Filed under: Digital Strategy
Reported in the fabulous Bannerblog:
Virgin Mobiles latest campaign Are you with us or What which covered press, outdoor and online has been using photos from Flickr that were under an attribution creative common license.
So what? you say. As long as you credit the photographer you can use the photo for free for any use. Sweet deal for the agency as photographers can be expensive. Damn if only Herb Ritts used Flickr. So nothing wrong so far, an email to the photographer or a free phone would have been nice, but nice doesn’t make the world go round.
What is causing all the problems is that the photographers didn’t get model release forms for the people in the photographs. Most budding photographers wouldn’t even know what that is or need to. Not only did Virgin Mobile fail to get photos with models releases they insulted some of them with the actual ad. They did a double whammy with the image above the girl is 15 years old. Ouch.
While bloggers and the Flickr community are up in arms, none of them are lawyers and this could all fizzle to nothing. Virgin seem to have changed all the photos on the website Are you with us or what.com.au to remove any faces.
The general agency spot poll consensus is “Yeah Flickr is a great place to get free photos”. You even break copyright law by basing vector artwork on a photo you don’t own copyright for see here. Although this is a lot easier to hide and harder to prove.
Virgin Mobile could have avoided any negative press by just paying a partly fee to those who agree and opting to not use photos for those who don’t.
If you want to read more about this then check the article in the Australian, the offending Pen pal photo, a Flickr group discussion where even Flickr’s GM weighs in, or here where a representative of Virgin Mobile’s advertising team apologizes (slightly) or just Google it and read for hours.
Bannerblog have the official response from Virgin Mobile’s media people:
“Flickr is about providing a platform for photographers to reach new audiences. As such the decision to feature Flickr photography was based on the desire to champion a vibrant, current, online community. It was part of an approach designed to reject cliched ‘advertising’ imagery in favour of more genuine and spontaneous shots. It is typically Virgin to embrace fresh initiatives and the democratic spirit of Flickr matches the inclusive nature of our ‘Are you with us or what?’ campaign. The images have been featured within the positive spirit of the Creative Commons Agreement, a legal framework voluntarily chosen by the photographers. It allows for their photographs to be used for a variety of purposes, including commercial activities. All of the photographers have been accredited in the adverts.”
ABC Radio / Triple J had a discussion on this – listen.
I can’t help thinking that, as a big brand with deep pockets, being half-arsed is no way to act when you get questioned by the community that you profess to be ‘supporting’. Celebrating a spirit doesn’t give you license to not have rigour around legalities and not to compensate all the parties involved in the creation of your message.
A hot topic in ad land is about how to protect and charge for agency IP. Unless the players in commercial content creation game stand up for the little guys, how can we set the agenda with our clients. Become the change you seek.
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