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Censorship

Flickr Censors A Photographer's Plea 178

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the who-owns-what dept.
Bananatree3 writes "Popular Icelandic photographer and art-student Rebekka Guoleifsdottir has been targeted by Flickr for posting a plea for help in a theft case involving an online retailer selling copycat art. She requested that people send the retailer letters concerning the issue, and in response her original post was promptly deleted. It is still ironically available on Yahoo cache. In the end it appears that the retailer had been duped by a rogue art dealer under the title "Wild Aspects and Panoramics LTD". However, Flickr seems to have overstepped its bounds in deleting this post." This whole case brings back up the messy issues surrounding content ownership in this strange new world of a services based internet.
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Flickr Censors A Photographer's Plea

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  • Overstepped??!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:25AM (#19144177)
    However, Flickr seems to have overstepped its bounds in deleting this post."

    Isn't it Flickr's site? They can do whatever they want. This isn't involving your rights online or anybody else's "right".

  • The Conflict (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nhojovadle.> on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:26AM (#19144195) Journal
    From Flickr's Terms of Use [flickr.com], there are several reasons why this post was taken down. The ToS states:

    Flickr is intended for personal use and is not a generic image hosting service. Professional or corporate uses of Flickr are prohibited.
    How did they know that this isn't a PR stunt? Set up a facade company, sell your work through it with no traces back to you then post on Flickr about the problem. Bam! Instant exposure to thousands of people.

    We may, but have no obligation to, remove Content and accounts containing Content that we determine in our sole discretion are unlawful, offensive, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene or otherwise objectionable or violates any party's intellectual property or these Terms of Use.
    And, as a result of Rebekka's plea for people to send letters to OnlyDreemin, the blog entitled "Jumping to conclusions" states:

    Today I have been in contact with OnlyDreemin and asked for clarification on this issue. I was saddened to learn they have received death threats over this matter, proving once again just how passionate people are, no matter how misguided, when it comes to this type of theft.
    So while Rebekka's post wasn't necessarily threatening, it sure resulted in threatening actions which, if I'm not mistaken, death threats are illegal in the United States and most likely in Iceland as well. If you read the rest of Flickr's ToS, they are very stringent about targeting other Flickr users with any kind of content/e-mail/threats whatsoever.

    Why doesn't Rebekka just sue OnlyDreemin? They are legally liable for what they sell. If they can't produce the people who sold them the prints, that's their fault for doing business with shady people. Did they bother to ask the people for licensing information? I find it hard to believe that the art world doesn't have a way to catalog and look up sellers of art with licenses or anything like that. You don't just transfer (£3000.00) in cash or to an anonymous Paypal account. Come on, hold someone responsible, don't get on Flickr and start a smear campaign toward them!

    I honestly think Flickr did the right thing. They shouldn't be involved in this, they aren't a legal site or a petition site or anything like that at all. They are a general photo content site. Don't run your business from it, don't use it for your political or legal battles. That's it, plain and simple.

    There is a better place for this conflict, in the courts not on Flickr.
  • Re:Overstepped??!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bananatree3 (872975) * on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:30AM (#19144233)
    Yes, it is their site, and they can censor as they wish. They could impose draconian laws if they wanted. However, that is unlikely as it would drive away people from their site. The kind of censorship of the kind described by this photographer is stepping outside of a rational bounds, not necessarily a legal one.
  • This is why... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JudicatorX (455442) <rernst.shadowlife@ca> on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:32AM (#19144257) Homepage Journal
    You should host your own stuff, instead of using using 'free' web-services, if it's important.
  • by c0d3h4x0r (604141) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:36AM (#19144311) Homepage Journal
    Just because you post (submit) something on a web site owned and operated by someone else, that doesn't give you the "right" to force them to publish it or keep serving it up. You're not entitled to that.

    If I submit a "letter to the editor" to my local newspaper, I don't have the "right" to force the newspaper to publish my letter. Whether they publish it or not is up to them, not me, because they own the publication. They are not violating my free speech rights if they refuse to publish my letter, because I am free to publish it myself or to utilize some other forum.

    It's no different with the web. Really. If I post something on Slashdot or Digg or whatever, and they decide to take it down, that's their right as "publishers". I'm free to go post my speech somewhere else, or to set up and operate my own web server and publish it myself, so they're not violating my free speech rights.
  • Re:The Conflict (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:37AM (#19144317) Journal
    The courts are a bad case for any conflict - they're expensive, unpredictable, arbitrary and usually produce an outcome not satisfactory to either side.
  • Ironically? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:39AM (#19144363)
    No, seriously. How is it ironic that a cache retained information was deleted? Is there some new definition of the word "ironic" that means "worked as intended"?
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:41AM (#19144395)
    It will be interesting to see how the /. groupthink tackles this. Photographer (and hence, at least partially-nerd) from the imagined-to-be-always-hip Iceland strives to make some money doing something creative and leveraging the internet to become visible and reach customers. Someone rips off her creative work. Slashdot: "Man, she sure got screwed. But let's argue about whether and how to use the word "censorship" when Flickr removes a contentions and legally risky post from their system."

    Or, she's a filmaker who puts, porportionately, the same amount of her money and reputation on the line (along with that of usually many other people), and works with a distributor as a way to make money from her work and fund her next project. Someone rips off her creative work. Slashdot: "That's cool. I shouldn't have to pay for bits."
  • by gillbates (106458) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:44AM (#19144437) Homepage Journal

    When the victim is an RIAA or MPAA member company?

    Or is that mere copyright infringement?

    There's this interesting cognitive dissonance when it comes to copyright infringement. When the little guy (or gal) gets ripped off, it's called stealing; but when a large company gets ripped off, it's called sharing.

    Maybe, just maybe, we need a better model for understanding the interests of consumers and artists alike. It seems that in the digital age, the copyright model doesn't do a very good job of protecting the interests of either the artist or the consumer.

  • by OverlordQ (264228) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:50AM (#19144525) Journal
    Today I have been in contact with OnlyDreemin and asked for clarification on this issue. I was saddened to learn they have received death threats over this matter, proving once again just how passionate people are, no matter how misguided, when it comes to this type of theft.

    Calm down people it's just some pictures. If a post on my site was generating death threats, I'd delete the damn thing too.
  • by pla (258480) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:57AM (#19144605) Journal
    It's only a matter of scale, folks [...]"That's cool. I shouldn't have to pay for bits."

    Yes, a matter of scale. And while a little digitalis can save lives, a lot ends them rather quickly. A little alcohol makes for a good time, a lot makes for worshipping the porcelain god, and a bit more leads to death. A little ambergris makes for the finest perfumes, a lot smells like, well, whale barf.

    You just can't fairly compare try-before-you-buy illegally downloaded music from Sony with ripping off a small-scale art student, however much Sony might want us to make that comparison.
  • by heinousjay (683506) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @10:00AM (#19144645) Journal
    Don't expect consistency from people. It's not realistic.
  • Re:Overstepped??!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gunnk (463227) <gunnk@noSPaM.mail.fpg.unc.edu> on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @10:09AM (#19144755) Homepage
    So you wouldn't feel wronged if Slashdot deleted your comment, right?

    Is it in there power to do so? Sure. Would that make it right? No. Her posting on Flickr wasn't inappropriate -- in fact, it should be important to Flickr. She's one of the most popular photographer's Flickr has. I fell in love with her work back with this one:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rebba/47807949/in/set -72057594112345061/

    More importantly, this very popular photographer is having her work RIPPED OFF by some print shop in England. It's in Flickr's best interest for her to get the word out since this kind of criminal behavior scares people away from posting good stuff on Flickr.

    The deletion was just plain stupid.
  • Re:The Conflict (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @10:16AM (#19144871)
    The courts are a bad case for any conflict - they're expensive, unpredictable, arbitrary and usually produce an outcome not satisfactory to either side.

    The real question is if letter bombing is better.
  • Re:Overstepped??!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Arathrael (742381) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @10:38AM (#19145177)

    She doesn't pay Flickr anything so far as I can assume
    If you hadn't assumed and you'd gone and looked, you'd have found out that she pays them $24.95 a year.

    If you've got a problem with that go pay $5 / month for some cheap web hosting or sign up for a free blogger account
    And they couldn't do something similar because... ?
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @10:45AM (#19145277)
    There is a big difference between copying/downloading a cd/movie and selling copies of a cd/movie.

    Ripping it off for your own use: civil court matter
    Ripping it off to sell it: criminal matter

    Both: ethically identical. The person who rips it off to sell it is looking to avoid having to pay the cost of something they want to use (in this case, in their 'retail' business). The person who rips it off to show on their big screen TV on Friday night when their friends come over for a pizza and beer is looking to avoid paying the cost of something they want to use (for entertainment).

    Ripping off the artist is ripping off the artist. Period. Don't want to pay what the artist is asking? Just walk away, and choose entertainment that an artist is willing to give away, or which you're more willing to pay for. Don't like that an artist would rather concentrate on their art, and have decided to let a publishing company handle all of their business affairs? Just walk away, and get your entertainment from bar bands, street performers, the local playhouse, or some other source. Don't rip off the artist to make a point about how you think they should be working under your terms, rather than their own. There is no difference between ripping it off to make the artist your own personal entertainment-making slave, and ripping it off to make the artist your own personal creator-of-entertainment-which-you-then-sell slave.
  • by Dogtanian (588974) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @10:59AM (#19145497) Homepage

    All value is based on scarcity. When you digitize something, it becomes instantly, perfectly reproducable across teh internets at practically zero cost.

    Hence it no longer has any value.

    Stop whining about how your intellectual property has been stolen, realise that it isn't actually worth anything.
    Your smartass intellectual answer is in fact nothing more than a lightly modernised restatement of the practical problem that underlies most IP laws.

    Literature, for example, has always been fairly "digital", in that the relevant part (i.e. the words and not their typeset printed appearance) can be reproduced "exactly". Hand-copying is laborious and thus self-limiting, but although printed material isn't as easily distributed as the Internet, it still makes mass ripping off of intellectual works technically feasible.

    The fact is that most intellectual property requires work (physical or mental) to create, regardless of how easy it is to copy *once created*. Unless you're living in some lala land, you'll realise that whilst some types of intellectual property (e.g. *certain* forms of art, *certain* types of computer programs) may be created for the love of it, many others will be created with the expectation of financial reward- and likely wouldn't be otherwise.

    Might be unpleasant for you to accept, but some people are in it for the money. Very many worthwhile things have been designed/produced/etc in the name of filthy lucre, and may not have been otherwise. Copyright was (and is) intended to encourage such efforts by stopping parasitism because exactly as you said, if IP is able to be freely copied with no obligation to reward the creator, it is effectively worthless.

    And you either accept that such things will not be produced and/or rely on someone being willing to create these things purely for the love of it (except that this will be restricted to their leisure time because most people have to earn a living, and they won't have the money to invest in expensive research equipment, etc.)

    In short, you haven't stated the solution, you've stated the problem. Copyright was one solution and to imply "Ha ha, your material is worthless because it can be copied" is smug and misguided.

    As I said, copyright should be a practical measure. It has doubtless been abused, and I'm not defending that, or badly-written copyright laws. However, the principle is (IMHO) sound, and if we accept your comment the implication is that we need to find new ways of making sure that people are rewarded- either via copyright or by other means.
  • Re:Overstepped??!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) <dylan AT dylanbrams DOT com> on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @11:07AM (#19145625) Homepage Journal
    No. Restoring a comment and apologizing once it hits the Slashdot homepage is slow. And not cool. Systemic problems solved in small doses are still problems.
  • Re:Overstepped??!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_womble (580291) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @11:13AM (#19145699) Homepage Journal
    As part of the "anti-copyright" crowd, we do not support giving creator no right at all, simply reasonable rights.

    Pretty much everyone supports her right to be identified as the creator of the photograph. Was that done in this case? Obviously not.

    Most of us would support a reasonable copyright law, for example, with exceptions for non-commercial or private use, lasting for a reasonable time etc. In this case it was public commercial use, so she should be paid.

    Another subtlety that you miss is that the issues around copyright of software (obviously a major concern on /.), are very different from those around photography so we may take different view on the two.
  • Re:Overstepped??!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @11:38AM (#19146177) Homepage

    Isn't it Flickr's site? They can do whatever they want.

    You might have a point there. Digg suspended one of my accounts for political speech. It was annoying but it's their site. You can't expect freedom of speech to apply on commercial property, even if that property is in cyberspace. If I don't like Digg's decision, I'm free to go publish it on my own personal site.

  • Re:The Conflict (Score:2, Insightful)

    by modecx (130548) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @12:10PM (#19146739)
    Why doesn't Rebekka just sue OnlyDreemin? They are legally liable for what they sell. If they can't produce the people who sold them the prints, that's their fault for doing business with shady people. Did they bother to ask the people for licensing information?

    Okay, here's some facts: She lives in Iceland, the company lives in Great Britain, and Flickr is owned by an American company. International copyrights are a strange beast. Do you really know that they are liable for damages, if they violate her copyright, or is that just what you think you know? 'Cause I'll tell you how it works in the US:

    Let's say you're a photographer and you post some stuff on Flickr. By default, your stuff is copyrighted when the shutter is clicked, or when you go to file->save in your favorite photo editing app (or is otherwise made into a fixed form). It is not, however registered with the Copyright Office, at the Library of Congress, unless you explicitly register your work. If you haven't registered your work, you cannot seek statutory damages, you can only seek lost profits, actual damages, and possibly attorney's fees.

    Now, I won't pretend to understand how it's supposed to work in the UK, nor in Iceland, nonetheless in between the two... But I can sure as hell see that it would be a complicated, expensive matter to resolve via a civil lawsuit, and it's all too likely that she couldn't seek statutory damages, making any action not entirely worth it. Death threats are over the line, however, stupid people aren't under her control. A call-to-protest is, however, totally understandable.
  • Re:Overstepped??!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_tsi (19767) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @01:39PM (#19148097)
    She *ALLEGES* that the shop in England is ripping off her work. Who are Internet users to be the judge, jury, and executioner*... particularly ones who are outside of the jurisdictions of the accused and the accuser? If her claims are fabricated, Flickr stands a chance of being liable for libel (spell that five times fast). I'd say it's perfectly in their power to knee-jerk delete this content to cover their own asses.

    * Oops, wait, I forgot. This is the Internet, where as soon as there is any hint of oppression (real or imagined), the user base jumps to action without getting the full story.

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