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An Open Letter to Zee Kane and TNW Regarding Proper Attribution
25 points by rjsamson on June 6, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 5 comments
Zee and TheNextWeb's writers, editors and contributors,

I apologize for the public nature of this post, but at times it seems a public call to action is the only way to ensure some degree of accountability and a timely response. I am writing to call to your attention the unprofessional (and at times illegal) manner in which image attribution is handled at The Next Web by, it seems, a manner of policy.

Last night I noticed in one of your articles posted to Hacker News that the creative commons image used was credited only as "SOURCES: IMAGE CREDIT", when the photographer clearly states that attribution by name is required for use of the image. I should also point out that this "SOURCES: IMAGE CREDIT" appears only at the very bottom of the post, far from the image itself, possibly causing confusion about what image is being credited without clicking the link. In this case the author of the article saw my comment on Hacker News and corrected the attribution, however it called my attention to a disturbing trend. I noticed that nearly all creative commons licensed images were credited only with "SOURCES: IMAGE CREDIT" and not with the photographer's name. In some cases this may be technically legally allowable since not all copyright holders know to clearly express how they wish to be credited under the CC license, but it does not follow industry best practices, and if not befitting of a high profile and widely read publication such as The Next Web. It is clear from what I have seen that it is The Next Web's policy to deliberately leave out a photographer's name from image attribution unless they are caught doing so.

The photographer whose work was used weighed in on the HN thread and noticed that his photographs have been used by The Next Web without attribution in another 9 articles dating back to early 2011 (original thread here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4074535). He has requested that proper attribution be given, and I hope you correct TNW's mistake, but my point in writing this is that he shouldn't have to. TNW should have policies in place that ensure proper attribution to sources is given.

So, what I would ask of you, and my purpose in writing this letter, is that you give us, the greater Hacker News community, your word that you will work with your staff to write and implement a policy for proper attribution of images, and that you will provide some outreach and education to your staff on how to properly credit images. In the meantime myself, and hopefully others, will do our best to hold TNW accountable to the high standards that any respectable news organization should be held, by notifying your writers as well as copyright holders when TNW fails to meet those standards.

Thanks for listening, and I'm sure you'll do the right thing.


TL;DR - TNW has not been properly crediting image sources unless asked to do so, I've kindly asked Zee to look into this and update their internal policies appropriately.

People tend to treat CC licensed stuff very fuzzily. Once I was reading an article on copyright and using CC licensed material. It was a well written piece, yet image at the top was violating CC license(!). It was a crop from 'no-derivatives' licensed image. How come? I tried to push a kind comment raising the issue. You guessed it, it didnt come through.

If I ever try to use a copyrighted image which is not directly for sale ('Its so lovely, its the only option'), I'll usually email the person. It ends with two or three warm emails and best wishes. Is it that hard? Sure not a way to go for TNW (choosing CC is faster and problem free for them).

Using CC'd stuff I will often find myself finding how a person would prefer to be attributed. For example, if the user has a full name on flickr (different from a nick), I will rather use the full name and not the nick.

Recently I even started adding 'Thnxx!' or something similar.

Yeah - its a good policy on CC stuff to at least use the person's name, or if that is not available their nick/username. In this case there were clear instructions by the person on how they should be attributed, but they were still ignored.

UPDATE: It looks like TNW is going to be changing how they handle attribution for the better - looking forward to it!


Did you try the normal email way of sending a letter?

Not yet, though I plan to. I mention why I've posted here instead of starting with a direct email in the beginning of the post. In short, I feel that an explanation is owed to their readership in general, not just to me, given the widespread and longstanding nature of their decision not to credit photographers by name.

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