You’re doing it wrong, BuzzFeed

Recently the issue of “stealing vs sharing” has blown up in a big way, with one of the fastest growing media properties on the web, BuzzFeed, being accused of stealing the creative works of others.

On r/photography, the issue was highlighted in this post discussing how BuzzFeed have lifted the work of photographers, without attribution or permission, in a sponsored post for a client of theirs.

This was quickly picked up on Mashable and paidContent – and the article at BuzzFeed has since been updated with different photographs.

Our take on this

To state, as Jonah Peretti did in this article on Mashable, that

“it was something just designed to show how cool that sort of photography is.”

is disingenuous. There is clearly a profit motive driving BuzzFeed, and to attempt to deflect criticism with “oh, but we were only trying to show the world cool things” is hard to swallow when BuzzFeed earns its revenue from exactly these kinds of sponsored posts. It lacks credibility to pretend that BuzzFeed is someone in a shed posting about long-exposure photography because they just want to show it to the world.

We believe that being able to mix creative work from many authors all across the world is an enormous part of what makes the web vibrant, interesting, and fun. But there is clearly a line between making humourous or interesting content, using the works of others, and then profiting from that content – all without giving the original authors their due. Most people are only asking for a link back to the original work, which is practically the bare minimum a web content publisher can offer.

But we were doing it wrong too.

We’re trying to show the world amazing travel, and we use the Creative Commons licensed works of authors on sites like Flickr to help us tell our story. In particular, while we’re only a month old and making approximately 100% less money than Buzzfeed per month, we only ever use images licensed for Commercial use as well.

We’re trying to strictly follow the CC licences – and that’s why we were surprised to find that we weren’t fully compliant with the terms of Creative Commons licences.

Thanks to this comment thread on r/photography, we learned today about a hidden part of the CC licence that most people don’t know about. It’s this;

Here’s the link to the simple form of the license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
It’s listed at the bottom of the “With the understanding that:” section. Lots of people unknowingly overlook this part.
The full text of applicable parts of the license:
If you distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform the Work or Collective Works, You must keep intact all copyright notices for the Work and give the Original Author credit reasonable to the medium or means You are utilizing by conveying the name (or pseudonym if applicable) of the Original Author if supplied; the title of the Work if supplied; and to the extent reasonably practicable, the Uniform Resource Identifier, if any, that Licensor specifies to be associated with the Work, unless such URI does not refer to the copyright notice or licensing information for the Work. Such credit may be implemented in any reasonable manner; provided, however, that in the case of a Collective Work, at a minimum such credit will appear where any other comparable authorship credit appears and in a manner at least as prominent as such other comparable authorship credit.
Each time You distribute or publicly digitally perform the Work, the Licensor offers to the recipient a license to the Work on the same terms and conditions as the license granted to You under this License.

Ultimately, our understanding of this part of the licence is that, with each use of the work, a link to the licence that the work is licensed under must also be provided.

So we’re now going through all of our posts and updating the required attribution, and this will be standard practice from now on.

Help us continue to get it right

We’re not perfect, though we’re trying very hard to be – so if ever you notice something that you think we’re doing wrong, please contact us and we’ll try to fix it right away.

As always, we’re ever grateful to those who chose to share their amazing travel photography with us and the world – and make sure you check out their travel photos.