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HistoryPics and Gawker media: building audiences on copyrighted works, without permission.

"Look at Buzzfeed. Their business model is more or less using copyright images."

The Atlantic interviews the two teens behind @EarthPix and @HistoryInPics , Xavier Di Petta and Kyle Cameron. The Atlantic finds sources that say they two make as much as 50,000 Australian dollars a month (or roughly 43,800 USD at current exchange rates). That's more than 525000 USD a year folks. Not bad for sharing other peoples photographs, without compensating ore even asking them, together with a short blurb that sums up the photo (a short blurb that is all too often inaccurate). Celebrities love it, everyone and even @Xeni retweets it, and older and wiser people who really should know better believe in the false "history" summed up in 140 chars.

Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic presses Di Petta in a Skype interview about the blatant disregard for individual photographers copyrights in building this little social media empire:

"Photographers are welcome to file a complaint with Twitter, as long as they provide proof. Twitter contacts me and I'd be happy to remove it," he said. "I'm sure the majority of photographers would be glad to have their work seen by the massives."
I pressed him on this point. Shouldn't the onus be on him and Cameron to get those rights from the photographers they assume would be grateful?
"It would not be practical," he said. "The majority of the photographers are deceased. Or hard to find who took the images."

Of course, we can't have something as impractical as seeking out the rights owners (which doesn't actually have to be the deceased photographers) for securing permission, when it only takes a minute to tweet out an image with 100 chars of summation and soon get a million followers in the process. Madrigal ponders who really deserves the scorn, the people who build audiences by sharing copyrighted images on social networks - or the publicly traded companies that these networks now are. Both are profiting from the content shared, while the creators of the content get nothing in return. Except uncredited "exposure" which doesn't pay the rent. So, both. Both deserve the scorn. The publicly traded social networks, and those who use it in this fashion. Why shouldn't the individuals who do this be held to the same standards as the companies who allow them to do this?

When people scream about "fair use" and suggest we have to change our morals to fit the technology of today, they don't seem to realize who they're hurting. It's not the "big bad company" who "sued their own customers" when they file a C&D against a 14 year old kid who downloaded shared hundreds of movies & music albums on the scene. The "customer" who never bought anything was infringing, and the attitude grown from these examples begin to infringe on your rights to your work as a generation has grown up under constant chantings of "fair use". Your baby photos, your artwork, your sunsets, your poetry, your instagrammed fun, is all someone elses mealticket now, but not yours.

When your portfolio work shows up on T-shirts in China, when your articles form the backbone of someone else Adsense scraper site, when your photographs are the fodder of a twitter account... it's you as an individual who is losing this game, not some "big bad" anonymous corporation. Guess who is winning the game? The new big bad corporations. Before anyone starts, copyright infringement is theft, when the creator is robbed of the right to decide how their work is used.

In related news, Quentin Tarantino sued Gawker today for infringing on his copyright.

Tarantino's lawyers filed a lawsuit that said: "Gawker Media has made a business of predatory journalism, violating people's rights to make a buck. This time they went too far. Rather than merely publishing a news story reporting that Plaintiff's screenplay may have been circulating in Hollywood without his permission, Gawker Media crossed the journalistic line by promoting itself to the public as the first source to read the entire Screenplay illegally."

Like The Pirate Bay "it's just a link" (or several, rather) that Gawker Media distributed, sticking the copyrighted works elsewhere, hiding behind several TOS and hoops of DMCA to jump through in order to get the content taken down. Tarantino may be a wealthy man now, but if every script he ever wrote leaked before he could sell them or film them, he might never have been.

Former Defamer editor Beejoli Shah seems rather sure of the outcome of this suit. Tarantino will lose.

Because as with all things "copyright" these days, it simply isn't cool to worry about the individuals rights to their work anymore. And when Google spends money lobbying congress on Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, their not doing it for the individual citizens benefit, but for Googles.

Meanwhile on Twitter, there are "internet killjoys" at the forefront of the New Debunkonomy" like @PicPedant who point out the many errors and copyright infringing habits of @EarthPix and @HistoryInPics, among many other photo-accounts. @PicPedant will probably not get rich on this PSA campaigning.

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Dabitch's picture

There's an interview with Picpedant on Adland here.