Bil Browning

Rachel Maddow stole from Bilerico Project!

Filed By Bil Browning | December 10, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: copyright infringement, hanging nooses, intellectual property, Rachel Maddow, solution to gay marriage

Remember this hateful sign from the Indianapolis rally sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage? gay-hate-sign.jpgThe photo took the internet by storm and since I knew it would be popular, I put a watermark on the bottom to show we owned the copyright on the photo and who took it.

On Wednesday night's Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel interviewed the author of the "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda. The interview was very well done and at the end of the segment she went on a rant about violence against LGBT people.

Unfortunately, the show also stole our intellectual property by showing our picture on air without giving us any credit whatsoever. In fact, they cut off the watermark entirely. Check it out after the jump.

maddow-screenshot.jpg

They put the photographer's name at the very top of the picture - although it was so small it's practically illegible - but you can compare the two pictures to see that they obviously cut off the watermark. You can click the screenshot of Maddow's report to see it bigger.

We get lots of requests to use that picture. Just this week a documentary maker wrote and asked permission to include it in the film. We said yes. We've given permission to anyone who has written to ask and we've even offered to send publications or filmmakers the version of the photo that doesn't include the watermark in exchange for a note that says where the photo originated or a line in the credits.

But the Maddow Show didn't even bother to write and ask permission from either Bilerico Project or the photographer. They just lifted it off the internet, cut off the watermark, and included it on the program.

Since Rachel is a progressive lesbian, we've often shown clips from her show and we've helped to pump the show. Would it have killed her staff to show the same consideration for another media outlet that showcases LGBT pundits?


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C'mon, Bil... they found the photo on the internet, that makes it public domain, right? Perhaps you should be thankful they didn't charge you for photo editing services.

OMG, that article nearly made me pee myself with disbelief. The audacity of some people... Thank you for the link.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | December 10, 2010 1:26 PM

An intellectual property attorney really ought to comment on this, but I've googled several places and all of them seem to suggest that simply posting something entitled to copyright doesn't lose that status by being put in the public domain simply by being put on the Internet. There could be other factors unique to this particular situation, though.

Don't blame Rachel. She probably had nothing to do with making the graphic. One of her producers probably put a request into NBC's Art Department for an anti-gay marriage graphic and some peon wherever that is did a Google Image search and found it.

Trust me. That happens more often than people think.

I'm gonna have to give Rachel Maddow the benefit of the doubt here. A quick Google images search shows several copies of the same photo with the watermark cropped off. She probably found a previously-altered, uncredited copy of the photo on the Internet and used that for the show. There's no proof she was knowingly stealing Bilerico's intellectual property.

It's unfortunate, but I guess this is a good lesson to put a semi-transparent Photoshop layer with the watermark info right over the actual sign next time. (If you can't afford Photoshop, free photo editors like GIMP can do it too). It's possible to watermark it without obscuring the text; you just need a little image-editing know-how.

(On a positive note, I found more credited copies of the image than I found uncredited copies, meaning some people on the internet still have common decency.)

Have you contacted MSNBC or Rachel Maddow to ask that she credit Bilerico for the photo?

Maddow would probably have a strong "fair use" defense, which allows you to use another's copyrighted work for the purpose of criticism, news reporting, or commentary.

It may be in bad journalistic taste to remove the attribution but that won't change the copyright infringement analysis.

Gee, maybe while she is apologizing for erasing your credit, she will apologize for erasing trans ppl...

Oh dear LORD, get over yourself. Considering your site's "most popular" posts include "First all Israeli gay porn movie" and "Prince William's penis pictures," you shouldn't be surprised nobody felt particularly inclined to associate themselves with you.

Also, the photog's name is enough. Whether you think it's big enough is irrelevant.

Face it, you don't care that they "stole" from you (and you're aware this is an overreaction) - you just wanted your name on the Rachel Maddow Show.

auntie_alias auntie_alias | December 11, 2010 6:27 PM

Good one, Alex, took the words right outta my mouth.

Um, if she didn't want to be associated with bilerico, then what's she doing stealing our property?

And did she ever stop and ask herself if we wanted to support her show? I personally find her show stupid, a perfect example of what a liberal pundit would look like if created by wealthy reactionaries.

Speaking of which, why do you always show up in threads that go semi-meta to say you hate bilerico? Why are you still reading this site?

These montages of clips that are often shown over interviews and speeches and the sorts seem to be done so the host rarely even knows what's being shown when the camera isn't on them, so I wouldn't blame Maddow completely.

Still, it's shoddy journalistic practices for her. If I, as someone who writes about politics in my spare time can take the time to ask Bil to use the photograph on my blog, I think MSNBC could've gotten an intern to track down the source of the photo.

As for Kenan's comment, while I'm not an attorney, fair use seems to be more lenient when it comes to use that isn't for a profit IE academia. While Maddow's show itself isn't making money, the commercials shown during the show's time slot IS.

Rachel tension. I hope she chimes in.

You're kidding right? 1) It was used in a news program. 2) Credit was given. Fair use, they don't have to ask permission.

This is super ridiculous. You know, NOM got YouTube to remove clips of the TRMS because it contained content owned by NOM (their Storm commercial auditions). But they couldn't get it removed from the show because the press is allowed to, you know, report things.

This is really dickish of you, Bil. Really.

It's a photo of someone's original poster, so just exactly whose intellectual property is it and at what point was it "stolen??

With all that Rachel does for our community... especially while she was cutting that swine off at his ankles? GMAB!

John Rutledge | December 11, 2010 12:11 PM

I am with the GMAB. Do we really need to be making her wrong to make ourselves important? We love Rachel. She is a daily part of our lives.

I don't think TRMS would have been legally obligated or anything, but properly crediting the photo would have been the nice and morally proper thing to do. Considering how often they complain when their own clips are used by others, they really should be striving to set a better example in their own work.

It was credited. It's always the photographer that's supposed to be credited.

I've never heard of TRMS complaining of people using their clips. They let people upload clips to YouTube and everything.

I disagree. On TRMS as well as many other news-oriented programs, the most common practice is to name the photog when available, but when the picture is taken from another media offering also including something along the lines of "Courtesy of..." or using the photog's name and ..."for (wherever the pic appeared first)".

In all honesty, while it may not be technically required by law, I think it's just bad form and frankly more than a little arrogant to just take content that appears in other media, particularly those media which are not making bazillions of dollars marketing their content, and fail to give credit for that content to the media outlet that originally published it.

The way I see it, it's a small enough courtesy that I believe we should be able to expect someone like Rachel and a channel like MSNBC to at least make an effort to adhere to it.

This is completely inflammatory and disengenuous. The photographer was credited so there has been no copyright violation and under Fair Use I don't believe a reporter is obligated to list all the places where an image has appeared (even the first place that image may have appeared).

If you don't like TRMS, don't report about the show but this is just petty and childish and irrelevant to the large issue of the story on which she was reporting and it makes The Bilerico Project seem more interested in some kind of playground clique war than in reporting.

The title of this article is ridiculous. Nothing was "stolen" from you and to the extent that the photo was used (mind you, with full credit given to the photographer) there is no evidence that Rachel Maddow her self made the decision about how the photo would appear. That seems more like a producer or graphics editor decision.

Perhaps The Bilerico Project could simply have written to TRMS and suggested or requested that its name be mentioned (did this happen? was there a response? if so, what was the response?)

But at the end of the day, it's not YOUR photo. It's the photographers' and the image itself belongs to whomever credited the hatefilled poster.

Rachel Maddow's way or presenting analysis hasn't change from the time she had her own radio show til now and I credit her hugely for maintaining her stance.

You don't have to like her politics or watch her show but slinging baseless mud at another LGBT news outlet because you don't like the network on which it appears seems bitter and haterISH.


Journalists may use any photo for a newsworthy event, as long as they give credit. This is settled case law.

Similarly, copyright restrictions are eased under "Fair Use" exemptions for publishers (video, audio, or printed) for items depending on the length of the matter used, if it's for satirical purposes, etc.

Do you REALLY think Jon Stewart gets *permission* to run those clips he uses to embarrass folks?

Same goes for TRMS and any other news outlet. They found a newsworthy photo, gave the photographer credit, and discussed the content of the photo, which was a poster.

If you truly think there's an issue of copyright infringement or theft, what about the photographer who "stole" the image of the poster?

Hey Bill,

Give her a call and ask for the recognition you desire. I'm pretty sure if you take the direct method of dissatisfaction to the source you will have a better outcome than posting here.