A freelance photographer by the name of Eddie Mitchell isn’t afraid to take on the Sky Broadcasting Corporation, after it was announced he was suing them.
Eddie had given permission to a firefighter to use a picture he took of a building fire in Bognor Regis. This picture was then published through the Midhurst Fire Service official Twitter page.
Not long after the Tweet was published, Sky News, the popular UK news channel and website embedded the tweet in a related story about Storm Angus, and of course, it seems that this also included the picture that was taken by Eddie Mitchell.
This wasn’t acceptable to Eddie, who said that Sky News never did contact him for permission to use the picture. Because of that, he decided to take the matter to court and sue Sky News.
Worthing County Court to be exact, where he said in a statement that he did give permission to the Firefighter and his station to use the picture, but NOT to Sky News.
A spokesperson for Sky News has gone on record to say that they have “very strict policies and always seek permission when necessary” when using pictures from social media sites such as Twitter.
The news story which contained the copyrighted picture from Eddie Mitchell has since been removed from the Sky News website.
Who knows exactly what happened here, and I’m sure that Worthing County Court will look at all of the evidence and come to a conclusion on what should happen next.
The one thing I do know is that we are going to be hearing a lot more about this type of thing, as freelancers and contractors believe their work has been used illegally and without their permission.
It’s not always exactly clear what is and what isn’t copyright infringement though, with many companies and news outlets arguing that embedding a link to a tweet, or using a screenshot of a tweet that contains a copyrighted picture should be fair use.
In my opinion, more needs to be done to clarify the law around the subject of copyright, especially when it comes to social media.
Sure, freelancers and contractors deserve recognition for their work, as well as being paid their dues, but at the same time, when sharing a Tweet or Instagram post is as simple as clicking a button on your phone, then maybe unintended copyright infringement is going to be almost inevitable
Ultimately though, Sky News are in the business of getting website traffic to their news stories and profiting from that, and any use of pictures or other third party content should potentially be compensated.