Media Are Breaking Copyright Law Too Often

man dressed as a pirate with a CD in his mouth on his computer downloading music and movies on a white background.

Media organisations are constantly infringing copyright when it comes to using images, according to the executive director of the Australian Copyright Council.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

Whether it’s accidental or intentional, too often when there’s images in an article the attribution is wrong, said Fiona Phillips.

“One of the things I see media organisations doing wrong all the time is they’ll put an image up and they’ll just say ‘supplied’ or ‘Twitter’ or ‘Instagram’. Which is actually an infringement of moral rights,” she told B&T, the week before her panel discussion at the REMIX Summit in Sydney.

Phillips explained there’s both the economic rights of copyright (having to pay for whatever it is) and moral rights as a creator. Creators of the content have the right to be attributed to their content if it’s being used.

While often it goes unnoticed, sometimes it can bite a news organisation in the arse. In 2011 the BBC came under scrutiny after its News Outlet used images of the London Riots, without attributing them to the actual person who took them. Instead, the BBC said they were soured from Twitter.

The use of these images caused a major stink and forced the BBC to set the record straight and attempt to defend its actions. Which resulted in further complaints and scrutiny, said Phillips.

“Copyright law is not different on the internet to what it is in the real world,” she stressed, despite admitting there’s a popular myth everything on the internet is free.

However, Phillips noted since the onslaught of social media in the past decade, there’s the official copyright law, but a form of community law in the social media realm too.

“What you find on social media platforms is that there’s generally behaviour that the community finds acceptable or not acceptable. If you breach what’s considered a ‘fair go’, you’re likely to have a situation that you have to manage.”

And the lines appear to have blurred. Phillips agreed it’s easy to accidentally infringe copyright online, particularly because of the misguided belief the internet is free.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there and it is easy to infringe copyright. And that’s one of our main roles, to educate people, not just be a big stick, but to help people do the right thing,” she said.

If you’re a trifle worried you’re a copyright infringing culprit, Phillips is speaking further indepth at the REMIX Conference in Sydney on June 2 and 3 on how to monetise content. And because you’re a lovely and devout reader of B&T, we have a special code for our readers for 25 per cent off tickets. Use the code ‘bandt’ – all lowercase – on the REMIX site.

Lead image via iStock