Barack Obama Criticism Politics The Web and Technology

Copyright and the White House Photostream

[digg-reddit-me]A kerfuffle arose over this at slashdot a month ago – in which the White House was accused of changing how they posted works on Flickr “since January.”

In reality, this has been the case for some time. I first noticed this discrepancy after I noticed that the RNC was adapting images from the White House Flickr stream in this ad from August 2009. I recognized the pictures and noticed that it clearly violated the terms of use provided with the images.

Specifically, for each photo uploaded on this account and listed as an “Official White House Photo by Pete Souza,” a notice states:

This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

However, under copyright information provided for all Flickr photos, this work has been classified (by the uploader) as “United States Government Work.” This change occurred in May 2009 after a number of commentors noted that even the most lax Creative Commons license provided more copyright protection than the works were allowed. The copyright status of all the pictures was changed then to “United States Government Work,” and the link provided on the page directs you to this which states:

A work that is a United States Government work, prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties, is not subject to copyright in the United States and there are no U.S. copyright restrictions on reproduction, derivative works, distribution, performance, or display of the work.

The discrepancy between what the White House claims and what the law actually says is significant. I presumed this was an error – and still do.

I write this in part to justify my editing of the White House photo of Hillary Clinton embracing Barack Obama in celebration of the health care victory – and partly because it puzzles me why it has persisted for nearly a year. Especially as the 2 licenses so clearly cannot both be claimed. I’ll ask the White House for comment on this and get back in the unlikely event I get a response.

Criticism The Media The Web and Technology

The Associated Press Jumps the Copyright Shark

[digg-reddit-me]The Associated Press has apparently jumped the shark. In a headlong rush to protect their business model from the Future, the Associated Press has in the past year launched lawsuits against bloggers for posting the full text or excerpts of their articles without advance permission, againstĀ Shepherd Fairey for being inspired by an image of Barack Obama that was published by the Associated Press (though the photographer who took the photo alleges he was not an employee of the Associated Press and thus has independent rights to the photo), and againstĀ news aggregators for posting the titles and first sentence of Associated Press stories.

Clearly, the Associated Press feels under siege. So, at some point Associated Press has launched what I think is the most pervasive use of iCopyright by a major news organization. While a normal web page offers you buttons to format for printing, embedding, emailing, or social bookmarking a news story, if you click on the equivalent link on an news story, it launches its iCopyright page. (Given its wariness about this scary web, its of little surprise that the page offers no social bookmarking links.) For example, here’s the range of options I found on an article entitled “Obama challenges GOP critics on health care.”

Under “Post,” it does offer is a handy way to embed the article on your site – or a portion of the article. Now, I can understand the AP wanting some way to make money off of embedding a whole article on your site – or objecting to people doing so. This undeniably detracts from their revenues. But I love the fact that they expect people to pay $12.95 to embed an EXCERPT of one of their articles. Then at the bottom of the page, it warns you against piracy. The Associated Press seems to be asserting that Fair Use does not exist at all!

But this is where they really jumped the shark. They offer to allow you to email the article to “6 or more recipients” for a fee. Seriously:

I’m a bit surprised that the Associated Press does not have a section on who is allowed to link to their site or this article – demanding some form of payment for incoming links.