Bloggers Divided Over Photography Issue

Lane Hartwell

A heated debate between bloggers is currently taking place regarding a recent issue involving photographer Lane Hartwell.

Here’s the backstory, earlier this month local a cappella group The Richter Scales created the video “Here Comes Another Bubble”, which makes fun of Web 2.0 and includes photos of many well-known people involved with Web 2.0. The problem is that they made no attempt at contacting the photographers regarding use of their photos and they didn’t include any photo credits, either on the video or their website.

Lane Hartwell noticed that they had used a photo she took of Owen Thomas for Wired and contacted The Richter Scales. They added a credit to the YouTube description for the video, however they claimed the photo was covered under fair use, not a violation of her photo’s copyright. Unhappy with their response and how they handled the situation, Lane contacted YouTube and had the video taken down for copyright infringement.

Last Friday Lane did an interview with Lewis Wallace for Wired and after the article was posted, the issue exploded online. Many bloggers are attacking Lane, saying that it is a “fair use” issue and that she spoiled their fun by having the video taken down, others are defending her rights to protect her photography and still others as saying that if she puts her photos online, then they are fair game. One of the main questions yet to be resolved is if this was a clear “fair use” issue or not. Hopefully some lawyers who specialize in this area will address this specific issue. [UPDATE: Attorney Jason Schultz posted his thoughts on the issue.]

Lane is currently in negotiations with The Richter Scales regarding this issue, which is why she hasn’t made a full statement, but she has posted a brief update to her blog.

Here’s more coverage of the issue from Shelly Powers, Brian Solis, Eric Rice, Tara Hunt, Derek Powazek, Brian Oberkirch and PDNPulse.

Lane has had a long history of her photos being used with out permission or credit and recently she quit her day job to become a full-time photographer, so this is now her livelihood. Because of the problems she’s had, Lane recently made her entire Flickr photostream private.

Side note: I’ve had my own fair share of problems with people using my photos without permission or giving credit, including recent issues involving local newspaper San Francisco Examiner and startup ZingFu.

UPDATE 1: Jack Schofield decided fact checking was no longer necessary when he wrote about Lane on the Guardian Unlimited Technology blog, saying that Lane was going to sue The Richter Scales. To clear up the additional confusion caused by his post, Lane to posted an update confirming that there is no lawsuit.

UPDATE 2: Tara Hunt wrote a great follow-up post to clear up some of the rumors and mis-information that has been spreading around this issue.

UPDATE 3: Lane has just posted her statement regarding video dispute.

People have asked me why I’m taking this action. When I find someone using my work without my permission, I ask them to remove it or pay a fee. They usually remove it and we are finished. The band did not remove the image from the video when I brought it to their attention and instead they told me they had the right to use it. They could have easily apologized, removed the video from YouTube and re-edited without my image and reposted.

UPDATE 4: Here’s Derek Powazek’s excellent write-up on the situation, including his take on Collaborative Media and ethics.

UPDATE 5: A new TechMeme thread is forming on the issue, based on Lane’s recent statement.

UPDATE 6: Jason Schultz, an attorney with the Samuelson Law, Technology, & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley Law School and former EFF attorney, posted his thoughts on the legal aspects of this issue, specifically as it relates to “fair use”.

UPDATE 7: PlagiarismToday has posted an in-depth and very balanced analysis of the situation, one of the best posts I’ve seen so far on the controversy.

UPDATE 8: The Richter Scales have re-edited the video to remove Lane’s photo and have re-posted it to YouTube as “Here Comes Another Bubble” Version 1.1. They were in negotiations with Lane, but decided not to work with her on a resolution and instead posted an update to their blog along with a poorly constructed list of credits for the video. For instance with Brian Solis’ photo credits, they don’t link to his name (no, that would be too obvious), instead they link to a blog that is claiming copyright on other people’s photos.

Here’s the best quote of The Richter Scales blog post:

As background, when we created Version 1.0 we didn’t see similar YouTube videos crediting every image used…

YouTube? Seriously YouTube? They are the absolute worst example of giving proper attribution for creative work. Almost every time I blog about a video on YouTube I need to first research for any information about the video that was uploaded to YouTube. Often there isn’t even a credit for the person who created the video.

PlagiarismToday shares a similar viewpoint with me regarding their YouTube excuse.

UPDATE 9: Lane has posted a follow-up response to new The Richter Scales video.

UPDATE 10: PDNPulse contacted some of the other photographers whose work was used in the video. It turns out that Romana Rosales, who shot the photo of Michael Arrington, wants her photo removed as well. This thing is never going to be resolved.

UPDATE 11: Stephen Shankland posted a Q&A with Lane Hartwell on CNET.

photo by Scott Beale

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