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When Sky News needed pictures of a shooting at Waterloo Station, it grabbed them from the nearest internet source – with neither acknowledgement nor payment.

This episode has now ended happily, with Sky News agreeing to pay tweeter Joe Neale a fee for using his pictures – but the episode does provide a stark warning for all those who fancy themselves as citizen journalists and put their photos online without adequate protection.

According to Joe, he was in meetings all day when the pictures first went up on 5 August. After a number of friends had contacted him to say it was on Sky News, Joe tweeted Jon Gripton, News Editor of Sky News Online to have the name changed from "Joe on Twitter" to Joe Neale. This took about 5 hours. Joe adds that he was told that he should have received an email - which he hadn’t – and that he needed to e-mail the editor, which he did, but with no response.

Joe later chased Sky’s Julian March with an e-mail expressing his continuing concern over what looked like Sky foot-dragging, and setting out the terms for payment. He wrote:

The conditions for using my photo without permission are £300 for the initial use on the front of the site and then charged at 5% for each additional week it is present on your site starting from August the 5th which will continue as long as the photo is present.

As it still ranks high in Google search and has no doubt done its part to generate a decent amount of revenue... Please find my invoice for £326.24 which permits usage of the photo up to today, Monday the 17th of August.

Joe turned up the heat by going public, using the hashtag #skypic. He tweeted: "Newscorp use your photos without permission but have plans to charge for reading their content". This references an announcement by Rupert Murdoch that from 2010 people will be charged for accessing his various sites. According to Joe, this highlights the irony that "Mr Murdoch doesn’t seem to mind not paying for material and happily infringes on other people’s work".

We asked Sky News for comment - and also asked whether it would mind if any of our readers made use of their images without attribution of payment, agreeing simply to settle up later. A spokeswoman responded:

Sky News has embraced social media as an important new source of editorial content and, like any major content owner, we recognise the importance of attribution of sources and copyright. We seek therefore, where possible, to either credit our sources, and/or fairly reward our contributors.

The moral of the story seems to be: keep an eye on what happens to your pictures. Because whilst the megacorps such as Sky and News International may be pretty hot when it comes to private individuals breaching copyright, they do seem to be somewhat slower to react when the boot is on the other foot. ®

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