A Case of Online Attribution

(originally posted on IMGembed’s blog 2014)

The recent decision on the Morel case, in which Editorial photographer Daniel Morel brought copyright infringement and DMCA violation claims against the AFP and Getty Images, was much more about the systematic failure of well-worn business practices within photography, rather than willful infringement by the defendants. While AFP and Getty took the stand, and were certainly culpable, it was more interesting to understand who was not there: both the person that took the images from TwitPic and republished the photo under their name, and TwitPic.

From TwitPic, AFP came across the images – all of the Haitian earthquake in 2010 – and used while crediting the wrong photographer. Getty picked them up from AFP’s feed and made them available to news publications; both licensed them directly to publishers, with the wrong attribution. Daniel Morel never received payment, and tried getting his images removed from distribution once immediately made aware.

By then, the distribution system had gone through its mechanizations: AFP assumed the images were attached to the right creator, and Getty assumes anything AFP gives them is legally “clean”, that all rights were cleared by AFP. The publications who license from Getty, in turn, make those same assumptions: that through the whole chain of operations sufficient due diligence was made and rights were secured by all parties.

The fly in the ointment (or wild card), however, was TwitPic and its agnosticism toward content and attribution. Despite their terms of service being clearly violated, there was nothing preventing the infringing behaviors on TwitPic’s platform. As a distribution model, it’s great for photographers to quickly gain access to a wide audience on breaking news, but does little to nothing around securing attribution for broader re-publication.

Attribution is a core value to Imgembed’s platform, and allows for content creators to hold that association through online use. In a hypothetical use case, a photographer like Morel could use Imgembed as one of his/her photo channels and realize the immediate benefits of embedded attribution, online use and monetization of their imagery, and tracking its use across the web.

There’s a wide disparity between traditional media conduits and their aggregation/distribution practices, and how photographers are capturing and sharing their imagery – the expectations on both sides, and through the Morel case, have revealed how wide this gap is. As a system, Imgembed is an end-to-end solution that brings together the parties that mutual benefit from online use, because photographers and publishers should meet somewhere other than court.

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