What is the protocol about linking to content and using photographs in blogs about the media? I wonder because today I was asked to remove a photograph from a blog post on the grounds it was a breach of copyright.
The photograph was obtained by the newspaper from someone involved in the story; it wasn’t shot by a staff photographer. According an email in the correspondence chain between the publication and I, the owner of the image had vested copyright in the news organisation and I was in breach of this copyright by linking to the image in my blog.
I’m sure this is a common issue for bloggers all over the world, and I guess we do have to be aware of local laws and conditions when linking to images. I did, by the way, take down the image; though on reflection I’m not sure that there was actually grounds for the organisation to ask me to do so.
For guidance I turned to the local authority, John Burrows and Ursula Cheer’s book Media Law in New Zealand (Fifth edition,  Oxford University Press). My reading is that there is provision for me to link to photographs in the context of a blog because in terms of copyright law it could be construed as ‘fair dealing’ for the purpose of review and/or criticism. Might I also have a defence in terms of ‘research’? I am after all a journalism academic whose job description includes research and critique of the news industry, journalists and journalism.
The section in Burrows and Cheer on research notes:
The protection afforded by the section extends beyond ‘students’ in its ordinary understood sense and covers members of the public who take copies of articles for reading for information or for the purpose of something they are writing. p.168
The comment about criticism or review reads:
‘Fair dealing’ with a work is not a breach provided it is for the purposes of criticism or review, whether of that work or another work, or performance of a work, and is accompanied by sufficient acknowledgment. This is a provision of some breadth. ..The author of the criticism must make only such use of it as is reasonable for the purpose. p.168
I was making a point about the writing and tone of the story in which the photo appeared and felt the use of the image was ‘reasonable for the purpose’, though my defence might have been stronger if I’d actually made some wiseacre comment about it. I didn’t because in the context I thought it made enough of a statement itself.
My argument back to the picture editor was that the fair dealing defence might apply and though I hadn’t put a direct acknowledgment on the photo or in the text, in the context of the post it might have been clear enough. Never-the-less, I was prepared to insert an acknowledgment into the post.
What is apparent, now that I’ve re-read the relevant section of Burrows and Cheer, is that it seems only applicable to quoted text; though the use of film clips seems also to be covered. The language talks about ‘quotes’ and so on. It is not clear in relation to images. My interpretation is that it’s OK to ‘quote’ images under the fair dealing provision.
I guess the real test will come the next time I attempt to do so from the publication concerned.