Thursday, February 07, 2008

Digital content in the blogosphere

Blogs and digital publications are starting to experience some growing pains about who owns what imagery and how each publication can use other people's digital content. The particular case I want to talk about concerns I and my colleague at Channel 4, Beau Bo D'Or, but there have been lots of other recent cases*. In ours, some of our work has been hotlinked on very popular blogs, notably Paul Staines’s Guido Fawkes’s Diary. There's a clip of one of the front pages of my animations here.

I want to make clear at this point that as far as I know, no one has complained, legally, about what he did, although I know Beau Bo D'Or (Neil Hepburn) exchanged several emails with Paul about it. The screen grab above of Guido Fawkes is interesting here (double click the image and look at the orange circle bottom left). There is also plenty of technical evidence he was hotlinking to Channel 4's servers, which is using** their bandwidth instead of his own. I was slightly surprised at this behaviour as Paul is reputed to be wealthy, or to have, access to the sort of funds which would allow him to pay for his own bandwidth. Bandwidth is the telecoms capacity which supplies us the pages we see on the web.

Tim 'Bloggerheads' Ireland has done a thorough job on explaining what has happened. Unfortunately, his initial investigation has got mixed up with the personal emnity which he and Paul Staines share. Paul responded by sending a threatening solicitors letter to Tim. This was a shame as it obscured the more important matter and this may, of course, been why he did it.

Paul and I, and other people like us, who are successful publishers and who are actively promoting our work for commercial gain have a responsibility to think about both what we are publishing - and how we are publishing it. I'd expect better behaviour from a man who chooses to associate himself with someone who wanted to reconfigure parliament.

Follow-up links: Technical
What is hotlinking? from Wikipedia

* Previous cases
Famous theft of images from digital to print from The Great Architect

** UPDATED: I have edited out the previous reference to stealing bandwidth after a comment from blogger John B who made comment 5 for this piece. Thanks for pointing that innacurate use of language out John.

UPDATED UPDATE
Why do all this writing about something so small? Perceptively skewered here

Personal:
Bloggerheads Tim Ireland
Guido Fawkes Paul Staines
Beau Bo D’Or Neil Hepburn

Matt Buck’s animated drawings

6 comments:

greatarchitect said...

A good piece matt, and thanks for the comment on my blog as well. Hopefully with a few more people getting together in this way identifying the problems and highlighting *offenders* on blogs and suchlike, something *may* come out of it.

Great blog in general, by the way, really enjoyed looking through it, and will do so more regularly now :)

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

Is this really a big deal? He's included a back link, hasn't removed any credits and, fundamentally (although this isn't on your screenshot) has added this statement as an update:

UPDATE 30 January 2008 : Seems that the humorous "Stolen from" reference has set someone off - for the record, Channel 4 News have given written permission for the occasional use of artwork on condition that they get a back-link.

Are you saying Channel 4 lack the authority to give him permission? That's a different issue. But who is losing here? Both you and C4 get exposure out of it.

It doesn't seem to compare with the "NOW" example at all where the image was lifted despite no credit given.

Matt Buck said...

Hello James,
Good questions which I will try and answer. But first, a question and some context.

Why, if Paul Staines wasn't feeling a little guilty about something he had done, did he immediately send a legal letter threatening to sue Tim Ireland for blogging about his use of bandwidth from third party servers (ie. not his?)

A simple apology and a removal of the' hot link' would have done.

In that instant legal letter Paul's lawyer specifically talked about the embedding by Mr Staines of a photomontage cartoon produced by Matt Buck (me), the copyright for which vests in Channel 4 ("the Cartoon"), on his website - Order-Order.com. (or the Guido Fawkes blog).

The legal letter does not dispute the facts of what Tim Ireland blogged about. Specifically, that Paul Staines, clearly and demonstrably stole bandwidth. Instead it threatened Tim Ireland with legal proceedings for defamation of character.

The claim in the letter from Paul's lawyer that copyright vests in C4 is factually incorrect. It is my copyright. Neither Paul or his lawyer bothered to check this very basic fact with me, or my employers at C4 before sending the letter. Why not?

When Paul published this statement on his blog.

> UPDATE 30 January 2008 : Seems that the humorous "Stolen from" reference has set someone off - for the record, Channel 4 News have given written permission for the occasional use of artwork on condition that they get a back-link.

The humorous reference to 'stolen' is actually factual. It is 'leeching' or bandwidth theft.

The written permission he cites, refers specifically to an email and deals exclusively with the work of Beau Bo D’Or - not mine. I might not mind if he wanted to use my content, but it's just that he's never asked me...

If it is such a little affair, as you imply James, why bother getting a lawyer involved?

More generally, on your questions;

You can argue as you do, elegantly, we all benefit from this and perhaps we do. But as I have said on this blog before, some reasonable code of behaviour applies to the way we use the web, the images we like to see on it and how we make them appear in our publications.

Your last point about the NOW image is well made - some of us try to make our living through our skill at drawing and image making, we deserve as much respect in the way our work is treated as do those who type.

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

I absolutely agree Staines should never had involved a lawyer. He has past form of course and that's one of the main reasons why I refuted over on Gavin Whenman's blog that Tim can be described as a "bully" either in this incident or more generally.

As for whether it is bandwidth "stealing" - that all boils down to to what extent he had permission to use the animation. I also don't know how your contractual relationship with C4 works and thus who he needed to ask for permission. Only you and C4 can answer that, not me, so I'll take your word for it.

On you final point about a code of behaviour, I agree. There is a grey area between the sort of blogging I do, which is non-commercial (if only! although it has resulted in one paid job), the blogging Staines does, which he attempts to make as much money out of as possible (I have no idea how much and doubt it is a huge amount though, regardless of the holes in his braindead fanclub's pockets) and the blogging you do which is non-commercial on the one hand but links directly to your day job.

It isn't as binary as we might sometimes like to think and I wonder to what extent CC helps or hinders. It certainly warrants further debate. But regardless of who is to blame, Tim and Staines going hammer and tongs at each other is only going to generate heat, not light.

John B said...

"The humorous reference to 'stolen' is actually factual. It is 'leeching' or bandwidth theft."

No fan of Guido, particularly his 'for me but not for thee' attitude to libel laws. However, the above is complete rubbish: image hot-linking is not theft in English law. (AIUI, iIt's not even copyright infringement - and even if it were, copyright infringement is not theft).

Matt W said...

I'd add that it can be an infringement of your T&Cs - depending what they are.

Imo it could also be copyright infringement, as it is a republication without permission - unless it falls under "fair dealing".

Fortunately we all have control of our servers, so people can be served an advert for our services instead...or something else.