BW readers spot more of their photos being used by the BBC

We've reported in the past about the BBC disregarding its own procedures and using copyright photographs without permission. Time for round two, as another avid Bitterwallet reader steps forward with a similar tale of familiar photos and confused explanations. Here's a screengrab from the former BBC Blast homepage in Northern Ireland:

Bitterwallet - BBC use copyright material on their website

The images used by the BBC to create the homepage were taken by Chris, our avid reader and a keen photographer:

BBC Blast had been involved with a youth project at a local music centre and broadcast a live show and discussion programme. I’ve helped along the music centre out in the past, by taking pictures of the gigs and popping them up on the centre's site:

Whenever images taken by Chris appear on the music centre's website, they always appear with a clear and explicit copyright notice directly above them:

Bitterwallet - BBC use photographs without copyright approval

After a few minutes of watching the show it occurred to me that the images that had been incorporated into the BBC Blast logo were in fact mine. I sent the BBC an email and asked if I could get a link added to the page, perhaps a credit. The response was a little surprising - they couldn’t post a link because of "child protection fears", and would therefore have to remove the images. They were sorry for any misunderstanding.

The BBC had used the images for their own website without the permission of Chris, but he was happy to let that go if they gave him a credit. Seems reasonable. When they suddenly decided to pull all the images and fob him off with a nonsense of an excuse, Chris decided to investigate what "misunderstanding" they were referring to:

I asked the BBC where the pictures were sourced, and they informed me that those working on the project had emailed them and the BBC had assumed they had the rights to use them. I checked, and those involved insisted that they certainly hadn't, as they they were aware of the copyright issues.

So the BBC's story was that they were sent the images and assumed permission for use was granted:

I asked the BBC if they could send me the email that the images were attached to. The individual I had spoken to then suggested he wasn’t involved directly, and he would ask somebody else to help. I pushed a little harder, and was then told the BBC had been informed the images were available to them online and they were sure someone had given them permission.

Now, there never was an email and they'd lifted them directly off the website instead:

I made a point of telling them there was no room for ambiguity; the images were taken from a third party website and there was no question of who took the images - if the BBC staff had visited the site to lift the images, they must have seen the copyright notice above and must have chose to ignore it. One would imagine if the scenario was reversed there would be no ambiguity from the BBC.

So far, nobody at the BBC can tell Chris how the images appeared on the corporation's website, probably because somebody has realised a bollock has been dropped; copyright belongs to the creator, so at the very least Chris should have received an email direct from the BBC seeking permission 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 bargain considering the settlement agreed by BBC Birmingham. And just to ensure there are no further complications I hand delivered a copy of the invoice, email and screenshot to the Belfast office. I’ll keep you posted.


  • bob
    With a bit of luck you'll get someone fired and put the licence fee up too, nice work. You made your point, don't be a complete arsehole about it.
  • Timmo
  • alexandrov
    With a bit of luck you’ll get someone fired and put the licence fee up too, nice work. You made your point, don’t be a complete arsehole about it. Haha yeah bob cause a £600 fine will push the licence fee up by about £0.0000000001 per person but then someone got fired so take that away and really we should be looking at a reduction in license fee
  • higgy
    Good luck chris - no freelancer deserves their work stolen by the likes of the BBC. It's theft Bob, pure and simple theft and it happens far too often. If the BBC had learnt their lesson last time it wouldn't be happening again. People need to stand up for themselves.
  • JonnySpandex
    Oh bob don't be an arsehole about it yourself! Like the BBC is gonna raise the license fee because of one incident like this! He has every right to do so as his images have been illegally used! They pay other people for images so why can't he have his fair share?
  • Nobby
    They should let him be in an epsiode of eastenders or summit like that as compensation.
  • lutin
    Bob, you're a bum-nugget.
  • Paul S.
    Or perhaps the BBC should have (shudder) just admitted they screwed up and added a credit in the first place? It's one of those instances in which the truth was perfectly acceptable.
  • PaulH
    Mmmm bum-nougat...
  • PaulH
    Easiest £600 you'll ever make - cough up BBC!
  • jp
    i sh!t golden nuggets!
  • Late
    "I’ve sent an invoice for the sum of £600 for unauthorised use and suggested that this was a bargain considering the settlement agreed by BBC Birmingham." Nice one :-D GL Chris- I hope we soon hear you got your money.
  • Alexis
    £600 is a fair amount for the useage - on the site of a large organisation, viewed by hundreds of thousands of people and integral to the branding on the page.
  • Jay A.
    I think it's the govt that set the licence fee, not the BBC, but anyway, I say don't pay the damn thing, then send the BBC and the govt a message over their ridiculous stealth tax on owning a piece of technology that I only use for gaming and dvds.
  • Macca
    The BBC has obviously now got their target market......Mr. Bum-Nugget! I knew they'd been dumbing down over the years, first Bargain Hunt and now this.....good on you Chris.
  • Phil
    Jesus, I cant believe how greedy some people are. Asking £600 for a snotty image which has now been removed. You know the BBC aren't allowed to post external links on their website for such things. Boo fucking hoo. Get a grip Chris, its not like it was used on the main news or actually made a difference to the crappy area of a regional web page. You should be flattered that they used your image, its not like they get used much anyway. It will now be filed away to the depths on internet history. I'm sure they could easily have used a licences photo so in this case its obvious it was a mistake a simple apology would have sufficed but £600?! Pure greed that the licence payer will have to pay for. I'm sure you feel really hard done by. Tit.
  • F. F.
    Could you make the story shorter, i have an attention
  • F. F.
    um, problem
  • PunksatonyPhil
    Oh Phil. Snotty you say? Don't post external links you say? Ah, innocence. The BBC stole the images, its called copywrite for a reason. Its also called intellectual property, and its mine. £600 is a bargain, if you had read the story it was three images, I should have charged £600 each... I pay for the camera, I pay for the accessories and the upkeep, I pay for the webhosting and I spend my time volunteering for the music centre, a lot of time, I also give them acces to my work, all for free, hell, maybe I should give up my full time job and go full time for free, eh Phil?. I've given the BBC images before (for free) and they've linked to my site. Its here - They stole these particular images as they related to a specific project, then they lied about getting the images from the Children and Young people involved in the project while spouting Child Protection issues at me, one of the things I do in my real job relates to Child Protection so I understood a childrens webpage not automatically linking outside, I was utterly fine with the whole mess, even after the images were removed, until I realised that the BBC staff had been lying though their teeth, about those very young people, does that seem okay with you Phil, because it stinks to me. What do you do Phil, send me some of your work so I can pass it off as my own will you? Thanks.
  • parpparp
    Phil just owned Phil. Phil, please bear in mind that Phil originally asked for a mere credit. Is that greedy? And if the image is so "snotty" (I am not even sure how an image can be snotty unless it is in fact a picture of snot), then why did the BBC use it? I am glad that Phil is sticking up for his rights as it seems that far too often these copyright issues only work one way.
  • boris
    Boris here. I stole your photos too. Find the website i posted them on and i'll give you £600 too.
  • BBC
    My bad.
  • Unbelievable
    Seeing as these images look like they're taken with a point and shoot at some unknown charity gig, I don't see why the BBC ought to pay. If anything, you get a bit of publicity, without a link. Leave it at that.
  • hippy
    I say its only fair and phil was being nice untill the bbc people started messing about. If the images were from a large corporation and it was some guy using them on his website that a few million people see each day, im sure the corporation wouldnt just want credit but they would sue ya ass off for a few hundred thousand per image! n i doubt spouting off crap about child protection or that billy joe from down the street said you could use em would save you from thier wrath.
  • Brad
    Fair play to the guy, all he wanted was a link added, fair enough they are in the wrong so they should have just done the right thing and hassle over. But no they decided to bullshit and lie though their tits so pay the bloke the money he's owed, you cant say he wasn't fair from the start.
  • ld
    £600 is very small potatoes - probably not even be half the airfare for one of the beeb bums'n'stiffs going to South Africa for the World Cup. One of the whole 295 of them .... plus just at what daily subsistence rate each - and for how many weeks? I believe I read the beeb have more staff going than the other big European broadcasters have in total. Or was that the United States presidential election coverage? Go Chris !
  • smashingnicey
    yeah, Bob and Phil - you're a pair of eejits. The issue is that a large corporation used images without permission, gave no credit and have been found out (and gave a nonsense reason to boot). It doesn't matter what your view on the images is, or the quality of them; we have IP rules for very good reason. Plagiarism and outright copying are real issues for us lot involved in the creative sector and to be honest, I am disappointed in the Beeb for doing this kind of thing. I would imagine it's probably a web designer who couldn't be arsed using the large stock library that the beeb have and decided that he'd do a quick google instead. No, no one should lose their job over this and it's laughable to suggest that £600 is going to cost us license payers (please!), but they should ensure that this doesn't happen again and this kind of adverse publicity will help. Should also say that I am a huge fan of the BBC - love a great deal of what they do and how they support the arts in this country - they have been found wanting on this occasion though.
  • savvysavingbytes
    To help prevent the theft of copyright images, I embed a copyright line inside images themselves on my site, rather than use copyright lines beside the images, where they can so easily be lost or cropped. When anyone else uses my images, I remove the inside copyright notice and usually get a credit outside the image. So far it's working okay.
  • coz s.
    I love bitterwallet as it rarely makes me angry... Seriously though Phil (the "Jesus, I cant believe how greedy some people are" one) WTF IS THIS REAL! - sorry I couldn't resist :) If two people from the same website have had the same experience how often does the bbc routinely rip off other people's photos? And isn't that something we should all worry about with the increasing prevalence of personal photos on the internet. I (begrudgingly) pay my licence fee and would rather it was spent compensating phil for the BBC's inability to come clean than wasted on graham norton's 2 million pound a year contract or spunked on cr*p radio one "deejays" like fearne cotton. How any one can defend the BBC with their track record of waste is beyond me
  • Morocco
    All I got from that last post was "spunked on Fearne Cotton". This distracted me and made me forget what I was really going to write.
  • Klingelton
    Any corporation wastes money and steals from others. You go phil. fuck em up!
  • Nobby
    Sod the digital britain bill. Long life the I found it on the internet therefore I can use it for free. It's what I do with BBC programmes.
  • mein c.
    @PunksatonyPhil what is copywrite
  • PunksatonyPhil
    Ah, bad spelling...?
  • PunksatonyPhil
    [# Posted by Unbelievable | April 15th, 2010 at 6:38 pm Seeing as these images look like they’re taken with a point and shoot at some unknown charity gig, I don’t see why the BBC ought to pay. If anything, you get a bit of publicity, without a link. Leave it at that.] Point and shoot, pah. How do I get publicity if there is no link or mention of me as photographer, I'm confused by your logic... Also, a link was all I wanted until I figured out they had been lying through their teeth about the young people involved in the project... Carrry on.
  • Osteospurnum
    Could the BBC's ISP not be persuaded to write to them warning that another two such copyright infringments will result in the loss of there internet access.
  • me
    LOL paying TV licence? WTF is dis real? BBC will never get any money from me tv dectectors are a con and TV licence is a rip off. yes he should be glad that someone noticed his photos.
  • (jah) w.
    Jay AfterDark You don't need a license if you only watch DVDs and play videogames. As long as there is no aerial connected and the tuner isn't tuned to a valid channel you can happily play games and DVDs license free. With regard to the photos, I believe that such images should be free to use by anyone, BUT in the current system that isn't the way, and chris would've been sued for much more than £600 had he used photos from a corporation such as the BBC. It's only fair that it works both ways.
  • Jack
    Good luck :D I hope you get your money. I'd be very annoyed, and even more annoyed at them pulling your snaps and then brushing it under the carpet.
  • BBC B.
    [...] avid Bitterwallet Chris noticed his photos were being used by the BBC website without his permission, he played nice and asked for a credit, or a reciprocal link to his own site. It seemed a very [...]
  • Derek
    Just because you took the pictures doesn't automatically mean you own the copyright... You need to check the terms you agreed to when entering the premises/buying the ticket/etc but normally copyright will belong to the venue/band/management/set designer etc etc - normally they turn a blind eye if its for personal non-commercial use by fans And its not unusual for images to be used without asking in the press world. its often left up to the copyright holder to come asking for their money if they can spot one of their pictures being used Enjoy the publicity!
  • Derek
    [...]Could the BBC’s ISP not be persuaded to write to them warning that another two such copyright infringments will result in the loss of there internet access.[...] oh yes!!! thats made my day!!! lol - now theres a challenge to the media industry, go for it!
  • PunksatonyPhil
    I'm kind of the Unofficial (official) photographer for the venue in question who's website the images were taken from... In terms of who owns the rights to the image, its always the photographer, thats why they ask you not to bring cameras to events... Also, in other news, after another round of emails and denials cunningly disguised as negotiations the BBC have agreed to pay up. In Full. Mind you, that ISP trick might be worth following up.
  • Rapp
    "Could the BBC’s ISP not be persuaded to write to them warning that another two such copyright infringments will result in the loss of there internet access." Lol excellent idea, made my night, although bearing in mind that this will mean no Football Live Text, I would prefer just a throttling of their bandwidth for illegal downloading :-p.
  • BBC B.
    [...] know the story by now; avid Bitterwallet reader Chris noticed the BBC had used his photographs on their website without permission. Chris asked for a credit or a link back to his own website, a reasonable request since BBC staff [...]

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