A warning to parents on Flickr: this afternoon I received 20-some e-mails from people either (1) telling me this picture of my daughter (one that has been viewed more than 4,000 times) was attached to a feature story on the upstart parenting site Babble.com; or (2) expressing surprise that I would sell a picture of my daughter to Babble.com.
The trouble is, I never sold or agreed to allow Babble use of this picture. They just screen grabbed it out of my flickr stream and added it to their front page attached to some story about lead poisoning. I suppose I could count myself lucky that they didn't attach it to one of their stories about smoking pot while playing with your kids or one of their stories about throwing your kids down the stairs so you could fuck your tranny heroin dealer and how much of a badass parent that makes you.
Babble's editor Ada Calhoun responded to my notification of infringement by agreeing to remove the photo, and told me that their photo editor had told her the photo was creative commons and therefore fair game. That "photo editor" was either lying or so poorly informed about digital media she ought not to be working with photo content for such a well-funded online magazine. None of my photos have ever been creative commons, and even if this one were, the license generally demands (1) attribution; and (2) noncommercial use. Babble's pure theft of my copyrighted material would have failed both those requirements. This is all the more troubling because (1) I have always reserved all my rights with the copyright notification that appears to the right of every photo; and (2) long ago I also chose to take all possible steps to prevent downloading of my photos from flickr (you can't just right click and save any of my photos). This was a screen grab in which the Babble employee went around these protections provided by flickr to protect its users' copyrights.
I don't mean to be an overreactive dick, and if they had stolen one of my pictures of Detroit or some random photo of graffiti, I wouldn't be this upset. But they chose to steal a photo of my daughter and use it to promote their product. Babble is not some babe-in-the-woods new mommyblog, it's a product of the same media company behind literary smut peddler Nerve.com, which has long been a promoter of online artistic expression and has certainly protected its own copyrights vigorously. I find it fascinating that the people behind Babble.com could be so unsophisticated about online copyright that they would make the kind of mistake that even parents.com or your average mommyblogger on the street would never make. [*UPDATE* Babble has been stealing photos from flickr as long as the site has been around and when caught has always blamed the same clueless intern--- see the comments]
Luckily, I happen to be a former corporate litigator who spent about half his legal life working in intellectual property litigation. I was able to drum up some legitimate threats and quickly resolve this with Babble to get the photo taken down within a few hours of being posted.
They did offer me $100 to let them use it. I told them no thanks.
It's things like this, above and beyond all those supposed creeps out there, that make me want to stop posting pictures of my kid completely.