gilest.org

How the Daily Mail stole one of my photos

Folkestone Academy

I've never been one to spend a lot of time checking my web stats - you know, the stats that tell you how many people have been looking at your stuff online. But today I was idling my way through my Flickr stats and noticed something very odd. This photo, of the Folkestone Academy building at night, is continuously popular and gets a lot of hits.

Curious as to why this should be, I searched Google images for "folkestone academy", and got two surprises. First: my Flickr image shows up on the top line of results, which might explain some of the incoming traffic. But second: that the same photo - my photo - was also appearing in Google's image search under the domain "dailymail.co.uk".

A couple of clicks later and I was here. And there it was. My photo. On the Daily Mail web site, illustrating a story of theirs. The Daily Mail had not asked me if they could use it. The image is not posted under a Creative Commons licence, which the Mail might have interpreted as meaning that they could use it legally. Under the "Additional information" heading in the right column, the text clearly reads: "All rights reserved." They just Googled the phrase like I did, and presumably grabbed the first picture that took their liking. They even had the cheek to put "(C) GILEST" on the image, as if that made everything OK.

I was absolutely furious when I saw this.

discovered the Daily Mail used one of my flickr pics, without asking me first. am furious

— Giles Turnbull (@gilest) July 8, 2008

A few years ago - 1999, maybe even into the early 2000s - I'd have forgiven them for not quite understanding the internet properly. People used to think like that. They used to think that any image online was an image they could swipe - no-one thought that there were any rules, or that normal laws applied. It happened to me before, back in 1999 or thereabouts, when a photo of mine of a boat in Cambridge popped up in the boat owner's publicity literature. I phoned him to ask what he was doing and he was genuinely astonished to discover that he'd done something wrong.

But that was six or seven years ago, and this is today, and we're not talking about the owner of a pleasure boat on the Cam, we're talking about a huge media organisation with one of the fastest-growing web sites around. That's why I'm so mad about this. These people should know better. I think they do know better, but they just don't care.

My photo was as clearly marked as a photo could be. The Mail can have no excuse for not asking me if they could use it. Nor could there be any reasonable confusion as to the image's copyright status. I just cannot believe that the Mail used this photo by mistake. Indeed, the very fact that the image was stamped with "(C) GILEST" means that they knew full well who owned the image and that it was under copyright.

I have sent the Mail's online picture desk an invoice. We'll see what happens.

Update, some weeks later: They paid the invoice. I should have invoiced them for a great deal more.