two sides to every story – a dilemna

I have a dilemna due to using a Creative Commons (CC) licence on one of my photographs on flickr. The photo is part of a project that I did in 2006 for the flickr UTATA group which aimed to tells the positives and negatives of having aspergers syndrome to increase awareness of the realities and dispell some of the myths surrounding the autistic spectrum. It was called ‘Two sides to every story‘.  Some of you will already know that on flickr I am called Norma Desmond, so if people follow the my CC attricution, non commercial licence then they should credit the photo to Norma Desmond…

I have stated on my photography website that I use my photography to promote positive aspects of autism and to raise awareness and I do link to the UTATA story and a youtube video on there. I have always responded positively when people have approached me to use these – either for an academic paper, conference presentation or blog post.

I realise that applying an open licence means that I can’t really control how people use my content. Indeed my recent work on the synthesis and evaluatuon team for the JISC/HE Academy UK Open Educational Resources (OER) Programme highlighted this very issue as a significant barrier for academics sharing their learning materials openly. The fear that their work will be mis-represented or wrongly interpreted can prevent people sharing their teaching materials.

I do hope (perhaps foolishly) that people who want to use my work might inform me. I guess most of the time if they don’t ask you are unlikely to find out. However today I was watching a youtube video about colleges making adaptions for students with aspergers syndrome I scanned down the list of suggested videos. I noticed one that had the blue  picture of my son which is fairly recognisable.

So I eagerly clicked on the video to see how it had been used. It’s a long video loaded by  ‘psychetruth’ by some one called Dr John Breeding PhD Psychologist. I could write 5 or more blog posts addressing a variety of his points, including the issue around vaccinations causing autism and some of the ‘treatments’ he talks about. However his main point is that Aspergers syndrome doesn’t really exist. I find it odd then that he chose to use my photo as I am passionate about highlighting the very real and complex needs of people with aspergers syndrome. Basically there are three main issues here:

  • spurious use of my photo (although attributed to norma desmond) which is not referred to or relevant to any of his lecture. I contest that it is placed in the middle of the video so that the picture shows when static. I suggest that he is using my beautiful and autistic son to get people to click on his annoying, long winded and highly irritating video. This is my main objection.
  • he has not approached me and asked to use it (indeed technically he didn’t have to) but I have asked him to remove because I’m not happy with how he has used it. Maybe he will remove it at my request. But do I have the right to ask him??
  • Should I continue to use this licence for my photos of my son or do I risk someone else using them in a way I am unhappy with. I know that some people wont post any photos of their children online for this very reason. I don’t think this will stop me but as my son get’s older he may begin to object to this possibility.

I am asking you – my social networking friends and my working colleagues to add your thoughts about this. Are you a photographer, an oer enthusiast, a parent or carer of someone with autism, a person with autism? If you will take a moment to go to the video and ‘like’ (give a thumbs up) to my comment to keep it high up on the page then I hope it may ebncourage him to remove my photo.

Do you think I’m being unreasonable asking him to remove it? I am interested in your thoughts.

By |November 18th, 2010|autism, learning|10 Comments


  1. techno-mole November 18, 2010 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    I would have to say that if the photo has been used with out prior consent or even a credit back to you then I’d have to contact the person or persons involved an either ask them for the credit and link back to the photo or remove it forth with, with the threat of possible legal action, although I have to say I’m not fully aware of what the laws are regarding this kind of thing, I too use flickr but I guess I’ve been lucky in that no one has used any of my images, at least to the best of my knowledge.
    Even if you don’t want to go down the legal route a line or to noting you as the source of the image would be the least they could do, as well as an apology.
    Just out of interest have you heard of image stamper ? it’s a website that allows you to time stamp your flickr images, which help prove they are yours, should things like this happen, it’s free and easy to use —>

  2. joker the lurcher November 18, 2010 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    i got bored with his video after about 10 seconds so i didn’t get to your pic. if he said sensible stuff about autism that would be one thing but if he comes out with a load of cobblers he has a bloody nerve. i’d write to him asking him to take it out but if he refuses your best bet would be to rise above it and comfort yourself with the thought that he has rubbish taste in ties…

  3. David Gray November 19, 2010 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Lou you have copyright of the photo, so the Dr bloke should at least credit you with the photo!
    If he hasn’t then send in the boys if you like?
    Dave x

  4. Phil Barker November 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Hello Lou, I think one thing to bear in mind hear is that copyright is not everything. Although I understand it is difficult to enforce, I think that the moral rights you hold in the image (especially the right to object to derogatory treatment) mean that it is perfectly reasonable for you to ask for him to remove the image.

    Should you continue to use cc-by for photos of your son? Dunno: what does he think?

  5. Paul Hollins November 19, 2010 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    One of the risks of copyright. although he does accredit you.

    I would make an “ethical” request to remove the image and cleary raise your objections to its use in this context.

    I don’t suppose he will listedn though given his perspective on the issues but you can try…

  6. Doug Belshaw November 19, 2010 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Lou, I haven’t watched the video but trust your opinions on it.

    There’s two issues here, both of which I’ve had to grapple with (although not to quite such a focused extent)

    First, who can use your stuff and (more importantly) how do you enforce ‘correct’ use?

    Second, when is it OK to use photos of your family members and (more importantly) how do you enforce ‘correct’ use?

    As you can see, both aspects came down to the same issue – at least for me. That’s why photos of my son will only (apart from the very odd one on Flickr) are on Picasa web albums with family-only permissions. And my blog is ‘uncopyrighted’.

    I understand that you’re using photos of your son to promote understanding of autism. It’s just that whilst CC-licensing is a noble thing to do, it’s utterly unenforceable on a personal level.

  7. Mike McSharry November 19, 2010 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    Very difficult one – it’s forcing me to think about the pictures I’ve put on flickr.

    It almost falls down to lowest common denominator again. We all have to have CRBs working with kids because a miniscule proportion of us are not to be trusted. But do we really want to remove cc facilities because a tiny number of users may use our pictures out of context?

    Hindsight is always wonderful, and I think with hindsight some of the pictures you’ve published would perhaps have been provided in a different way.

  8. John Robertson November 19, 2010 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Hi Lou,

    sorry to hear about this.

    as Phil pointed out there’s the consideration of moral rights issues – though I suspect you’d have difficulty forcing him to comply if YouTube didn’t see it as a problem (realistically I suspect would be youtube’s choice not a court’s ).

    On what may be a minor point because of a possible fair use argument (IANAL 🙂 ) – your license on the photo is CC: BY SA. His licence on the video is “Copyright © CAEST 2008. All Rights Reserved. This video may be displayed in public, copied and redistributed for any strictly non-commercial use in its entire unedited form. Alteration or commercial use is strictly prohibited.” I’m pretty sure that completely disregards your license terms on those grounds- can you ask youtube to take this down unless your image is removed ?

  9. Emily Goodhand November 22, 2010 at 8:58 am - Reply

    Hi Lou,

    What John says is correct – you’ve clearly marked your image with a CC-BY-SA licence and therefore this video being copyrighted is in breach of the way you share your image. It’s not fair use / fair dealing as he has used it purely for illustration (I confess to not having watched the video but believe your account). As for moral rights, you do have these in a photograph, and the CC licence does state clearly that the licence in no way detracts from the author’s moral rights or any other rights (e.g. privacy and publicity).

    People should be careful when using images of minors anyway, but they may not be aware. The only way you could control (I use it loosely as some people tend to do what they want anyway) the use of this image would be to stick an ‘All Rights Reserved’ licence on it.

    I would contact the author of the video and request that he remove the image, which shouldn’t be too hard for him to do. As you say, he is also capitalising on the beauty of the image to promote his video (as it’s on the front page), which is a form of advertising, which you do not allow as your licence is strictly non-commercial.

    Feel free to contact me though if you have any further questions or need any more help!

    All the best,


    Follow me on Twitter! @copyrightgirl

  10. Lou Mcgill December 6, 2010 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read this and offer your thoughts.

    I have written to the person who publishes the videos and asked her to remove the image.

    Hopefully this will result in removal and the end of this story. I will update here as it happens…

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