Thu 27 May 2010
Local blogger Lisa B. posted this morning about Chubby’s Tacos’ really not-OK uncredited use of a photo she took in their store:
It’s an OK photo, right? Well I thought so, at least. And apparently so did Chubby’s Tacos, because they decided to put it on their web site. Without asking me. Or giving me attribution.
All of my Flickr photos are licensed under a non-commercial, with attribution, share-alike Creative Commons license. This means if you are NOT using the photos for business purposes (such as selling tacos), you can use my picture without permission as long as you grant me attribution and whatever you use it in is also distributed with the same Creative Commons license. But if you’re trying to sell tacos, or if for some reason you want to use the photo without attribution and whatnot, YOU HAVE TO ASK ME! Dangit! Chubby’s didn’t bother with that bit.
As someone who has taken plenty of personal photos in a variety of public and private settings and then made those photos available online, I am somewhat interested in the question of attribution and ownership but I don’t know anything about it and wouldn’t dare make any assumptions based on my own lack of knowledge. However, since Lisa B. goes so far as to license her photos under the Creative Commons, I already know that she knows more about this than I do.
No, what really interests me is (a) the irony that a relationship so geographically intimate as that between a local business and a local blogger can be spoiled by the communications-enabling Internet and (b) that this serves as yet another example of how the commercial/corporate world has become so accustomed to farming out every aspect of widget manufacture that no one can be blamed for anything. I’m not saying that Chubby’s needs to do their own web design; by all means, let them continue to make excellent food, thanks, and taking advantage of someone specialized in the work one’s own business doesn’t do makes perfect sense. I am saying, however, that it’s probably a situation where the website developer used the image thoughtlessly and never asked Chubby’s first and now Chubby’s is tarred by it but isn’t really at fault nor, probably by way of language in their contract, is the web designer since they probably have a clause that they just make the bits fly and aren’t responsible for the contents as long as they conform to certain loose boundaries; or, someone at Chubby’s has all the FTP credentials and uploaded a photo they liked online and the web designer, who would know all about things like CC licensing, is aghast that they might be viewed as having stolen a photograph.
It’s a microcosm of what drove me out of the corporate world in the first place, at least in part: every step in widget manufacture has been so walled off and outsourced that no one is accountable for anything or to anyone. Same as it ever was, probably, at least in terms of what’s involved in making stuff, but the age of conscious branding has created an expectation that companies who want the marketing advantages of a cohesive, coherent identity will also have some basic awareness of what’s being done in their touted name and yet they quite often don’t – and don’t want to. When at least three distinct corporations may bear some or all of the blame for the BP oil spill and no one’s terribly surprised by that, we’re all doing something wrong.