New Year’s attribution: is proper photo credit dead?


posted Friday, January 24, 2014 at 2:31 PM EDT


Putting together content on the internet is not easy, and finding images to illustrate an article that you're writing can be a devil of a trick. But with a bit of searching, you can usually find an image that you're free to use, as long as you attribute it to the original photographer. So why, when so little is required to do right by the original photographer, do people seem so intent on completely ignoring attribution?

Today we saw two news stories that spoke to that same problem. PDN Pulse pointed out that there's a photo gallery on Huffington Post UK of the riots in Kiev, which do nothing to credit the photographer. Each image does have the name of the agency it comes from, but as to the person actually risking their neck on the ground? Nothing. And it's hardly the first time this charge has been leveled against the media organization, a quick search of "huffington post image attribution" will bring up plenty of others. And let's not even get into BuzzFeed.

At the same time, the Atlantic has an interview with two teenagers, who run the wildly successful Twitter account @HistoryInPics. It is literally a Twitter account of historical images, but the vast majority of them are completely unsourced, with no mention of the photographer. The interview delves into this question in some depth, but the folks behind the account seem unfazed:

"The majority of the images are public domain haha," he responded.

So I said, great, let's look through the last five together. And not all of them were in the public domain. So, I said, "How do you think about the use of these images?"

"Photographers are welcome to file a complaint with Twitter, as long as they provide proof. Twitter contacts me and I'd be happy to remove it," he said. "I'm sure the majority of photographers would be glad to have their work seen by the massives [sic]."

There are a huge number of photography sites out there that are guilty of using images without permission, but at least have the common decency to cite the original artist, and link back to their work. To not even credit the person behind it seems particularly problematic. Even if a photographer would be happy for their works to be seen "by the massives"[sic], you can bet they'd want their name attached to it.

You'd think the very least someone could do if they like a photo enough to share it is give you a byline.