META / Facebook, The Copyright Cowboys Of A New Wild West

It’s getting increasingly more brutal out there for creatives. AI is stripping freelance graphic artists of jobs, algorithms are restricting musicians’ social media reaches, and even the once-sacred photo copyright ownership is now routinely mocked by the behemoth that is Meta owned Facebook.

For the latter, it should be a straightforward process. For example, Mötley Crüe arrives in the UK in late June 2023 and plays a secret gig at The Underworld as Dögs Of War. MetalTalk has a writer there, Paul Monkhouse, along with photographer Sam Shapiro.

The band plays Wembley Stadium the following day, in what Paul Monkhouse describes as a retina-scorching rebirth. MetalTalk sent Paul there also, along with our photographer, Robert Sutton. The pair also covered Def Leppard on the same show.

The process for this is simple and is reflected in the 30+ gigs MetalTalk covers every month. Ian Sutherland, our Head Of Event Editorial, will speak with PRs and band management and agree on who will cover the shows for MetalTalk. The bands and their teams value our coverage, expertise and professionalism. It is all arranged beforehand. This is what we do and what we love.

Mötley Crüe - Wembley Stadium - 1 July 2023
Mötley Crüe – Wembley Stadium – 1 July 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The copyright law is reasonably straightforward. Copyright protects people’s work and stops others from using it without permission. These laws were established to encourage creative creation. The writer owns the copyright of the words he prepares.

Sites like Blabbermouth and several UK and US press websites will stretch copyright around articles by pushing fair use to the limit. Fair use allows them to take the basis of a story published elsewhere and then apply further detail, expanding the story.

For many sites, they will take a piece of work by someone else and reproduce it in a battle to be at the top of the SEO rankings. One UK newspaper publishes 1,200 articles a day. That is just shy of the number MetalTalk produced last year.

Blabbermouth does link to the original article, but they set a tag which does not tell the other site where the hit came from. Some UK newspapers do not even give you a backlink.

Mötley Crüe - Wembley Stadium - 1 July 2023
Mötley Crüe – Wembley Stadium – 1 July 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

For words, in terms of copyright, economic rights and moral rights come into play, which can muddy the waters. Arguing over copyright in journalism is an old story, though.

However, copyright in photography is more straightforward. You take a photo and own the copyright.

When the 80’s Heavy Metal & Hard Rock Lovers Facebook (sic) group shared Robert Sutton’s Mötley Crüe photo with no attribution, you might have thought that Facebook would jump into action after we reported it.

META have it tough, though.

Once, their algorithms, like many other platforms, would serve users and encourage them towards their niches. Now, their algorithms push users more to the content that supports platform monetisation priorities. Many people feel that these systems do not listen to them anymore.

Yes, we added a copyright claim. The, presumably automated, email returned a day later reads:

“Thanks for contacting us. Based on the information you’ve provided, it’s not clear that you are the rights owner or are otherwise authorized to submit this report on the rights owner’s behalf. Please note that we can only process reports from a rights owner or someone authorized to report on their behalf, such as a lawyer or agent.”

We replied to this. Another case number was raised, and then the same automated reply. We did try once more. Same response again.

Mötley Crüe - Wembley Stadium - 1 July 2023
Mötley Crüe – Wembley Stadium – 1 July 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

As E Norma Stitz said in a reply to our comment on the Facebook group, “I am not the owner of this site. And I am in agreement if it has been used without the copyrighters permission. Then it shouldn’t be used. But I hate to tell you this. But FB probably DGAF!” (sic)

But with over 363,000 followers, this might be a group that Facebook does not want to have to deal with. Should they really “give a fuck?”

That is a lot of people interacting with Facebook in the group at a time when it has been reported elsewhere that Facebook numbers are dwindling.

If you look at the Facebook group in question, you will see that it is rammed with photos they have taken from elsewhere.

Their recent post about Zakk Wylde uses a photo from Metalwani. It does in this case have a link to the Metalwani website, but the Metalwani photo has been lifted from Loudwire.

The New York Times started legal proceedings against OpenAI and Microsoft on 27 December 2023. They say that these companies are infringing on its copyright by using millions of its articles to train AI technologies like the ChatGPT chatbot.

With AI scraping websites, images and even music and musicians, it’s getting more like a copyright Wild West out there.

It says in our footer at the bottom of the page, “Unless otherwise stated, all content, including photography, is owned and managed by MetalTalk and must not be used elsewhere without written permission.”

But with even META failing to be interested in image copyright, something so basic, then it does not bode well for the future. Would Facebook really want to lose a group with 363,000 followers, even if they abuse copyright laws? Do they really value interaction over the law?

When taking over the Editor role at MetalTalk, I immediately learned to respect our team’s passion and their love for music and the arts. This is true also of the musicians and artists we cover. It is my duty to present our 70+ strong team in the best light possible.

That includes supporting their legal rights.

Does Facebook do the same? Maybe, E Norma Stitz was right. Facebook really “do not GAF.”

Facebook was approached for comment at the weekend but has yet to reply.

Update: 5 March 2024 18:26. Facebook confirmed that the offending post has been taken down. “We removed the content you reported for going against Facebook’s Terms of Service,” the report said. “We understand this action to resolve your intellectual property report.”

Steve Ritchie. Editor, MetalTalk.

Have you had a photo illegally reproduced on Facebook? Have a similar story to tell? Drop Steve an email at Editor@MetalTalk.net.

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