Big media is stealing your photos

Local blogger Julie Belanger is peeved at 24 Heures. They published a photo of hers, without permission or credit, to illustrate a story.

It’s the kind of stuff you expect from amateur operations. Do a Google Image search and copy whatever looks good. Take a stock photo from Getty Images or iStock without paying for it. Or just go on Flickr, ignore the copyright or copyleft notices and use a photo for commercial uses, with or without attribution. TVA isn’t above it.

What makes this case interesting is the response she got from the editor: The photo was sent along with a press release, so they’re not responsible.


Whether or not this was done (the organization that sent it denies that any photo was attached and the release on Telbec backs them up), it’s the newspaper’s responsibility to ensure that photos and text they publish are not protected by copyright. Just like you can’t get away with having stolen merchandise just because you bought it from someone dirt cheap in good faith, you can’t simply pass the buck on copyright infringement.

If the organization sent the newspaper a photo and made it clear that there was no problem publishing it, then the newspaper should sue the organization and the photographer should sue both.

Sadly, because these photographers don’t have copyright lawyers on retainer, big media can simply screw them over.

4 thoughts on “Big media is stealing your photos

  1. Kate M.

    I don’t know Ms. BĂ©langer’s work, but do note that Flickr allows and encourages its users to put pictures up under Creative Commons terms, and some people do this without taking in the implications.

    Admittedly, most CC licenses rule out commercial use, which would cover newspaper publication, but I suspect most people read CC as meaning that the owner doesn’t care if you “borrow” their work. In doubt, people should opt for “all rights reserved” which is equally an option.

  2. Jonathan Bailey

    The argument that they are not responsible because the photo was sent along in a press release is, of course, stupid. That would only be true if they had no editorial control over their own content.

    An analogy would be this comment form. When I hit submit, unless I get chewed up in filters, my post should go live without any editorial control from you. If I infringe copyright, you would not be held responsible so long as you removed it when notified.

    However, if I submitted a story to you, you read it, edited it and THEN posted it, you have at least some of the responsibility. This is a clear situation where both parties have some responsibility.

    Just out of curiosity, do you know if they identified the company that allegedly did this? Just wondering if it is another phantom “So and so sent it to me” case but with a major media company.

  3. Fagstein Post author

    The photo in question wasn’t CC-licensed. In any case, big media should still be aware of what CC does and does not allow them to do. It’s not like they make the terms complicated.

    24 Heures claimed the photo came from the group Quebec Vert Kyoto, who in turn said the press release was sent from Festival Ecolo. That group swears they didn’t send a photo with a press release.

  4. Pingback: Fagstein » Copyright infringement isn’t ok just because everyone else does it

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