At TorrentFreak we keep a close eye on the DMCA takedown requests that are received by search engines such as Google and Yahoo. These are usually sent out by music and film companies but last week we saw them being joined by the Gawker Media-owned weblog Gizmodo.
The weblog is using the services of an anti-piracy outfit that scours the web for content owned by its clients and sends out takedown notices to get infringing material removed. Like other publications published under a non-commercial Creative Commons license, Gizmodo does not allow bloggers to copy its articles in full if their site carries advertising.
An example of the Gizmodo takedown requests can be found on Chilling Effects. Interestingly, in this example the targeted site does not have any ads, but it could be that these were removed after the notice was sent. The ‘infringing’ blog post does link back to the original article as it should though.
We contacted Gizmodo/Gawker who confirmed that it’s indeed policy to go after people who copy articles for commercial use. This is totally fine of course, they have the right to protect their livelihoods. But we find it ironic, to say the least, that Gizmodo itself is systematically infringing on the rights of photographers in their own publication, for profit.
In recent weeks alone, the gadget blog has used more than a dozen pictures to cheer up its articles. One of the main photo sources for Gizmodo seems to be Flickr, and the photos that have been copied include ones with a CC-NA license and ones with “all rights reserved.”
TorrentFreak contacted several of the Flickr users who were ‘featured’ on Gizmodo and they all confirmed that they have not given permission to publish the photos. We advised one of the photographers who was not happy with Gizmodo’s infringement to send an invoice. He did, but said that Gizmodo refused to pay and took his photo offline instead.
“They refused to pay but they have taken the images down,” the Flickr user told us. “I am sticking with the invoice as they have gotten the most out of the week old article already. So even if the images are not there anymore they need to pay for the usage they had. It seems to be the way they do business. They steal stuff and claim it was unintentional.”
When we confronted Gizmodo/Gawker with this apparent double standard concerning copyright we were told that we don’t understand the law. “If you just want to argue with me about what we do, I am afraid I will not engage. You are mistaken about the law, in my opinion,” Gawker COO Gaby Darbyshire said after some discussion.
Although we don’t really grasp what law she’s referring to, we asked someone at Creative Commons about the issue who confirmed that the overall consensus is that a commercial outfit like Gizmodo should not use photos with a non-commercial license without permission. Even if they contest this, Gizmodo also uses Flickr photos with “all rights reserved” which is in no way allowed.
Just to be clear, we’re not by any means trying to blame Gizmodo for infringing copyright, that’s their choice. We probably have used one or two copyrighted images ourselves in the past and other high profile blogs like Techcrunch do the same. However, we do think that it is a bit hypocritical for them to go after bloggers for making the same “mistake”.
And we don’t buy ‘stolen’ iPhones….
Update: The Flickr user we quoted in this article managed to get paid for his work after a bit more complaining. “They will pay me a compensation half what I charge for publishing rights but they will not repost the image to the article,” he told us.