BBC Twitter rule lacks ‘credibility’, claims photographer (update 4.10pm)

August 22, 2011

The photographer at the centre of an ongoing dispute with the BBC has accused the corporation of lacking ?credibility? in its justification for using images from Twitter without attribution.

Andy Mabbett was responding to a statement issued by BBC News last week after he complained that the corporation failed to credit photographers behind Twitter images used alongside reports about the London riots.

The BBC had initially emailed him to say that images posted on Twitter were effectively exempt from copyright law because they were already in the ‘public domain?.

BBC News Social Media Editor Chris Hamilton then apologised on behalf of the corporation, saying this was not official policy.

However, in a subsequent blog on the BBC website, Hamilton confirmed that the BBC may use a photo before clearing it ?in exceptional situations, where there is a strong public interest and often time constraints?.

In such circumstances, he added, ?it?s just not possible to make contact with the person who took the picture, or they don?t want to be contacted, or we might consider it too dangerous to try and make contact ? a significant issue in our coverage of the recent Arab uprisings’.

Though Mabbett has now received an official apology from the BBC – in which the corporation vows to investigate what went wrong and use lessons learnt in ‘future staff training’ ? he remains dissatisfied with the BBC?s stance.

In a further email to BBC News, Mabbett says: ?The justification for your failure to give proper attribution, given in Chris Hamilton?s blog post, lacks credibility.

?The issues of safety and privacy of photographers are the exception not the rule, and certainly don?t apply in those cases where the photographer is already identified on the hosting services from which you lift the pictures.

?Furthermore.. even if you do not credit individuals, giving credit to Twitter is misleading; the pictures have usually come not from there, but from other sites, such as TwitPic, Yfrog or Flickr.?

Amateur Photographer (AP) understands that the BBC has issued a response to Mabbett’s latest email, but the corporation declined to disclose details of this to AP, saying it is a private matter between the broadcaster and the photographer.

At the time of writing, Mabbett had yet to respond to our request for comment.

Last week the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) confirmed to Amateur Photographer that images posted on Twitter hold the same copyright protection as any other photograph, and unauthorised use can lead to legal action.

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