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HuffPo Rip-Off

The Lattice Dance

Ross Luippold & Carol Hartsell of Huffington Post used a photo of mine in their allegedly humorous feature, Eight Rejected Prom Themes.

How dare they!

I publish my photos on Flickr under a Creative Commons attribution license. All they have to do to be legal is give me credit. They don’t have to pay me. They don’t even have to ask me. Just give a little credit. But they couldn’t even do that. How pathetic.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what a proper attribution might look like. This could take different forms depending on context. This was generated via OpenAttribute, a tool I use daily which “makes it ridiculously simple for anyone to copy and paste the correct attribution for any CC licensed work.”

Prom 2 / Bart Everson / CC BY 2.0

See how easy that was? I think it took me two seconds.

Notice they even went to the trouble of cloning the lattice to make it fit their aspect ratio. Here’s the original if you want to compare.

Prom 2

So they did a fair bit of Photoshop work to set up their gag, but they couldn’t take two seconds to give proper attribution.

Unfortunately this is a pattern of behavior with HuffPo. Within seconds of posting this on Facebook, I heard from my friend Rachel W. who has been similarly ripped off. And I’ve actually been hearing of such shenanigans for a long time. It’s the kind of stuff I’d expect from a amateur blogger like myself, not a venture that was purchased for $315 million earlier this year.

Just so it’s clear, perhaps I should spell it out in no uncertain terms. Taking someone else’s stuff without permission is thievery. I’ve tried to make it easy for people to use my content, but when they violate the terms of the license under which I’ve published it, that’s thievery too.

All I required out of the transaction was to be given credit. Deny me that, and you’re stealing.

What to do? My friend Kelly S. (an attorney herself) recommends: “They deserve to receive some strongly worded letters written by an attorney willing to go further, if needed.”

Do I have any lawyer friends out there who feel like shooting off a C&D?

PS: Thanks to my old friend Kevin K. for spotting this.

Published inGeekyNews & MediaPix


  1. Brooks Brooks

    This is the second time (that I’m aware of) that HuffPo has used one of your photos. Last year, they used a pic of Christy on the back porch. I just assumed you knew about it, or I’d have mentioned it.

  2. Yeah, that sounds vaguely familiar — I know they’ve used photos of mine before, but I think it was properly attributed. But maybe I’m mis-remembering.

  3. Aaaand now I’ve gotten both official confirmation from AOL (HuffPo’s parent company) and a personal apology from Carol Hartsell.

  4. David David

    They shouldn’t definitely credit the photographer appropriately, but . . . ah . . . in this case you didn’t take the picture. Just saying.

  5. rickngentilly rickngentilly

    crap. i just posted one of your snaps from the katrina cleanup on my facebook.

    could you please do a post , or link to a good one about the ettique on this.

    i had no idea .

    that being said the old fart defense only gets one so far.

    thanks for making me aware of this.

  6. @Rick: The shortest simplest primer is just this – When in doubt, attribute. That’ll get you out of much trouble though certainly not all. I don’t have a problem with what you describe in any case. Credit would be nice, but I’m not worried about it either way. We are cyber-compadres after all.

    @David: Au contraire mon frere! At issue is not who took the photo but who holds the copyright, and that’s me. Work for hire, y’know.

  7. David David

    OK. I did not know that. And I meant to say everyone SHOULD get credit, not shouldn’t.

  8. Ned Ned

    it sounds like you’ve already explored your legal options, but it’s too bad you couldn’t just send them an invoice.

  9. rickngentilly rickngentilly

    thanks bart for giving me a new habit.

    my good ones are so few and far between.

    maybe ill see yall at the boogaloo if i get off of work in time.

  10. […] Someone has finally seen the humor of this photo I took in 2008. It’s featured in a story on Shine from Yahoo. And, yes, they gave proper credit, so I don’t have to send a takedown notice like I did with HuffPo last week. […]

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