BBC took content from Twitter without a permit

The BBC has got itself into a content row by publishing pictures of the London riots it found on Twitter.

Andy Mabbett, a blogger and amateur photographer, sent a complaint to the BBC for its news coverage of the Tottenham riots in north London. The blogger objected to the way his images had been credited.

All that was mentioned was that the BBC had taken them from Twitter and there was no identification about who took them.

According to the British Journal of Photography,  Mabbett wrote that the BBC might have found them on Twitter, but they would have been hosted elsewhere and taken by other photographers, who it did not name and whose copyright it might well have breached.

The BBC should be attributing photographers and cite their sources, he said. His own pictures had not been nicked.

However, the BBC seems to think that once someone has placed a picture on Twitter it is fair game, even if the original photographer had not given his or her go-ahead.

In a reply to Mabbett, Auntie said that Twitter is a social network platform which is available to most people who have a computer and therefore any content on it is not subject to the same copyright laws as it is already in the public domain.

This is a similar response to the Daily Mail’s online picture editor, Elliot Wagland, who once claimed that all pictures posted on Twitter and TwitPic were in the public domain.

However the BBC said this morning that it might have got that view wrong. Chris Hamilton, social media editor at the BBC, said that the BBC was now “checking out the complaint” and on the face of it, it was wrong and isn’t what BBC News thinks.

It did add that in “exceptional situations”, where there is a strong public interest and often time constraints, such as a major news story like the recent Norway attacks or rioting in England, it  might use a photo before it has been cleared.  Lord Reith is probably turning in his grave as we write.