On Feb 6th, I got up early for my workshop and sat to glance through the Times of India while having breakfast to catch up on the morning news. On the front page, I saw a headline Bhimgarh now wildlife sanctuary (if the link does not work, here is the article without the image) and when I looked down, I was shocked to see my bat photograph of the rare Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat. Now I had to work real hard to get permits to enter the cave and spend a lot of money to just access it and photograph it. Being a long time contributor of Wikipedia, I thought it would be a good to add this photo for the article as no other photo exists for this species.
Being a professional photographer, I earn by bread and butter via photography. Yet I feel the compulsion to share my photographs as half the reason I photograph in the first place is so that others can see what I had seen. Also since I have my roots in free software and creative commons, The CC license is one of the most attractive licenses. If you go to my website, you will realise that each and every photograph of mine is under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license (Freely copy, use and remix the photograph for non-commercial use). Unfortunately Wikipedia insists on a CC-By-SA license (Freely copy, use and remix the photograph for commercial use as well).
Well, the urge to upload to Wikipedia this picture so that the others can see this bat was a lot more than trying to keep this locked up in my hard disks. So I released one of the photographs under CC-By-SA. So its free for anyone to use, remix, etc (even for commercial use) as long as they give the attribution or credit.
Times of India has a nasty reputation when it comes to handling photographs. From what I hear, the journalists just google for the image that they need, click on image search and download the first image that they come across. They have used a lot of my photographs before from both my website and Wikipedia and have printed it in their news paper. I got angry, but let it pass as I was on the road and sometimes didn’t bother too much.
But the more they do it, the more annoying it gets. This time, I felt I had to do something about this. Not just for myself, but for other photographers in India who’s work in Wikipedia and flickr gets exploited by these publications. This will also discourage photographers from contributing to CC, which will in-turn kill creativity and also sharing of knowledge, rare photographs and pictures.
I wrote to the contact email address and did not get any response. I left a note on the online form and did not get any response. So I’m sending a legal notice to them via a legal adviser. I’m not asking for a compensation, but I want Times of India to publish a public apology for exploiting Creative Commons and Wikipedia and hopefully if we can make enough noise that other publications will take note too.
Update (12 Feb 2010) :
Times of India have apologised on their front page today. Good, but unfortunately not good enough. Obviously someone inside ToI have read this and have responded. It would be good if you can contact me regarding this. First, I wish it was an apology for lifting content from Creative Commons. Second, as a compensation, it would be good if you can run an article on Creative Commons in your paper. Not to highlight this issue, but a very general article so that people are aware of the strength of Creative Commons and how its helping people all around the world