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If you’re going to nick TwitPics, it pays to read the small print first.

That could be a salutary lesson for the Daily Mail, currently facing a bill of almost ten times the going rate after lifting a professional photographer’s pics from the web and then attempting to claim that as they were "in the public domain", they didn’t actually need to be paid for.

The pics in question were the work of acclaimed documentary film-maker Emily James. On the day of the general election, she took pictures of voting frenzy at the St Vincent Polling Station in Dalston. The pictures were placed on the Twitter feed for Just Do It, a group linked to James’ current work, and offered formally to national news networks. Some newspapers took them – and paid.

According to James, however, the Daily Mail just helped itself, publishing three of her pics, without byline, in its online version the next day.

James was not amused – and sent the Mail a bill for £1170. That is the NUJ recommended rate of £130 per pic, times three for the unauthorised use, times three again for the number of pics.

Elliott Wagland, Pictures Editor for the Mail wrote back: "Unfortunately we cannot pay the amount you have requested, these images were taken from TwitPic and therefore placed in the public domain, also after consultation with Twitter they have always asked us to byline images by the username of the account holder.

"We are more that happy to pay for the images but we’ll only be paying £40 per image."

This, according to James, is just plain wrong. She wrote back:

I’m afraid that you are wrong about the terms of publishing on Twitpic. If you read the terms of service you will see that copyright is clearly retained by the poster: http://twitpic.com/terms.do

Third parties who wish to reproduce posted images must contact the copyright holder and seek permission.

You should have contacted me if you wanted to use the photos, as every other news outlet did. Had you done so, you might have been in a position to get the photos for £40 each.

However you didn’t contact me, even though this would have been very easy to do, nor did you inform me that you had used them. Instead, I had to uncover that you had used them, that one of them was not credited even with the correct Twitter account, and that none were credited as I would have asked them to be.

As of today, the Mail has not yet responded to James. The Register also asked the Mail for comment, but so far we've heard nothing back, either. ®

Bootnote

Readers might also be interested to know that one Reg journalist is currently pursuing the Daily Mail for an act of shameless plagiarism in March. Ready the chequebook chaps...

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