PetaPixel

How to get Big on Twitter: Ignore Copyright and Creative Credit

ScreenHunter_297 Jan. 24 10.07

At first, The Atlantic‘s profile of the duo behind the mega-popular @HistoryInPics Twitter feed reads like your standard “young geniuses find lucrative economic niche in this crazy new media world” piece.

Run by two teenagers who pull in close to $44,000 a month from various YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other media properties, @HistoryInPics has amassed close to 900,000 followers since it went online in July 2013. And they’ve done it with a pretty simple idea: dig up interesting images from the past and post them with just enough caption information so followers feel they learned something.

Where it gets interesting is when The Atlantic asks about sourcing. Xavier Di Petta, one of the entrepreneurial teens behind the account, says all the images they use are public domain, but even a cursory Google image search turns up some copyrighted images. (Including, quite possibly, their cover image of JFK, a pretty terrible crop of a well-known work by celebrated portrait photographer Arnold Newman.)


Di Petta response to the Atlantic: “Photographers are welcome to file a complaint with Twitter, as long as they provide proof. Twitter contacts me and I’d be happy to remove it,” he said. “I’m sure the majority of photographers would be glad to have their work seen by the masses.”

Even for images that are public domain or Creative Commons, @HistoryInPics almost never credits the photographer, which even supporters such as BoingBoing have found ethically squishy.

To Di Petta, photo credits apparently sound too much like work: “It would not be practical,” he said. “The majority of the photographers are deceased. Or hard to find who took the images.” (For the record, we spent about four minutes to source the JFK photo and the Einstein pose above — shot by Princeton pal Gillett Griffin, copyright status unclear.)

Then it’s on to the everybody-else-is-doing-it justification: “Look at Buzzfeed. Their business model is more or less using copyright images.” Di Petta does eventually concede that defenders of image creators “do have a point,” at which point he presumably skulks off to tally the day’s profits.

(via The Atlantic)


 
  • haaafa

    sony a 7 and im ready

  • harumph

    This just gets my blood boiling.

  • Joey Boots

    Yea, but how does posting copyrighted photos on twitter make you money!?!?!?! Horrible title for an article.

  • kkartphoto

    $44k a month??? I can’t even find the words……

  • harumph

    The headline is wrong. They don’t make that money off Twitter. They make money off Youtube ad clicks and other cash-for-clicks ad affiliate programs. They’ll make money off Twitter when they sell History in Pics to somebody, just like they did with their Facebook page. But that $44k a month figure doesn’t come from their social media promotion income. That figure is pulled from Di Petta’s app development company, which has nothing to do with the topic of this article.

    Dear Petapixel, please read the articles that you are linking to.

  • Scott M.

    Hey! Here is an idea…”improperly license famous photographs and make money on ad clicks” We talked to a lawyer and found out nobody will do anything to us….Genius.

  • Jade

    So the photographer, who spent time and money honing his/her skills, purchasing gear and using his/her talent and connections to get access to these people and capture the image, doesn’t even get credit for the work that some teenager is stealing and making hundreds of thousands off of. And when someone rips off these two kids’ idea and makes money on it? We’ll hear them screaming a mile away.

  • Banan Tarr

    Ticking time bomb. The first photographer who goes after these guys will take them to the bank. If only they’d “feature” one of mine…

  • Brandon Daughtry Slocum

    If they are smart enough to build this business, they are smart enough to figure out a reverse image search. Smug little bastards.

  • Matt

    Is their business model copyrighted? Could I start a HistoryInPix Twitter account and do the exact same thing? Would they have something to say about that?

    This is the reality of how many people, particularly “digital natives” who have grown up with the everything-is-free-for-me internet, view copyright. They could not care less who made the media they are consuming, as long as it’s free and easy to access.

    This is a scary time to be a creator. People think anyone can take photos or make a video, and they don’t want to pay (or pay much) for anything. Even worse, they appropriate existing work and make money from it without batting an eye.

  • https://twitter.com/adamhowardcross Adam Cross

    I don’t understand how they make that much money by doing nothing but sharing images on Twitter or whatever it is they do on Youtube… what am I missing? :S surely ad-clicks can’t bring that much revenue in? who ever clicks on ads anyway?

  • 15MinInternetFame

    This is the age of absurdity on the internet. Historians, archivists will look back at this chaotic time and will see how much of the internet was chock-full of a neo-get rich quick con-men. Yes, all of it… Facebook, twitter, vine, instagram… these ideas are not innovation. These are ideas of desperate men/women who want to get rich fast and ultimately hobbled innovation on one of the greatest resources to man, the internet. Come on internet old tymers… you were there back in the day of IRC, telnet, newsgroups, ICQ, etc etc. Innovation on the internet has stalled.

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  • Kole Montross

    They actually stole the idea from another Twitter account. History_Pics, which I follow because they DO credit when they know the photogs.

    So it is rather unshocking that they don’t credit since it was a theft of an idea to begin with. Or so goes the story. History_Pics claims to have been first. I have no way to know without taking 5 seconds out of my day to go enter their names in a twitter account creation date search app. I may just be perpetuating myths and rumors but… I find I just can’t bring myself to care about getting to bottom of the truth of those thieves.

    Interestingly, if you check the HistoryInPics twitter feed, they have been crediting images today. ;-)

  • http://www.sin3rgy-creative.com/ David Liang

    The audacity. The photographers who’s work they feature put a level of effort and and skill into those photos. Forgetting royalties these guys can’t be bothered to put a little work in to at least give credit? Does that really call for too much effort, since they’re making income from someone else’s work? All rhetorical questions…I just needed to say it out loud because I’m offended by their responses.

  • http://www.sin3rgy-creative.com/ David Liang

    This kind of intentional ignorance is fast approaching an in tolerable epidemic. How soon I wonder will the various local and national photo organizations pool their resources and start meeting these people in court.

  • harumph

    They don’t make that money on Twitter. Petapixel is confused. That $44k-a-month figure is what Di Petta claims he makes on his entirely unrelated app development company. The pair will make money on the Twitter feed after they sell it off. They made money in the past selling Facebook pages that had amassed a following. They’ll do the same with this. And they have income from Youtube like other YouTube Partners do. But not $44k-a-month. Petapixel needs to read the articles that they are linking to.

  • Guest

    To Di Petta, photo credits apparently sound too much like work: “It would not be practical,” he said. “The majority of the photographers are deceased. Or hard to find who took the images.”

    It would not be practical = have no idea what I’m talking about.

    The majority of the photographers are deceased = I am unfamiliar with copyright law, the concept of estates, or the notion that companies can own images.

    Or hard to find who took the images = I am lazy.

  • Marschal A. Fazio

    Come on kids, cite your sources otherwise it’s plagiarism.

  • herzco

    If this d-bag is making 40,000 bucks a month, he can HIRE SOMEONE to find and list the photo credits.

    And how obnoxious for him to say “I’m sure the majority of photographers would be glad to have their work seen by the masses.” Umm, wouldn’t the majority of photographers (or their estates if they are deceased) prefer to get paid and get credit?

  • herzco

    If this umm, gentleman, is making 40,000 bucks a month, he can HIRE SOMEONE to find and list the photo credits.

    And how obnoxious for him to say “I’m sure the majority of photographers
    would be glad to have their work seen by the masses.” Umm, wouldn’t the
    majority of photographers (or their estates if they are deceased) prefer
    to get paid and get credit?

  • Genkakuzai

    Disgusting.

  • yup

    can somebody just reuse all of their work and artfully reposition it? They shouldn’t care, it’s just business after all…..bastards need a lesson here

  • Krijsh

    Sue for money already owed. Nothing punitive, just let them appreciate the real cost of business so they can stop being punks

  • mirrorerror

    “How get huge” I think something is missing.

  • http://WWW.EXTRA-CASH-ONLINE.COM/ Robert Connor

    Simple ideas seem to go viral!

  • John Craft

    Also check out 99MoneyMaking website for some cool tips.

  • Elliott Strom

    just checked out their feed, and some photos give credit. Maybe they are changing their ways.

  • sdlsdkj

    Someone needs a few cease and desist letters. Please tell me that Magnum, Getty, AP, or Time-Warner have interns in legal looking at these clowns.

  • Zombax

    This is the future of the internet as championed by Cory Doctorow. Creators should work for exposure not money.

  • WoolstonPhoto

    “Di Petta response to the Atlantic: “Photographers are welcome to file a complaint with Twitter, as long as they provide proof. Twitter contacts me and I’d be happy to remove it,” he said.”

    Am I to understand that if the image were mine, and challenged this guy, he can simply say “My Bad” and be off the hook. I have run into similar problems in the past few months. I have found my images post on several blog style websites that exist only because of “contributor content” Several of my editorial photos were posted for over a year on a global site (you can figure out the usage licensing fee). According to these sites, When challenged and a copyright is claimed, they remove the content. They claim that they are not responsible for usage fees because they did not post the image, only allow the image to be posted. Again, the “My Bad” defense. When/how does a copyright owner claim fiscal damages? In my opinion, “my bad” docent cover it.

  • bryanwoolston.com

    “Di Petta response to the Atlantic: “Photographers are welcome to file a complaint with Twitter, as long as they provide proof. Twitter contacts me and I’d be happy to remove it,” he said.”

    Am I to understand that if the image were mine, and challenged this guy, he can simply say “My Bad” and be off the hook. I have run into similar problems in the past few months. I have found my images post on several blog style websites that exist only because of “contributor content” Several of my editorial photos were posted for over a year on a global site (you can figure out the usage licensing fee). According to these sites, When challenged and a copyright is claimed, they remove the content. They claim that they are not responsible for usage fees because they did not post the image, only allow the image to be posted. Again, the “My Bad” defense. When/how does a copyright owner claim fiscal damages? In my opinion, “my bad” doesn’t cover it.

  • Lukas Prochazka

    If they would put photographers name, it would be also about history because most of those photographers are dead

  • Richard Lurie

    They’re not claiming to have created the images. It’s still bad, of course, but it isn’t plagiarism.

  • Our_Man_Flint

    I see that HistoryInPics’ Twitter bio now says “for educational purposes”, like they think that gets them off the hook. Gobshites.

  • http://donialilly.com/ Donia

    Exactly. It’s disgusting how many people co-opt images created by artists and photographers to make their businesses visually interesting and successful (even to the point of actually printing the work on iphone cases, t-shirts, etc) and are able to get off the hook with “my bad” and simply remove the image/item from their page or online store (see Etsy) without ANY repercussions. Because they’re using a middle-man like Twitter or Etsy, who is off the hook from being sued. And besides, what artist can afford to sue someone for copyright infringement. So the creatives stay poor and the shysters get richer. Sad and disgusting.

  • Steve Morgan

    “I’m sure the majority of photographers would be glad to have their work seen by the masses” has to be one of the most ignorant statements and weakest arguments I have ever seen.

    Tell you what, Xavier. I’m going to set up my own website, take all the content from Swift Fox Labs (seemingly your company website), re-publish it, not credit SFL as the source, profit from it and then see if you “would be glad to have your work” seen by more people…

  • rickharris_org

    @AbandonedPics used my image for their profile. It’s licensed under creative commons. It’s a simple attribution — a link back to flickr. I politely asked 5-6 times to give me attribution. They eventually responded by removing the image. They heard my request for attribution, I know — I replied each time they tweeted a picture. They knew who owned the image (I provided them a link). I gave them multiple opportunities to save the ‘inconvenience’ and impracticality of locating the original photographer, and they chose to ignore it. These guys need a kick in the ass.

  • VijuaruKei

    So … the artist’s estate and every generation born into that estate until eternity should be able to live off the work of the original artist? One reason (there are so many) that copyright is NOT respected is because it is too long and too comprehensive. Copyright is a granted monopoly that used to have the word limited attached (i.e. Disney fighting for eternal copyrights). Too many people really have no idea where the idea of copyright originated or what its purpose was for (hint it was NOT to ensure the artist and his offspring 34 generations into the future could continue to control and collect money from a single creation).
    As an anthropologist I fear the “Dark Age” that is coming, the loss of culture and sharing (sharing does NOT have to be a dirty word). Before the modern era, pre-copyright and digital we had stone/clay/paint etc… to record history, a record of our ancestors and their culture(s). In the future there will be no records as the copyright machine grows and consumes all forms of art and culture good or bad…

  • herzco

    I’m sorry. I don’t understand why this snot nosed kid should make money off of something that was created by someone else. Should creators just work for free, when they are not at their dismal day jobs? Because if they did not actually get PAID for their work they would likely be doing something they are less fond of.

    And as for the image creators and their offspring making money (which is NOT a ton of money by the way – using that image on Twitter likely would have been less than 30 dollars. Compare that to how much this joker makes by stealing – and boasting about it too)

    I do not find anything wrong with being paid for the work one creates.

    And this guy refuses to even SEARCH OUT who took the images to give a simple photo credit. Under “hubris” in the dictionary you will find that guy’s picture.

  • Joseph Aschiero

    GAH! This really is frustrating. Of course photographers want their work seen. But who the heck knows who took the photo is there is no reference? Why does it matter if the photographer is dead or not????

  • John

    I’m crossing my fingers they steal one of my copyrighted images.I will legally slam them into oblivion. I have the financial records to prove I’ve made my millions on licensing my images and I’ll stick them for the max law allows. Can’t get away with this you juvenile digital deadbeats.

  • 4D2D

    I was hoping this article would tell me how to make 44k a month doing this. If that’s how you make money now-a-days why not? As long as I give credit where credit is due it would be straight.

  • photably

    As an everyday person, I can see why having a “magazine” of interesting photos is .. well interesting. But as an artist and photographer and perhaps as a thinking person that reads history, I find this belongs on the shelf along with the National Enquirer and other cheap “fast food” junk that appeals to our weaknesses and profits at our expense. I drive by McDonalds. I leave tabloids on the shelves. I’ll leave these feeds in the same pile. But many do not. Perhaps the authors don’t care as much about their reputations as they do about money and being twitter famous.

  • rdwoolf

    I don’t believe they are really making the cash they claim. There is nothing at all to earn income from. They post other people’s images on twitter. The images can be viewed directly on Twitter. Nothing about that earns cash. Am I missing something obvious? Do they insert ads into their twitter feed?