John Toner, the National Union of Journalists' freelance organiser, has labelled BBC's official statement over the use of Twitter images in its broadcasts as being "unacceptable."
Earlier this week, the BBC came under fire for using, without identification and authorisation, images of England's riots posted on Twitter. One blogger, Andy Mabbett took to the web to express his disappointment and to publicise BBC's surprising response when he saw many images displayed on the air with the mention "©Twitter."
Mabbett argued that while the images might have been sourced from Twitter, the social networking service doesn't own their copyright. At first, a BBC representative answered that since Twitter is a "platform which is available to most people who have a computer," and, as a result, "any content on it is not subject to the same copyright laws as it is already in the public domain."
The BBC's initial response sparked a controversy among photographers, forcing the BBC to issue an official statement explaining that it was not its policy to broadcast images that had not been cleared with the copyright owners.
However, it added 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, we may use a photo before we've cleared it."
The BBC said that such decisions are not made lightly - "a senior editor has to judge that there is indeed a strong public interest in making a photo available to a wide audience."
He continues: "By overriding the author's right to be identified, the BBC is not only damaging the author, but it is also doing a disservice to the public. In order to evaluate information, the public require to know the source. By concealing the identity of an author the BBC could be said to be acting against the public interest."
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