Finding and crediting images is a serious problem in internet journalism today, especially among celebrity fan sites. As journalists we must have integrity. We must do the right thing by photographers, distributors, and readers. Otherwise we’re just gossip columnists and thieves.
In response to a chat box request and a Twitter conversation with Skandar Keynes fan site and social network admins yesterday, I have decided to talk about this issue. Please read the other online discussions below.
Skandar & Georgie - Skandar Keynes: New Pembroke Images and Exam Results
Aslan’s Country - Georgie Henley Photos and Fansites: A Journey
Fuck Yeah Edmund - Skandar Keynes: It’s Fans Speaking
Skandar Keynes Brasil - The Involvement of Copyright
Skandar Facts – About Credits (bilingual)
Public vs. Private
Photographs come from many places online. But they’re all either public or private. Private photos should never be reproduced, regardless of interest to a person’s career or reputation. Public photos can be reproduced, but only with credit.
Sources help us distinguish between public and private. Public: websites and social networks that don’t require a login to view something. This includes organizations like Operation Narnia, photographers like Moses Hoyt, movies like “Perfect Sisters,” IMDb, etc. Private: social networks that require a login to view something. A personal Facebook account is private. Fan sites should never reproduce anything they find there.
Some events from public sources are private, or at least not relevant to a person’s career. Example: I haven’t looked through the public Facebook galleries of Lola Lo, although that’s where the Pembroke May Ball Launch will be held this Sunday. These galleries contain images of personal parties, even though the images themselves have been made public. Except for next week’s launch, nothing there has any relevance for my website in relation to Skandar’s education. So I won’t reproduce any images of him I may find there.
By contrast, some public events can have both public and private photos. Only the public ones should be reproduced. Example: Georgie Henley attended her school’s Christmas party last month. Alex at Georgie Henley Life found seven images on the website of photographer Jonathan Emery. They’re public so they can be reproduced. Read my story here. However, a fan recently found another image of Georgie at this party, most likely from a friend’s personal Facebook account. Unless proven otherwise, this image is private. Mundo Henley should not have reproduced it. I never will.
If we find public images from public sources, ones we can legally and with integrity reproduce, then we must credit our source(s). What is true of information is also true of images. The original source should always be credited. You don’t have to credit the distributor unless that is where you first found the image. It’s a nice way to acknowledge them. You must both name and give a link to the original source of the image. I prefer to do this in the story itself, then just name all my sources at the bottom of the article. If you credit the distributor, link to the story url instead of the homepage. See below.
Unless we’ve met and taken our own photos of Skandar and Georgie, images we find of them online don’t belong to us. They belong to someone else, the one who decides what happens to his or her images and the penalty for misuse.
Getty Images, Camera Press, and other professional online photography services watermark their images. To receive non-watermarked copies directly from them we must pay a fee. We shouldn’t remove the source’s watermark, although most fan sites do. If I reproduce a non-watermarked image on my website or in my gallery that originally had a watermark, I assume a fan site admin somewhere has legally paid the fee and downloaded the clean image.
We should never watermark photos that don’t belong to us. We’re just distributors. Yet this unethical practice is standard fare for the Skandarians and some Facebook fan pages (see image above). What they’re doing is wrong. So is accusing those who reproduce non-watermarked originals of invading Skandar’s privacy.
However, there are exceptions when a fan site can watermark (credit) themselves.
- Taking a photo of the cast or crew during production, at an event, or on the streets
- Taking stills and screen-caps from movies, interviews, and DVD extras (etc)
- Cropping and editing images to create original artwork
Images: Walden Media/Fox, Moses Hoyt Photography