You may recall from last week that WKRN News2 blogger A.C. Kleinheider or someone at the station improperly copied a copyrighted photo from this site and republished it without permission.
I brought this to their attention, noted the site rules and copyright notices, and politely asked that the photo be removed. Their response was that they hadn't done anything wrong, and that if I believed I had a "legitimate legal grievance" I should take it up with the station.
So I did.
Read more after the jump...
Their somewhat cavalier attitude did not seem like a reasonable response to a reasonable request, so I retained attorney Charles E. Young of Kramer Rayson in Knoxville to take legal action.
Friday afternoon, Mr. Young sent a letter advising Mr. Kleinheider, WKRN News2, and station owner Young Broadcasting that KnoxViews site rules, and WKRN's own site rules, had been violated, that the Young Broadcasting code of professional ethics had been breached, and that more seriously, it was a violation of federal copyright law with potentially serious liabilities.
To their credit, WKRN News2 took quick action and the post with the photo in question was removed within one hour of receiving Mr. Young's letter. As of this writing, we are still waiting for certification that the photo has been removed from their servers. While I appreciate their quick response, it's disappointing that I had to hire a lawyer to resolve what should have been a simple matter of complying with a simple, reasonable request.
So what have we learned?
First and foremost, as I said in the previous post about this, we all need to be respectful of each other's intellectual property. If you have any doubts about copying a photo or other content from someone else's site and republishing on yours, then it likely isn't proper. But beyond having a conscience, bloggers would do well to study and understand U.S. Copyright law, which is spelled out in plain English here.
Second, it never hurts to ask, and it is always the proper thing to do. I have been asked several times, and offered payment, for use of my photos in publications and websites. It is always appreciated, and permission is usually given.
Along those same lines, however, if your copyrights are violated it is up to you to enforce them. Nobody is going to do it for you. You may not think your intellectual property has much value, but writers and photographers are paid good money every day for doing the same thing bloggers do mostly for free. Don't devalue your work by letting others, especially corporate media, use it without at least giving credit where credit is due. And if you think you might someday want to sell your writing or photographs or other creative works, it's probably not a good idea to set a precedent of not enforcing your copyrights.
Finally, this episode offers an interesting commentary on the relationship between bloggers and the mainstream media. The mainstream media has finally noticed bloggers, but all too frequently they don't seem to take bloggers very seriously.
Mainstream media has also adopted blogging as another outlet for their news and commentary. They try to make their blogs "hip" and "cool" by being a little looser on journalistic standards and lighter in tone than "serious" journalism. But when the chips are down and they get caught playing a little too fast and loose, they fall back on their deep-pocket corporate status and challenge you to do something about it, a luxury most bloggers don't have. In most cases, it's probably better for everyone involved, especially readers, if you protect your rights.
That said, bloggers need to be respectful of mainstream media's work product, too. Many bloggers at one time or another have copied photos or whole-cloth excerpts without attribution or value added commentary. This is just a as wrong as the media "borrowing" a blogger's work, and you can bet they won't hesitate to enforce their copyrights if it is brought to their attention.
So let's all play nice and try to get along. It's all fun until lawyers get involved.
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