick of the attention after a short while.

      "They probably do have the legal right to use it anyway, fair use or not."

      you sound a little confused here. If it's fair use then they have the legal right to use it. If it's not, then they don't.

      "Politicians have the right to use certain parts of songs, but it is still a good idea to get permission."

      Music licensing is a completely different (if equally frustrating) topic not at all related to fair use.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:49pm

      Re:

      To tell the truth, this is actually a non article, or something made up to seem like it actually is news.

      Said the anonymous jackass who still felt it was enough of an article to comment on it. Impressive.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 10:34am

    Hey Mike, great article. Mind if I post a comment here? Sign below if you agree.

    __________________________________________________________

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2015 @ 4:20am

      Re:

      Im trying to write my signature, but the pen just seems to scratch my screen

      Mmmmmm........is this permanent*scratches head*.....ouch!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 1:37pm

    The request that surprised me

    @Bradley_Hampton Great photo. May we use your photos with credit for our news coverage? Please reply. TX — MailOnline Pictures (@MailOnline_Pics) September 8, 2015
    The above paper has a history of not bothering with permission for what they use. I guess the Daily Fail's bad rep finally caught up to them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 2:41pm

    TL;DR.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 14 Sep 2015 @ 4:51pm

    Hey, guys. Thanks for getting my perfectly reasonable comment out of moderation in good time. ;(

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CharlieBrown, 14 Sep 2015 @ 5:49pm

    Cramps

    Thanks, Mike, now I have a very cramped thumb from scrolling past all those stupid tweets because I'm reading this on my phone!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2015 @ 9:06pm

    SO I wonder if any of these multi-million dollar companies offered him any money?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 15 Sep 2015 @ 12:36am

    I think that they might ask to establish a line of communication in case they want an interview if the story gets big. And sometimes asking nicely will encourage them and others to post photos more, who doesn't like to feel special.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ryunosuke, 15 Sep 2015 @ 8:33am

    Dear Techdirt...

    may we have permission to post in the comments sections and to have said news stories linked on reddit?

    love
    the internet.


    :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2015 @ 7:28pm

    I have broken my scroll wheel. Thanks Techdirt!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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