Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content


Journalists and their managers are not considering the legal implications of not crediting UGC. Meanwhile, those working in legal and rights departments are. They are desperate for staff to realize the seriousness of the issue. As one person working in this area argued: I think the issue is, the journalists basically think all this stuff is just bullshit. It’s just management bollocks when we try and say this stuff to them. They think we’re stifling their creativity, and they don’t understand that this could get them into hot water to such an extent that we can’t use [UGC] anymore and their creativity will be far more stifled. Certainly in our interviews it was very rare to hear people expressing concern about not crediting uploaders. There was a sense that it is the right thing to do, but an acceptance that in the heat of breaking news, crediting is always a very low priority. There was also an acceptance that if uploaders were unhappy that they weren’t credited, or wanted payment, this could be sorted out after the event. As one former journalist admitted: You are in a massive sausage factory, under massive time pressures, and there are fewer and fewer and fewer people to do the job… You don’t have time for anything, let alone worrying what somebody’s username is. You don’t have time to think whether you should credit

their Twitter name or their real name, or who the hell they are anyway. It’s probably already in the system without the credits on it, and you just use it. The greatest frustration about the lack of crediting from broadcasters comes from freelancers and pro-amateur photographers. During the London riots in the summer of 2011, for example, many professional photographers stepped outside their home, took pictures, and uploaded them to social networks. When news organizations used these pictures without credit, the uploaders took to blogs to express their disgust, explaining that they didn’t want payment (as it was a public service to document what had happened during that period), but they were upset they hadn’t received any attribution. Three years later, and today it is just as likely the same thing would happen. Professional photographers understand their rights, whereas an accidental journalist may not be aware that they are entitled to a credit. It is notable that the only time copyright violation regarding a news organization distributing content sourced from social media has been tested legally, the ruling was in favor of the content creator, not the news organization publishing the content. In November of 2013, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York declared that Agence France-Presse and Getty Images had infringed the copyright of professional photographer Daniel Morel.33the agency distributed eight photographs of the Haiti earthquake in 2010 to its clients; Morel had originally distributed them via Twitpic, a service that allows users to post images to Twitter easily. A jury awarded Morel $1.22 million in damages for the infringement. Interestingly, this case was not cited in any of our interviews with news managers or senior editors. Indeed, professional freelance photographers and citizen journalists are starting to lead the campaign for better crediting. John McHugh and Tim Pool have separately built technology that automatically watermarks photographs with a credit (Marksta and Taggly, respectively) to ensure photo graphs will contain a credit even if newsrooms don’t add one. Perhaps it was their intimate understanding of the news business that persuaded them to lend uploaders support, rather than try to convince newsrooms to make a culture change. It seems that only when senior management sends signals that crediting UGC is as important as the rights restrictions placed on sports events that behavior will change. The interviews made clear that there are technical issues that impact why pictures aren’t credited. These will only be amended when the importance of crediting is highlighted. As one producer admitted, “At the moment it’s all a bit ad hoc, so if the bosses want consistency, people really need to know that it’s something they must do, not something that’s nice to do if you remember.”