Stolen Images
April 2008

It happens all too frequently. Someone in cyberspace rips off the photos and words we create. We are all victims. The law says that you hold the copyright to what you produce whether you apply directly to Washington or attach a small c in a circle to each picture or article. Courts guarantee that copyright. We believe in copyright. We believe in the ownership of creative work. Some disagree. Despite this, there are those who want to eliminate the use of copyrighted material based on the concept that ideas should flow freely in the marketplace to allow others to capitalize on them for their own benefit. A growing number of people, including academics and bloggers, believe that anything in print or online is free for the taking. For them the Internet is the Wild West. The Web is where anarchy reins. However, that is odious and disrespectful.

The latest egregious example of a stolen image was by the Drudge Report Web site of a 10-year-old photo by David Hume Kennerly of then First Lady Hillary Clinton in Bosnia. Kennerly did not sell or authorize the use of the photo. Drudge clearly ripped it off and presented it on his site in a way that was damaging to Kennerly's reputation. Lawyers from Getty Images, Kennerly's photo agency, ordered Drudge to remove it from his site. It was finally removed, but not before as many as 20 million people may have seen the photo out of context, but the damage had been done to all. According to Kennerly, Getty Images is contemplating further action against Matt Drudge.

Unfortunately, we cannot stop the stealing of images and words. The most we can do is to remain vigilant. When we discover a transgressor, we must call him or her out. We must reveal the crime and make the wrongdoer pay in money and in the loss of his or her reputation. At The Digital Journalist, we respect copyright and we make sure that we have permission for every photo that we publish. Though permission does not always accompany remuneration, it at least shows respect for the person who created the image or the words. In the end, we call for permission for use. We call for pay for play. It is only right. It is only fair. It is only honest.