PUNGO — Early last month, I saw an online ad attacking Bobby Hanig, chairperson of the Currituck County, N.C., Board of Commissioners, while he was still seeking the Republican nomination to be the North Carolina State Representatives in District 6.
I was not shocked to see it because the campaign had its share of mudslinging. But something about incumbent state Rep. Bev Boswell’s ad, which clicked through to her campaign website, seemed awfully familiar.
It used a photo I shot last year of Hanig while reporting on issues with fire service on Knotts Island. The Boswell campaign did this without either seeking permission or compensating The Independent News for its use.
That’s not okay. This was not fair use or satire. It was a clear violation of the copyright held by this small business that paid to produce the photo with time, effort and — since the paper is based in Pungo — lots of gasoline.
I would neither allow such a political use nor accept money from a politician to use our journalism this way. Most people may not care about this sort of thing, but it matters to me because we try to do things right and don’t want readers think we’re helping one politician rough up another.
This is a lot different than selling space to a clearly marked campaign ad, which is a thing we do as long as it doesn’t contain personal attacks and meets our advertising standards.
To its credit, the Boswell campaign responded, apologized and said the ads would be changed.
And Hanig is now the Republican nominee in the district after defeating Boswell in Tuesday, May 8, primary voting.
So there is that.
I protect our copyright because this sort of work is what our community newspaper produces. I am happy to allow use of photos by community organizations when they ask, especially nonprofits. I cannot remember ever charging anybody for such use, even when they offer to pay, so long as it is not for commercial or political purposes.
You need to ask because we made and own this work. But, usually, simply asking is about the size of it.
It turned out the Boswell campaign was not the only organization to use the image of Hanig without my permission.
I searched the image online after this matter came up and found it was used earlier this year by a North Carolina political blog — in a post criticizing Hanig, naturally.
I sent them a note asking them to take it down. Someone from the blog replied without providing their name.
“Hate to be difficult here,” they wrote. “But the documentation where we found this photo didn’t mention you or your paper.”
Of course not.
I have not yet had a further response, though I still have questions about where they got it, but the blogger swapped out the photo with another one of Hanig.
If a Google image search is to be believed, they took the new one from another newspaper.
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