Progressive politics, ideas & culture


the self-correcting internet touches down in Iceland

This Magazine Staff

(photo courtesy Rebekka)
This one’s got everything I love — a copyright fight, great photography, Iceland, some folks behaving badly and genuine contrition. Maybe there is something to this internet thing after all.
Most everyone has by now heard of the talented Rebekka Gudleifsdottir, a Flickr photography star of the highest order. Rebekka’s stunning Icelandic landscapes and moody, broody self-portraits have attracted threes of millions of views on the photo-sharing site. Perhaps inevitably, her Flickr success has also attracted some crappy behaviour.
Long story as short as possible: Rebekka became aware that a company in England was selling copies of her images without her permission. She posted a note about this flagrant copyright violation on Flickr. The posting attracted hundreds of comments and started one of those famous internet tornadoes, with the discussion spreading out into photography and copyright fora the world over.
The plot twist: The infringing company started to receive some nasty messages from outraged Rebekka supporters and, presumably, complained to Flickr. Flickr removed Rebekka’s post and all the comments from their site, apparently worried that their site was being used for harrassment.
The return: Rebekka posted her disappointment about the Flickr removal, and mused about the value of staying on the site. Flickr took a good long look in the mirror, asked itself why it was punishing one of its superstars, and apologized.
Here are some quotes from Stewart Butterfield, a Flickr co-founder (good Canadian boys always apologize):
“… I have a pretty good idea that we screwed up — and for that I take full responsibility (actually, several team members are fighting to take responsibility).
There are several policies which will be changing as a direct result of this incident and the goal is that nothing like this ever happens again. Any errors from now on should be on the side of caution.
It’s important to be clear why the photo was deleted: it had nothing to do with a desire to silence Rebekka from calling attention to the outfit which had reportedly sold copies of her photos without knowledge or permission and without compensating her…
So, to Rebekka: Our apologies. I’m sure you did not intend to bring on the firestorm to the extent it developed, you were not in the wrong and it was our fault to suggest that you were.”
UPDATE: Coverage in the BBC

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