BBC pays BW reader £600 for using photo without permission

15 July 2009

In February we published a story concerning the BBC breaching copyright rules by publishing a photo without permission, taken by Bitterwallet reader Michael Baily. It was this image of Birmingham's skyline on Flickr that Michael spotted on the BBC News channel one evening, as the "live" backdrop of Birmingham city centre:

The image was clearly marked All Rights Reserved on Flickr, requiring any usage to be agreed in advance. When Michael contacted them, the BBC provided a very long and slightly dubious account as to how events had unfolded, and initially offered to pay £75 for the unauthorised usage of the image on national television, while demanding that Michael stop drawing attention to the incident.

Following our coverage of the story (which was picked up by several other sites including The Guardian and The Register), a BBC spokesperson contacted Michael with a revised agreement. Michael has been in touch this morning to tell us he was offered and has now been paid £600 for misuse of the image. That's four licence fees that won't be spent on Bolly for the DG or flowers for Jonathan Ross or, at a push, public service broadcasting. Hats off to Michael for not letting the Beeb get away with it, and props to the BBC for spending more public money on correcting their basic schoolboy errors.


  • Mike H.
    Yes, thanks Micheal for being obsternate and taking £600 out of the license fee payers pocket, very well done to you sir. It's a photo, the BBC didn't make any money out of it, they didn't use it in a bad way or say "Look at this shit picture" they used it for a backdrop, you should be happy, now get over it and give your money back or to charity, twat.
  • Will
    In this day and age I expected him to get at least £6,000
  • Alan
    Good on him. I bet when he took that photo he didnt think all this would happen after it.
  • Lumoruk
    So you're peeved with the BBC for spending their money but praise Michael for leeching money from the BBC...don't get it. Michael is a twat for not letting it drop, a simple apology on air should have been enough.
  • acecatcher3
    if there was no copyright logo attached to the image anyone can use it surely?? brb just informing vibeone that he can sue bw for sticking up a picture of him in a pub without his permission :P
  • chrisg.
    Popbitch readers will know all about "flowers".
  • James
    Awful article yet again
  • Michael J.
    Fair play to Michael for standing up against the man. The BBC on the other hand should be ashamed of themselves, its a disgrace that they can just throw away £600 of the licence payers money fo some stupid copyright bullshit.
  • Rick H.
    While £600 is generous, i wouldn't say it's unfair, if they'd stolen the photo from a stock library such as Getty Images, Alamy etc, they'd be looking at a similar bill. Just cos an image is on the internet doesn't mean its free for someone to use. Even if Michael isn't a professional photographer, were he to give away a photo for free that's still lost earnings to a professional photographer and putting people out of jobs - those people saying he should have given it away for free - say if the bbc asked for your services, would you do the work for free too, for the national good? What exactly do you think the licence fee is actually for? every penny of that licence fee is paying for someone's service/product, so why shouldn't he expect payment? Stock photography is expensive for a reason - stock photographers travel to locations, spend hours/days taking photos, processing them etc so that they look their best, then attempting to sell them, it's all done on speculation - you're effectively working several days for free on the *offchance* that you've taken a photo that someone wants to buy, and you'll be lucky if any given photo you've produced is actually bought.
  • Rick H.
    @acecatcher3 - doesn't matter about the copyright logo on the image, all creative work is automatically (c) the producer unless stated/agreed otherwise. When i say £600 isn't unfair btw, that's taking into account the general practice of doubling the fee for works used without authorization, both to cover the cost of tracking this stuff down, and to act as a deterrent from it happening again. Anyone on flickr who's got photos that have got into explore would do well to search on google images / for people nicking their work - happens a suprising amount.
  • richard t.
    agree with mike hock , r i would love to check his house for pirate dvds,music etc if he knows so much about rights .michael you are a punk bit**i can smell my tv licence price increasing already.
  • Nobby
    Maybe he will spend his £600 on 52 minutes with Jonathan Ross.
  • Michael B.
    HA HA. It's has really wound people up at the BBC. They are used to lording it up at the mailbox, spending license payer's cash in the swanky bars or travelling 1st class and generally rubbing it in the face of TV license payers. What really got to them was that I forced them into a corner using the media to fight my case after they had offered me a paltry £75 for stealing my intellectual property. Shame on you BBC, if I get the chance to kick the BBC in the nuts I will gladly do so again. I can't wait for the day when the BBC is forced to share all that license fee money with the other commercial broadcasters. HA HA HA.. That day is coming BBC and you know it you will soon be forced kicking and screaming into the real world.
  • Michael B.
    if your reading this BBC and I know you are.... becuase you monitor this thread.. thanks for the camera, here is a snap I took earlier... http:[email protected]/3700190921/sizes/l/ Thanks for all you lovely comments and as I told you last time do not post comments on here calling people names becuase if I complain to the webmaster of this site and he may contact the webmaster at the BBC then you will def be recieving your P45 from the BBC so button it.
  • Acecatcher3
    @ rick cheers for info, I never knew that!
  • Gary S.
    Some of the comments here seem a little odd. A couple of commentators seem to be suggesting that as the BBC aren't making money from the picture, they shouldn't have to pay. Surely they're not making money from Jonathan Ross, so shouldn't have to pay him? What about their camera crews? They're not making money from them, either. Nor are they making money from broadcasting their content, so maybe they shouldn't have to pay those bills, either. Meanwhile, back in the real world, people have bills to pay, mouths to feed and so on. If someone - including the BBC - uses the property of someone else, then they should pay for it. They should *not* get it for free just because they're the BBC. Well done to the photographer for following this through to conclusion.
  • Acecatcher3
    Guy sounds like a bellend, take your money and go away
  • Rick H.
    I should also point out given Michaels comments, if ever you're found in a similar position, i'd advise not making a media circus out of it ..... the BBC had plainly broken UK copyright law and had to either agree a mutually acceptable payment to make amends for it, or risk being taken to court and it costing a whole lot more. As most infringers do, they just put in a low opening offer on the assumption he wouldn't know any better and hopefully accept it. I doubt the coverage made any real difference to how much they were willing to pay out, all its meant is they wont want to work with him again in the future (which if he doesnt want to be a professional photographer at some point in the future, is fine). Simpler and quicker solution to this is to politely point out they've been bad, look up similar usage on, double it for unauthorized usage, say that's how much you expect for compensation, and then if they flat out refuse to pay it offer to settle it in court if they prefer.
  • Michael B.
    posted by Acecatcher3 | July 15th, 2009 at 5:20 pm "Guy sounds like a bellend, take your money and go away" sticks and stones..... Whatever....yawn.... bore off.
  • Pokey
    What a pointless wanker.
  • Merlinho
    Sounds like this guy has a bit of an anti-BBC agenda from the start to be honest. Why is this website giving him so much publicity?
  • Lumoruk
    Sounds like this guy is exactly what Acecatcher3 and Pokey said ;)
  • Rubisco
    @Rick No, if you're ever in that situation take it all the way, rather than being a snivveling scab. Too many people unwilling to stand up for higher principles. Sure, take a settlement, however anybody who accepts a "shut-up" clause is a complete cunt who deserves to be stabbed in the face every time they utter the immortal words "no comment". @Michael good on you, but fuck off with the anti-beeb shite. You get pricks in any organisation. Without the BBC we would just be some fringe european state with all the international clout of Norway.
  • Michael B.
    Rubisco,, the only reason I have criticised the BBC it because of the way they treated me and because the BBC staff were giving me abuse on this web page because they had been reprimanded internally by BBC managment. I don't know why bitterwallet has dragged the story up again. I posted a comment on the old story just to update it with the amount I received in a cheque from the beeb and then I then get a torrent of abuse. So sorry for bitching back but that's just my nature, can’t help it.
  • Rick H.
    @Rubisco Not suggesting being a scab at all - you just quietly fine them a sufficiently large amount of cash that they wont ever make that same mistake twice - that's not taking work away from other people/harming the industry - it's just good commercial sense not to air your dirty linen in-front of potential customers. If they refuse to pay and it's not worth suing over, then fine, start throwing mud, i just don't see the point in doing it unless they wont accept *your* terms (and no i wouldn't accept a confidentiality agreement as part of a settlement - never have, and yes, they will always start off with an insultingly low offer on the off-chance you don't know better - its up to you to know how much they *should* be paying for your photo, make them aware you mean business, and then fine them plenty extra on top for unauthorized use - and make sure it all happens under your terms)
  • Bullet
    Its not his photo, he didnt draw or paint it, he took a fooking picture of something that is there everyday, wasnt like it was a picture of his wifes tits or coochie. saying that if I could get £600 for doing nowt but send a letter I would, still it aint fair when it is some other dobber.
  • ZP
    A copyright is established the moment any creative work is completed. The copyright laws exist to reward artists for creating. Otherwise they have nothing. Utilizing any creative work for any purpose demands compensation to the creator. You say that "all he did was take a photo" and that anyone could have done it and that moment happens all the time. Wrong. That moment that Michael captured will never happen exactly the same again. The people at BBC, you, me, and everyone else in the world was not standing at that exact place that Michael was when he decided to push the shutter button. Additionally, it was his decision on the settings of his camera at that exact moment to capture that image. Even if all he did was point and shoot on all automatic settings, which I hope he didn't, it was still himself and himself only that elected those criteria for his image. On top of that it was his processing equipment, computer, internet connection, memory card, lens, gas, car, and so on that all contributed to that image. Congrats on getting paid for the illegal use of your image Michael. Copyright symbol or not, it's your damn property. Intellectual property is just as viable as tangible property.
  • Michael B.
    Thanks ZP. Yes you are correct of course; I took over 200 pictures to get the ONE picture I was happy with. I had to climb up onto the roof of building, set my tripod up, use my remote control devise to snap the shot because of low light. I had to change the exposure and aperture setting to get the ideal shot. I also had to bide my time because the night sky is not always like that. It's Birmingham not the Bahamas and getting chances to set up nice shots are few and far between. Check out my other photos http:[email protected]/
  • Rob
    Interesting subject. There is something that I have often wondered what the answer would be and I wonder if the contributors on here would be able to answer it? It is again connected to the BBC. All the magazines which use, commercially use BBC images, stills, taken from BBC programmes like Eastenders, do the magazines have to get the permission of the BBC every time that they want to use the images initially and then permission again if they want to re-use them? The TV listings magazines like 'TV Choice' and Soap magazines like 'All about Soap', they don't really use stock images as the images are taken from advance programmes. Every time that these publications use these images, does the BBC give it's permission? Does the BBC have some editorial control over what appears in these types of publications? I have often wondered if the BBC had some degree of control over what appears in these magazines so has to protect it's image and to avoid being mis-represented. Thank you for any replies in advance.
  • Andy D.
    @Rob - as I understand it, advance shots are sent out by the BBC's publicity machine, who have a strong relationship with the kinds of mags that you mention. As for older pics, I believe they are bought from picture agencies if not from the BBC itself. Don't think the BBC get to approve the context that they are used in, although if they are used as part of a libellous or offensive article, the Beeb's lawyers would be all over it pretty sharpish.
  • Rob
    Hello Andy, thank you for the reply, enlightening. I had actually been reading the BBC Mediabank terms and the BBC do seem very keen on the copyright of their material, images, content, etc, written permission being required to re-use their, the BBC's images. This is for non commercial useage and I wondered how it be with commercial organisations like these magazines. The terms highlighted on the webpage above, the BBC is abit hypocritical to say the least when you read about Michael's case above.
  • Rob
    Hello again, I have come across another discussion on your site which I have found very interesting. Does anyone know if Dennis still visits this group? I would be really interested to address the question that I put forward above (Aug 5th) to a person who used to work for the BBC? I would be interested to hear the answer from a former insider's angle so to speak?
  • Ed
    I think that I may be able to help with this as I have experience with the BBC relating to this area. As said, the BBC has a very close relationship with these types of magazines, supplying in advance the images and storylines which they run related to BBC programmes. Because of this the BBC effectively does have editorial control over the content as it is supplying the material which it wants to be featured. Any attempt to mis-represent them in any articles and they, the BBC, would be down on the perpetrators like a ton of bricks. The BBC is also fiercely protective of the copyright of it's images and material so images would be supplied from it's photo library, it's stills library. Ironic really when you read about it's activities featured on these webpages.
  • Bitterwallet’s B.
    [...] initial compensation offer, and thanks to the helpful advice of our readers, he ended up with a fair amount of cash in his sky rocket. WE MADE THAT [...]
  • BW B.
    [...] from the BBC seeking permission to use before they were used. In retaliation, Chris has taken a leaf out of Bitterwallet’s well-thumbed book: I’ve sent an invoice for the sum of £600 for unauthorised use and suggested that this was a [...]
  • Bob
    The man is a twat for taking £600 of the license payers money.. well done, arse-hole.
  • Dave
    The ignorant dumb twats at the BBC should be ashamed for causing the £600 of license payers money to be spent in this way. Lucky it didn't go to court, it would have been a hell of a lot more.
  • Dave
    Hi Michael. The bbc has done the same to me this week with two of my photos. any advice?

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