BuzzFeed and Samsung in Hot Water for Using Photos Without Permission


The last few days have been rough on BuzzFeed, as a Reddit outcry has gained more and more traction regarding some light painting photos the website used to create ads without seeking permission or giving credit.

The original Reddit post was put together by user Shoot_Photo when he discovered that one of his light paintings had been used in a Samsung-sponsored post promoting the Galaxy Camera’s “Light Trace” mode. The post, originally titled “14 Amazing Photos That Are Totally Not Photoshopped,” has since been taken down, but not before BuzzFeed received a serious amount of bad publicity surrounding the matter.

Reddit user TheKoG, who ended up with the top comment on the post, ran into a similar problem with BuzzFeed a few months earlier. After seeing his photos used in a Geico-sponsored BuzzFeed post, he sent a DMCA request and was contacted by the website’s CFO:

At first he told me that they try their best to find image sources, but that it can be difficult and he assumed since the photo’s been all over the internet that it was in the public domain. Once I sent him a copy of my Certificate of Registration from the US Copyright Office he became very apologetic, accepted the fact that BuzzFeed would need to pay me for their use of my photo, and quickly paid the invoice I sent them.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: get your photos registered with the US Copyright Office.

Another screenshot of the since-taken-down post

Another screenshot of the since-taken-down post. Photos by Frame52 and James Vernacotola

The website has since backpedaled, giving every manner of apology and explaining that they do try their best to find the proper source. BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Peretti explained that “sometimes we have trouble finding the person,” and did his best to emphasize that Samsung had nothing to do with selecting the photos, they simply sponsored the post.

Whether or not it would actually take more than 30 minutes or so to find the source of all the photos used is still under debate. But let this be a lesson learned: it may be easier to steal someone’s work in the digital age, but given enough interest and a powerful social tool (ala Reddit) the repercussions hit hard and fast.

(via Reddit via Mashable)

  • Jonathan Maniago

    Using watermarks should also be standard practice for those concerned about copyrights. That’d give others even fewer excuses for using photos without permission.

  • Ivan

    Do they really try their best to find the proper source? I doubt it. Even if they do and finding the source fails, I guess they should give up and try to find something else? Simply because even if they can not find it the source still exists! Childish thinking, along the lines of “It’s OK to smoke because my parents don’t know about it.” And we are talking about established corporations here with serious marketing budgets. Weird.

  • Dov Hechtman

    Wow somone at samsung is deliberarly ignoring the law unless you slap them with it. Just becasue an image is on the internet in no way means its public domain. Whats makes it more obvious is the photgraphers images that were taken down have been all over photoblogs like petapixel with proper accreditation right down to links to the photographers in question websites.

    You bet they paid up, I would love to hear the judges reaction when its pointed out that wherever the images were on the net they found the photographers info was sitting right there on the webpage.

  • Mansgame

    Yeah I have friends who ask me why I put it and do I really think someone will steal the picture of a bridge that I put up and yes, the answer is always yes. I’ve seen my picture on the website of a few local businesses too but they cropped the image so it’d be harder for me to prove but at least in my mind they had to work a little harder to steal it.

  • Dedy
  • JosephRT

    Yeah, BuzzFeed is becoming quite the lighting rod for copyright entrenchment lately

  • Danny

    “The website has since backpeddled”…you mean they sold it to someone else in some back alley? Or they backpedaled? ;-)