If conventional wisdom is to be believed, something happening once may be a fluke, but when it’s happened three times, it’s officially a trend. In that case, old media should be very, very wary about where it sources its material from in the future after two separate cases where bloggers and citizen journalists have not only had their content stolen, but have managed to be reimbursed and credited with its creation after the fact.
Jim Romensko had the first of those two stories, with the tale of Michael McKisson. McKisson, who runs the Tuscon Velo site covering the bike community in Tuscon, AZ, was surprised to see footage he had shot and posted to YouTube in June show up in a news report on local station KOLD-TV – especially considering that he hadn’t known about it, or given his permission for the footage to be used, in advance. “I was not contacted by the station to use the footage, nor was any credit for the footage provided. They must have done a video screen capture of the YouTube version to be able to add it to their report,” McKisson explained. Instead of getting mad about the theft, McKisson responded with the mind of a freelancer: “I have sent an email to the news director with an invoice attached for the use of the video footage. I billed them $300. I figured a decent rate was $100 per hour and I worked at least 3 hours shooting, editing and posting the video.”
To its credit, the station agreed to pay the fee. “I spoke with the station’s news director, Michelle Germano, who said the story was produced by a new reporter,” McKisson said. “The station has a policy of not using YouTube videos and because the reporter did not cite the video as a YouTube video, the editors looking over the script missed it and didn’t take it out.” The reporter was reprimanded for the YouTube usage, and McKisson will receive a $300 check for his work.
By coincidence, a similar situation has transpired with a Flickr photograph used in a news story by the Portland Press Herald. The photograph came from the account of Audrey Ann Slade, but was used without credit or compensation. After two emails of complaint, the Press Herald responded to Slade by explaining that it hadn’t been able to contact her prior to publication deadline, but that public interest permitted them to use the image under Fair Use law; it wasn’t an excuse that washed with her. “Surely, if someone were intelligent enough able to defend their decision to employ Fair Use, they would have been able to hit the “message” button on my flickr account?” she wrote. “Or perhaps since they were able to see my name attached to my flickr page, they could have googled me, thus finding my google+ id and my email address. Or, one would think if they were able to determine my TITLE (which was in no way associated with my flickr account), surely they could have done a simple search to find out my name. And at the very least, after my first email, they now had the identity of the owner of the photo and a request to take it down. How hard would it have been to adhere to that?”
Slade demanded $100 for every day the photo was available on the Press Herald’s website. As it was taken down after four days, managing editor Steve Greenlee has said that she will be receiving a check for $400.