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BuzzFeed Specifically Forbids Crediting Photographers in Fan Group

BuzzFeed is a global news organization and entertainment division set on sharing video and content across multiple platforms. You would think they would know a few things about photo rights, but they chose to ignore them.

BuzzFeed runs several different groups for fans of different themes. The group Room of Requirement was made for fans of the “Harry Potter” series. You can find Buzzfeed sharing the group on their site here. Photographer Rebecca Britt is a huge Harry Potter fan, and being a professional working photographer, she found their rules for the group quite unexpected. You are not allowed to credit or link photographers in their work upon sharing in the group. You are also not allowed to post images that have watermarks on them. According to the admins of the group, this falls under spam: no advertising or promoting, no sharing social media pages. 

I think we all understand the “no spam” rule and agree it should be there, but not to this extent. I have been in many groups where you get those fake accounts posting multiple times to buy their cheap sunglasses and other merchandise. Hey, we all hate it, and yes, that shouldn't be allowed. However, allowing photos with watermarks or simply crediting the photographer in a single photo isn't spam.

What happens when you do post a photo with a watermark or you credit the photographer? You'll get a comment from the admin that it violates their group rules and you will have disciplinary actions taken against you. As you can see, there's even a mention of cropping out the watermark so it will be allowed in the group, which directly violates the photographer's copyright. 

Britt even went as far as to inform them that the rule is against copyright laws without success. You can see there are many comments where the admins are informing the members they are in violation. Many of them are no longer a part of the group. This isn't the only group they run and this isn't the only group I have come across with this.

My personal experience was when a local car group tried to use a photographer's photo to produce and sell calendars. When the photographer messaged them about it, an online argument was started and he was removed from the group, with new rules banning photos with watermarks coming shortly thereafter. 

Have you come across any groups with similar rules? What do you think about not allowing photographers to be credited for their work and having their watermarks removed? 

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Alex Cooke's picture

That group admin has a very poor understanding of the difference between usage rights for a photo and copyright of a photo.

Dave F's picture

And "advertising", apparently.

Rebecca Britt's picture

Oh, but apparently she's a "professional photographer".

Eric Mazzone's picture

Hahahahahaha, just because her mom paid her rent once doesn't make her a working professional.

Christos Dikos's picture

It really is amazing how much social media and websites exploit free content.

Jacques Cornell's picture

They're not "exploiting free content". They're misappropriating loaned or stolen content.

Christos Dikos's picture

can't argue with that. I think we mean the same thing.

Peter Kaltoft's picture

Buzzfeed has a bad track record for respect for creators, no matter what type of content. They have already been proven to copy YouTube creators content almost to the detail several times. Im not surprised to see this from them s well, but pisses me off that they get away with it.

Deleted Account's picture

I imagine their policies may change when they do it to someone who has registered their creation, and they get sued for 7 figures.

Rebecca Britt's picture

Buzzfeed really need to think about either replacing their admins with competent ones or properly educating the ones they already have.

Daniel Medley's picture

"Buzzfeed really need to think about either replacing their admins with competent ones ...

Kind of like DPReview.

Nic Hilton's picture

Who is this guy? He sounds like a moron

Mike Dixon's picture

It's simple really. Under the guise of "no advertising" and with no identification of the photographer, Buzzfeed (in their minds) has no reason to believe that the photo is copyrighted and therefore will claim ignorance if they get sued.

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

The only thing that makes sense of what was said there by the Admin was that the Photographer has to be paid to use his work.

Everything else is theft. I see an huge amount of that on social media. People think they can just copy and re-post everything they see online.

David Pavlich's picture

This is true and it's a calculated risk by the perps. The problem is the potential cost to stop an entity from using your image. You have to prove how much you've lost in revenue to be compensated IF, and that's a big IF, you can get the case to court and win. For most of us, it would be a lost cause due to all of the fees required to do so.

But, it can be done. Tony&Chelsea Northrup just went through a long battle with a company in Australia, I believe, and won the case. However, they are published and proved in court the fiscal damages done and won the case.

The court part is what keeps we mortals from pursuing cases of copyright theft. There is a professional photography organization that is working on a path for those of us in the photographic majority that would enable us to take a case to Small Claims Court (US only so far). This would make it possible to have our story told for a fraction of the cost.

Joe Healey's picture

First, it will be unlikely to find an attorney to take your case if your images are not registered with the USCO. However, if the image is registered there are a whole host of remedies available
The legal penalties for copyright infringement may include:

Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits.
The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed.
Infringer pays for all attorneys fees and court costs.
The Court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts.
The Court can impound the illegal works.
The infringer can go to jail.

Buzzfeed will have their day in court. Only a matter of time.

user 65983's picture

Yes and no. You don't need to register your creative works to have a case but it sure does help a lot.

I would love to see Buzzfeed shut down.

David Pavlich's picture

I just read a story that BF is in financial difficulty. It's been asking its members for donations. Doesn't sound good.

Robert Nurse's picture

Note to self: stay away from Buzzfeed.

Leigh Smith's picture

That goes without saying.

user 65983's picture

If you see any of their articles well duhhh....

Rob Davis's picture

It's clear that laws are not going to protect our intellectual property in the future. All signs point to that. All we can do is stop providing them with free content, even for "credit." Only when/if the well of free content dries up will they care.

user 65983's picture

Buzzfeed seems to lack basic knowledge of every know topic anyways.

Jason Ranalli's picture

Rebecca Britt is COMPLETELY right here and I say as someone who doesn't even have the kind of work that is usually stolen.

The problem with entities like this is that until they get a massive financial sting from a BIG entity backed by a law firm they will pretty much do whatever they want and make up the rules.

That being said, Buzzfeed is the same website where people would go to and take a quiz to see what kind of deli meat they would be. At this point in my life I would never bother to go there.

Eric Mazzone's picture

Easy solution, let buzzfeed post an image with a removed watermark, skip the DMCA and sue them for willful infringement based on their history of copyright infringements. Profit.