The Union is painting itself as a hero amid charges of copyright infringement involving a giant centerpiece photo it ran on the front page on Tuesday without crediting the photographer, with a headline “Thanks to John Daly for one stunning shot.”
In fact, the newspaper was the goat, having put itself at risk legally as a commercial venture — and on top of that, it omitted all together how the controversy arose in its own watered-down version of the incident — an episode that was slap in the face to local artists.
“As rain came to an end and clouds parted from this weekend’s storms, Nevada City photographer John Daly headed down to the Highway 49 bridge and captured both the natural beauty and ferocity of western Nevada County’s beloved South Yuba River — beneath a double rainbow, no less,” reads the article this morning by Managing Editor Brian Hamilton (on an inside page; the photo was on page 1).
“Daly shared his stunning shot with the community through The Union, which published the photo on the front page of Tuesday’s edition. Unfortunately, proper credit was not provided to the photographer in the print edition. The Union regrets the error, as Daly certainly deserves recognition for a piece of art so well received by our readers.”
“Unfortunate?” That’s an understatement — both on ethical and legal grounds.
“Daly’s South Yuba shot drew rave reviews on The Union’s Facebook page,” the article continued, “where by noon Tuesday more than 1,700 people had viewed the photo — of which 90 had shared it elsewhere, reaching an unknown total number of Facebook users — and several expressed their gratitude for Daly’s work:”
But here’s what The Union left out: — sharp criticism involving charges of copyright infringement, including from the photographer himself — on another Facebook page, “Nevada County Peeps.” It’s a very valid concern, based on routine journalistic standards.
“It is nice to have the photo on the front page of The Union Newspaper in Grass Valley, CA,” the photogropher wrote in the “Nevada County Peeps” page on Facebook. “But The Union is well-known for being unreliable. I gave them the photo on the proviso that I would have credit on the photo and they even said they would mention my photography exhibition in Nevada City. They did none of this. They literally stole the photo by simply saying ‘submitted photo,’ no mention of my name. . . . This is Copyright Infringement.”
•”That’s why we don’t get the local paper,” wrote one reader on the Facebook thread, which generated 33 comments.
•”Glad I didn’t send my photos there..I wondered whose photo it was. A lovely photo indeed!” wrote another.
•”The Union’s policy on giving photo credits is highly irregular,” wrote another reader. “As someone who has submitted dozens and dozens of photos over the years, I’ve learned they usually will not credit the photographer. I have no idea how they get away with it, but they do.”
•”The Union unfortunately does not serve the people or the community – only business, and even that is questionable,” said another.
•”Yes, there have been many askew articles printed in The Union and it has been very disrespectful and like most media had a huge influence on people’s opinion — true or not “as they read it in the paper,” said another. “Add on the typos and the grammatical errors over the years, I gave up subscribing.”
•”John, I’m really sorry to hear this,” I wrote after noticing the controversy. “As you know, we were glad to pay for your large-size photos of the Yuba River and give you credit by name in the current issue of our FoodWineArt magazine and on the companion http://www.SierraCulture.com website. We’re also going to restock Java Johns with our magazine that carries your photo and credit, and we have publicized your show at Java Johns on our Facebook page. Be assured that the journalistic standards in our community are not all the same. Have a great day and thanks for such a lovely photo!”
When the Facebook posts and comments appeared in droves, Daly did hear from The Union:
•”OK, The Union just called me and apologized for the mistake,” Daly wrote. “They are going to republish in tomorrows paper with full credit and pay for the photo. And mention my Photo Exhibit currently at Java Johns. I will have to print this photo and put it up in the Exhibit.”
“Wondered how that happened- glad they took responsibility,” one reader reacted.
What remains unanswered is:
1. How did such an egregious error happen in the first place? Copyright infringement puts the newspaper at legal risk — well beyond “doing the right thing” to credit an artist’s work in a giant front-page photo.
2. What are The Union’s practices and policies when it comes to photo credits? Why wasn’t the photographer paid in the first place (instead of as an afterthought)? Is anything going to change?
3. Why did The Union omit how the controversy arose in the first place — in social media on a page created by a grassroots effort in the community, called “Nevada County Peeps.” Was it embarrassed to give the full account?
Daly concluded: “I am glad this has developed such a lively and needed debate in our community. Thanks for all your support.” Amen to that!