BBC defends use of unpaid amateur images
August 9, 2005
BBC News has defended the free use of amateur photographs on its website insisting that most contributors have no interest in making money from the pictures.
Many people complained to BBC News following its use of images captured by the public on camera phones and digital cameras after the attacks on London last month.
BBC News website editor Pete Clifton admits he has taken ?some flak? for not paying for what is now been coined ?citizen journalism?.
Among those incensed by the policy was Andro Linklater of Kent who wrote to BBC News online saying: ?What is utterly objectionable is that by following the BBC?s policy of acquiring potentially valuable images royalty-free, for perpetual use, you are cheating the very people you purport to serve.?
Another, Anthony Singer from Brussels asked: ?Given that the material has proved to be such a mainstay of coverage of recent major events, why aren?t these people being paid for them??
Clifton acknowledges that such images have ?market value? but says the BBC will not be ?splashing out?. He adds: ?People can send us images if they want to and our experience recently has been that the vast majority of readers simply wanted to share their images and had no interest in making money.?
Clifton points out that the photographer retains copyright in the pictures and ?money is not the driver? for contributors. He adds: ?I don?t intend to set up a fund from licence fee payers? money to turn this into a commercial exercise. That?s my position; we will see how the market develops.?
The BBC is among several news organisations accused of encouraging the public to put themselves in danger to get news pictures in the wake of the terror attacks in London.
In a letter to journalists? trade publication, Press Gazette, The Chartered Institute of Journalists criticises the BBC, ITV and CNN. The letter, published in Press Gazette?s 5 August edition, said: ?The use in newspapers and on television of pictures by amateur photographers who have coincidentally been at the scene of a major news story in the past, has always been acceptable. However, attempts by television channels to actively encourage their viewers to go out and get news pictures and then transmit the results direct to them, are totally unacceptable and border on the irresponsible.?
The BBC said it strongly refutes any suggestion that viewers are encouraged to go out and get news pictures, adding that the public, for some time, have been volunteering material.