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Flickr Censors A Photographer's Plea 178

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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  • Rebekka's post (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:31AM (#19144255) Homepage Journal
    Here's the text of the post, because I wouldn't expect it to stay in Yahoo's cache forever..

    I have a LOT on my mind right now.. to be honest, i've rarely been so royally pissed off as i am today.
    The photos shown above all have one thing in common (besides being rather lovely landscape photos):

    They were all taken , without my permission, by the London based print-selling company Only-Dreemin [only-dreemin.com]. This company prides itself on offering its customers only the best quality canvas prints of the finest photos , by top artists.

    What they fail to mention is that some of the photos they're selling prints of have been illegally obtained, and are being sold without the artists consent or knowledge.

    In my case, a friend of mine came across their store on ebay [ebay.co.uk] and recognized one of my prints. (this was way back in january i think)
    I looked into the matter and discovered 7 more of my photos being sold there. In the case of pictures 1, 2, 6 and 7, the image had been divided up into 3 vertical panels. ( Something i would never DREAM of doing myself. ) Furthermore, the images had been given new and exciting titles, like "Seraque II" and "Attica", "Dawn expander II" and " Joga" (barf)
    I spent a good many days researching, going back thru their customer feedback, and was able to track back the sales of at LEAST 60 prints made from my images.
    These prints sold for a total sum of 2450 british pounds (around 4840 US$ )

    I gathered all the evidence , saved each webpage displaying my work , saved the list of customer feedback, printed all this stuff out and took it to a lawyer here in iceland.
    She was confident that by sending them some well-phrased letters i'd be sure to get some damages out of them. After all, i had tons of incriminating evidence.
    The letters did nothing other than make them take the images down from their site. Further letters got no response from them. My icelandic lawyer could do nothing else, so i was stuck with a bill and the infuriating fact that I, being only a non-wealthy art stutdent/ single mom in iceland, will have to accept that these people stole my work and made lots of money off it, and apparently are going to get away with it.

    This is NOT OK BY ME.
    I could think of little else to do than to at least tell people about this.
    I have reason to believe that they've stolen images from other people, maybe other flickr users.
    The reason i suspect this is quite simple. My photos were being sold under the bogus name of "Rebekka Sigrún" (the nerve of keeping the first name the same is somewhat amazing).
    I saw a number of other photos being sold under that same artist name, and they werent mine. And obviously this Rebekka Sigrún doesnt exist.
    Looking over the pictures i remember being sold under that name, it appears they've changed the artist name to "marco van eych". If anyone knows a landscape photographer by that name, let me know. i very much doubt he exists.

    So i encourage everyone that has been displaying similar landscape photos on flickr to look at their site and see if they see something suspicious.
    It would also be pretty cool if as many people as possible would send them angry letters, (address them to info@only-dreemin.com ) but that's just if you feel like it;)

    ok. i've said my piece. Quite a load off my back.
  • Re:Overstepped??!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by VirusEqualsVeryYes ( 981719 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:32AM (#19144269)
    Flickr HQ has since issued an apology [flickr.com] for the removal of her post.
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ ( 559379 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:41AM (#19144383) Journal
    The downside to Flickr, Blogger and other providers of services to the masses are the Terms of Service which generally give them the right to re-appropriate your content for their own uses.

    So if you were, say traveling around the world and want to document it, best to use a combination like MovableType and Gallery so you retain complete control. If you are concerned about copyright I can't imagine why ANYONE would use a service provider like Google, Yahoo, etc.

    Or at least use it enough to "see more here"... and refer them to your real site.
  • Re:Overstepped??!! (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:42AM (#19144399)
    I don't know nuthin about censorship, but man she is hot! [flickr.com]
  • Re:Rebekka's post (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:52AM (#19144545) Homepage
    Regarding the claims of the seller having been the victim of a dubious third-party/picture libary/whatever, it is not entirely clear that this is true. Note one of the later comments from Rebekka states (my emphasis):-

    Their claims of a third party selling them the images are not new. This is something they told to my lawyer back in february, claiming "someone" presented them with the high-res files and "official looking documents". When asked by my lawyer to show us evidence of this transaction, they simply stopped replying.

    Yesterday they openly admitted to having sold my images, albeit without the knowlege of them belonging to me. Suddenly they have a name for the mysterious seller, "wild aspects and panoramics LTD" which, as someone already mentioned above, does not exist, and does not appear to have ever existed. If they are telling the truth, explain this to me: why did they refuse to put forth evidence that this party exists when my laywer requested it? If anything, it would help their argument, and if this party conned them, why on earth would they want to protect them? Afer all, they claim to have payed them 3000 pounds, there must exist some sortof bill or something?

    Furthermore, if you realize you've inadvertantly sold something that was stolen, you've still committed a crime. In their case, they seem to feel its perfectly OK for them to keep the money they illegally made from my stolen work. Saying their sorry isnt enough. If they were conned, that's their problem, and they are free to go after that mysterious seller and sue THEM. Its not my problem. I still deserve to get paid damages from them for the profit they made from my copyrighted work.

    There is nothing complicated about this matter. They did wrong. Theyve admitted it. Its not fair that they just get away with it by putting forth some very dubious excuse and saying their sorry.
    I'd advise people to read the whole thread on the rustylime.com website (which I haven't done myself yet). There are two dozen sides to every story, and this appears to be one, but it's misleading to imply that the company was definitely a victim here; their explanation seems dubious, and is not yet accepted by Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir herself.
  • Re:Overstepped??!! (Score:2, Informative)

    by artjunk ( 1088603 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:53AM (#19144565)
    Move along nothing to see here. Matter resolved peacefully...Flikr reposted the blog.

    Update 2:Flickr have acknowledged that made a mistake, and have restored _Rebekaa's blog.

  • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @09:59AM (#19144635)
    No, it's still called copyright infringement.
    However, most of the P2P infringement that the *IAA go after is not for profit, and often raises visibility of the artist in question, producing more sales in future.
    In this case the motive was purely profit (as shown by the thousands of dollars worth of sales the artist had been able to track herself, which would be a significant portion of her own income). These are demonstrably 'lost sales' to her, as money was indeed exchanged, so the demand was there. They were also mis-attributed to another author to cover the for-profit infringement.

    In the *IAA case, as the 'consumers' are often people without the money to pay at the time, who are influenced in the future to purchase when they can for things they may have encountered on P2P, while still being illegal, the ethical ground is slightly muddy.
    In the latter case, of deliberately ripping off another artist's work, passing it off as your own, and making money, there is no ethical uncertainty.
    Read the old /. articles on this subject. I think it's universally accepted here that the commercial pirates are frowned on and disliked. The P2P sharers are on muddy ground.
  • Re:Rebekka's post (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @10:20AM (#19144923)
    Well said.

    The defense:(taken from http://www.rustylime.com/show_article.php?id=455 [rustylime.com])

    "Many thanks for asking for our side of the story rather than simply offering more death threats...

    In August 2006, we were contacted by "Wild Aspects and Panoramics LTD" a company based here in London, they offered to show us some imagery, that they stated would be high resolution and we would have sole reselling rights. We were visited by a salesperson from the company and we liked what we saw

    Anyway 2 weeks passed, emails were sent back and forth, basic research was done by us to enable us to resell them and then the paperwork was signed and a considerable amount of money was paid (£3000.00) by us , for us to start selling these images in the form of canvas prints.

    6 months later we had a letter from a law firm in Iceland, stating we were using someone's images, we Googled the claimants name, lo and behold we found we had been duped!

    As requested, we immediately removed the images from the internet and destroyed any copies of the images we had.

    We emailed the law firm to state we had dealt with these requests and to apologise to their client.

    We took legal advice, they told us say nothing more than we had, not recommending we contact the claimant and tell her what had happened, by the way we were very keen to do that, but we were told to avoid all contact.

    In the meantime we started our own investigation into the above company's contacts and sources but have since found nothing more because the telephone doesn't get answered, mobiles are permanently off and emails are getting bounced back, it seems we were conned too.

    As Rebekka has now decided to make this public, we can set about explaining to her why this has happened and of course, to apologise."
  • Re:Ironically? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Stormx2 ( 1003260 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2007 @12:30PM (#19147011)
    The irony lies in the fact that flickr, owned by yahoo, removed the post, whereas another yahoo service retains it. flickr made its best effort to completely remove the post, while yahoo cache put a bee in that bonnet.

Variables don't; constants aren't.