On Going Viral, Protecting Copyright, And Herding Cats

Cats that Webchick is herding

[twitter]There’s a side effect of going viral: your image is everywhere. My article about having a favorite kid was picked up by websites around the world. Not just bloggers were writing about my story, but big news sites and media outlets too.

The first week it was the tv shows. Then it was the blogs. This week it’s the big magazines that are grabbing my story.

When it first broke, my inbox was filled with requests for interviews. I did a couple, but quickly stopped as the pressure from the audience was too much to bear. I was called some nasty, hurtful things by people I didn’t know and while I stood in front of it to try and put a human face on the story and quell the keyboard courage, it just meant I took the arrows to the face instead of my back.

My wife asked me to stop doing interviews.

“I am no longer doing media on this issue” was the form letter response I gave to more than 2 dozen outlets from the CBC to Ryan Seacrest.

Even without doing interviews, my story still spread. They talked about me without me as a guest, which didnt help the message any. Supposition and judgment replaced facts and the conventional wisdom was whipped up even more.

Favorite kid? Really? This is NEWS? The machine continued to crank and churn out the content that was easy for people to emotionally relate to and understand.

Many websites and news outlets wrote about this story as well, and this is the part that upset my wife: they used images of our boys. Hello Magazine, The Australian Women’s Weekly, The Toronto Standard, and nearly a dozen other outlets all grabbed images of my family without permission.

I had originally granted permission to The Daily Mail and ABC to use my image, that was it. Everyone else just assumed those images were public domain and grabbed them.

My wife did not want our boys’ faces tied to this story, so I started writing letters to the editors to ask them to remove the image. On the web, the cats had run free and I was about to try and herd them.

Hello [name of editor] [insert publication] has published images of my family for which you have not been granted publishing rights.

[http://www.url where my image was posted]

All of my images are protected by a Creative Commons Non-Commerical Attribution license. These images were originally posted to my Flickr account where it is protected by this license, and [insert publication] has republished it without my permission.

Since you have used it commercially, I request that you immediately remove these images from any and all articles published across all of your websites and affiliates.

Thanks so much.

That’s it. Within hours most every single request I made was answered. An apology was given, and my image was pulled.

I write about my kids all the time, and it won’t stop me. I’ll continue to post their photos to Flickr, Twitter, and Instagram as a way of sharing with family and backing up.

I’ll also continue to use services like Google Alerts and Mention.net to catch the sites that will write about me so I can respond and manage my copyrights.

But the Google juice that this story has given my name attached an image of my kids to it. I asked people to stop using it, and they did. Amazing.

Now if I could just get them to link to my actual stories instead of quoting me out of context, we’d be all set.

Image Credit muir.ceardach

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