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Commentary: Fox Sports Employee Put Network At Risk

Sunday, January 6, 2008 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 9:58 PM, under ,

Athens, GA (Jan 6, 2008) - In January of 2007, through a posting on a colleague's blog, I found out that InfoWorld Magazine had published one of my copyrighted photographs from Flickr. They had never come to me for permission, and did not credit me for the photograph. Calls and emails to the publisher were not returned and I was unable to pursue the matter further. Complicating the matter was the fact the IBM had given them the photograph. Unfortunately, I did not have the Washington Post going to bat for me.

Fox Sports did something even worse though. They took a copyrighted image from Tracey Gaughran-Perez's blog and aired it on national television without giving any credit or compensation to Mrs. Gaughran-Perez.

Fox Sports Faux Paws
Fox Sports Faux Paws: Fox Sports took a copyrighted picture of a dog and inserted it into two on-air graphics.
This image is taken from Mrs. Gaughran-Perez's blog for commentary.

Luckily, Mrs. Gaughran-Perez had the Washington Post go to bat for her, and there will be some kind of settlement.

Fox Sports is saying that it was because of the errant actions of a production associate that this happened. Unfortunately, the employee made the mistake as an employee of the company. Now I am not a lawyer, but I think it is safe to say that they would lose the case if it went to court. The important issue is that the actions of one employee can put an entire company at potential legal, financial and/or public relations risk. With younger workers who think that everything on the Internet is fair game including photos, music and other content, companies have the be even more vigilant so this type of "mistake" does not happen again. for a national network like Fox, it is hard to hide the offense when it is broadcast across the country.

In a column in today's Baltimore Sun, technology writer writes:

"If Fox had come to me at the beginning and asked and said, 'We'll give you attribution, even for half a second,' I might have said, 'OK, cool,' but it's this sense that they don't have to ask," said Gaughran-Perez, who said she'd be satisfied to get an apology from Fox and the going rate for what it pays someone for an on-air graphic. "It's not about trying to make a lot of money off of them. It's a precedent."

This is much how I felt when my photograph had been used without permission by InfoWorld. If they had just asked and given me credit, all would have been good.

It is ironic that this is happening to a media entity that would go after a web site/blog who reposted their content (think YouTube) faster than you can bat an eyelash. This does not, however, give owners of these sites carte blanche to take copyrighted content and put it on their sites without permission. If owners of sports blogs want to know why sports writers do not like them, this is just one reason and it is a fair reason. I would never take an image from the Associated Press or Getty Images and repost it on any of our company's web sites, yet I see in every day in the sports blogosphere. Yes I have the image above, but it is posted under the "fair use" principle of copyright law as it is used for commentary purposes.

Sports bloggers need to remember that they have no legal protection or "journalist" shield to protect them, and they need to do better to be good "corporate citizens" if they want to be treated seriously and respected. If they are going to include material written or broadcast elsewhere, they need to credit the source in what they post.

You can read more about this in 's column and on Mrs. Gaughran-Perez's blog.

Thanks to Ken Fang of Fang's Bites for bringing this story to our attention!

Currently have 2 comments:

  1. I'm not 100 percent sure about the law, but I thought that if you use an online photo in a graphic and manipulate more than a third of it, than it's not considered copyright infringement. Since they cut the dog out of the photo, wouldn't that be considered manipulating more than a third of the image?

    -Brandon from

  1. When I was younger, I thought the same thing. And then I married a graphic artist and learned. To do what you are saying is considered a "derivative work", and is considered an infringement.*

    Creative Commons licensing is much clearer in language as to whether or not derivative works can be created.

    On its face, your suggestion that because the dog was cut out of the larger photo, it is OK as a derivative work just does not fly. The Dog WAS/IS the subject of the photo, the rest is the background. The subject of the photo remained the same.

    *of course, always consult your own attorney for professional advice :-)

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