Publicity is the key to success for any event, be it a garden fete or a mass protest in the streets of New York. But those wishing to achieve it often overlook a tiny detail - the licence designation on their photographs. For those with a controversial cause, it can make the difference between a sympathetic article reaching readers in time or negative responses too late in the day.
This is an insight into an all too common scenario, which played out this morning.
Finding an Image for #OccupyWallStreet
It was September 17th 2011. For weeks the social networking feeds had been buzzing with the Adbuster arranged activism that was taking place this day. Anonymous were on board, as were US Day of Rage and other groups. There were publicity posters, leaflets, photographs and other images all over the internet. Many were produced by hacktivists with the full implication that they could be reused by whomever had such inclination.
As a journalist and a writer for Suite101, I set out to produce an article. I wanted it to published well before noon GMT, the proposed time that the protest was taking place. There was method in my madness. When ordinary New Yorkers stumbled across the event, they would want information. I wanted my article to be ready and waiting, in Google News, for just an occurance.
But there was a problem. Not one of the mass of images on the internet specially carried a Creative Commons 3 licence. This allows for commercial reuse and Suite101, mindful of law suits, demands it. They have advertisements on the site, which counts as commercialisation. Without an image, my article could not be published.
The Devil is in the Detail
There is an old adage, purportedly from the Battle of Bosworth and Richard III's alleged cry, 'My kingdom for a horse.' (Historically inaccurate; Shakespeare made it up.) It goes: 'For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the kingdom was lost.' It felt like a very apt saying this morning.
I've been here before. I've had articles in mind, then searched for an image, as I know I'll need one. There aren't any with the status, 'for commercial reuse', so I don't bother with the article. I move on to something that I can illustrate. But I felt that the occupation of Wall Street was important. I wanted to write about this.
For the best part of an hour, I searched websites and blogs for that all important Creative Commons 3 tag. None of them included it. It was seen as implicit that the images could be used. My editor wasn't going to see it that way. All the time, the clock was ticking. The protest would have started before I got this up. In desperation, I Tweeted owners of likely images. They weren't online.
Meanwhile, news articles were starting to spring up. They were from mainstream news outlets, like Fox and CNN, who could afford to have photographers on the scene. Small indpendents, like myself, are so reliant on participants. We don't have the big business funding that they have, to use in our coverage of anti-big business protests.
Educating Anonymous and Sourcing an Image
Fortunately, I did have one more avenue to try. After having now wasted an hour on trying to source an image, I decided to be cheeky. A few days ago, AnonCMD had sent me a link for an Anonymous IRC Channel. It was meant to be used to interview AnonCMD about RefRef, but they didn't show up. I used the same link now, in the hope that other members of Anonymous were around. After all, these hacktivists were responsible for half of the pictures I'd found.
True to their nature, the resulting conversation was placed in Pastebin by Anonymous. After hearing me out, one of them then took my favoured image and stuck a notice on it: 'for commercial reuse'. I had my illustration!
However, it had taken so long to find, that I was now just an hour away from the start of the protest. I wrote and researched fast. It wasn't quite as well crafted as it might have been, if I had twice the time in which to pen it.
Publicising the Protest with a Picture and an Article
My article went live at ten minutes past noon. Anonymous Amongst Protestors in Occupy Wall Street Demonstration carried with it the image kindly created for me by a member of Anonymous.
The timing (and the fact that Anonymous subsequently Tweeted it through dozens of their channels) was critical. For a start, it pushed my article to the top of those listed in Google News, above heavyweights like CNN and the Huffington Post:
In short, it was the first option available for ordinary people searching for news about the protest in Wall Street; and it was sympathetic to the demonstration.
Moreover, within minutes, it had been collected by the New York Daily News, a Paper.li, edition. It was featured, because it had an image.
So mine was the version of events that New Yorkers were reading on Paper.li. Just an hour and half after the article was published, it has been already been read by 551 people.
What Can People do to Facilitate These Kind of News Stories
Bear in mind that journalists like myself are bound by the rules of our publishers. We can't put articles out without images; and we need somewhere to prove to our editors that the images are 'for commercial reuse'.
When putting out pictures, all that is required is a simple line beneath them, or somewhere in the blog entry: 'This content/image/photo/poster is licenced under Creative Commons [add which one]'. For commercial reuse, the following are applicable:
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-ND 3.0)
Just find the one you prefer, then link it somewhere in the vicinity of the images that can be used. It doesn't necessarily have to be in the picture itself, as we can link back to the source for the licence attribution.
Finally, thank you very much to the good people of Anonymous, who took the time to create an image for me this morning. Good luck with the #OccupyWallStreet demonstration.