Unions not only have a legal obligation to respect copyright, but an ethical obligation. Unions have fought for intellectual property rights for photographers for years. Respecting copyright doesn’t mean kowtowing to Disney. It means not using photos from the Internet without permission of the owner.
I mention this as a “pro-tip” because I have often seen unions use images harvested from the Internet without permission – whether it’s a political cartoon taken from a newspaper website and used in a flyer or poster, or an “generic” image of workers for the union website.
Recently, I visited the homepage of Unions ACT and what I saw on the homepage disappointed me.
While I welcome the increase in union membership by 4% in 2009, I am dismayed that Unions ACT have used a stockphoto that appears to be taken from the Internet without permission.
You can see the faint white lines laid over the image of those friendly workers – that’s a water-mark. You can also make out the Stockphoto logo (Stockphoto is an online company that provides stock photos for sale). The water-mark has been partially removed (presumably in Photoshop) – suggesting that whoever provided or uploaded the image for the Unions ACT website was aware that the photo was being used without permission.
(Update: Here is a link to the official Stockphoto website with the photo above.)
I’m “naming and shaming” Unions ACT because two weeks ago I contacted them alerting them to this fact.I received a reply a few days later from the Office Manager, letting me know that my email had been forwarded to “our web admin and design people”. Nothing happened for over a week – the image is still there now – so I followed it up again with the Unions ACT Office Manager, who again replied saying he had forwarded my email to the “web admin and design people”.
Union websites should be especially aware of the images they use. I try to ensure that the images I use on my own blog are Creative Commons licensed or have been made available for free by their creators. Similarly, at my union, we are making an effort to ensure no images are used without permission.
There’s nothing wrong necessarily with using Stockphotos – they can be useful when time is limited – although unions should endeavour to employ or hire a photographer and take their own photos, with their own members.
I feel, after two weeks notice, that there has been ample time for Unions ACT – made up of fine people doing good work – to remove the stockphoto image or replace it with one they have permission to use. I hope that after publishing this blog post, that they act more quickly.
My hope is that Unions ACT do have permission to use this stockphoto and have for some reason accidentally used the water-marked version. It is also possible that the company or person who created the Unions ACT website is responsible for using that particular photo, without the knowledge of Unions ACT staff. I would be happy to hear from Unions ACT to update this blog post.