I have a Google Alert set up for my name, to find new mentions of it online. Today I received a mail that my name came up in an article in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), as part of a photo credit. This made me curious.

An article on the amount of time elderly US citizens spend behind their computer screens published August 25th, uses a photo I made it turns out.

My mom is in a Hong Kong newspaper

The photo is from 2008, and shows my mom trying her first steps on a laptop, which we gave her for her 71st birthday when she started having mobility problems. E’s hand is pointing out things in the Gmail interface. This image is available in my Flickr account, and that is how the SCMP ended up finding it (it says as much in the photo credit). They likely used the Flickr’s search filter and had it set to ‘any Creative Commons license’. And that’s where it went wrong.

SCMP is a commercial company, and my photo is licensed with Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike. Creative Commons is a way for copyright holders to preemptively state which uses of a work are always permitted. I license all my photos, and using Creative Commons give permission for any use that isn’t commercial, as long as the result is shared the same way, and as long my name is mentioned as the author.

SCMP did mention my name (which is how I found the article), but cannot comply with the non-commercial part of the Creative Commons license, and thus should have asked for my permission before using the image. Now I’ve sent them an e-mail with an invoice, for using my photo, and another 100% added for using it without permission. Payable in 15 business days.

To my pleasant surprise the SCMP’s photo editor (whom I mailed), responded within 20 minutes apologising and promising payment. [UPDATE, that payment never materialised, and I found several other sites and companies using the same photo in their content]

(full disclosure: I’m a board member for Open Nederland, the association of Dutch makers that serves as the Dutch chapter for Creative Commons.)

5 reactions on “In Which My Mother Ends Up in the South China Morning Post

    • He mentioned that editors and sub-editors increasingly have the freedom to select their own photos, and that they try to do it right and with the intent to satisfy any copyright aspects (as evidenced by the correct attribution). Using Flickr as source and ending up with a CC licensed image, just not a correctly licensed image makes me assume this is what happened, as for someone not *precisely* knowing what to do, making that mistake in the Flickr creative commons search is very easy. I’ve sometimes made that mistake too (but as I state the correct license always with the photo, I will notice then at the latest, something they didn’t do here which would have allowed them to catch the error).

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