Saturday, October 6, 2007

Social Media Gone Bad!

16-year old Alison Chang (pictured left) from Dallas, Texas, went to Australia for Christian camp this past April. Her youth counselor, Justin Ho-Wee Wong, posted this photo on Flickr. Virgin Mobile Australia cut and cropped this photo and used it in their advertising campaign, "Are You With Us or What?" without consent! You can see here how she found out. Her Flickr account name is aleeviation.

According to BusinessWeek, last month the Chang family filed a lawsuit against Virgin Mobile USA LLC, its Australian counterpart, and Creative Commons Corp., the nonprofit that licenses sharing of Flickr photos. Creative Commons does allow others to reuse photos but only if they credit the photographer and say where the photo was taken. The Virgin Mobile ad failed to credit Wong by name. And more importantly, because of the derogatory implications, "The experience damaged Alison's reputation and exposed her to ridicule from her peers and scrutiny from people who can now Google her, the family charged in the lawsuit."

I am apalled that Virgin Mobile would be so cheap and invasive and use Flickr photos for their campaign. And according to this article, this was not the first time.

On a positive note in regards to social media, I have discovered a new tool through this case. is the world's first human-powered search engine that creates organized, comprehensive, and spam free search results for the most popular search terms.
With Mahalo, you can enter a simple search term and instantly get an organized page of results that only includes great links.
I found useful information including news articles, blogs and commentaries through this Mahalo page all in one place!


Ashley B. said...

Very relevant post - there's a big brouhaha going on about Nerve Media/Babble's repeated use of Flickr pictures, even those with all rights reserved - no Creative Commons license to reproduce or reuse anywhere.

Sweet Juniper writes about the problem here -, and there's more on the Sweet Juniper site about the problem as well.

I think it's obvious some companies are just not playing by the rules, and until there is a uniform and pervasive code of ethics for this sort of thing we're going to see cases like this for a long while.

Ashley B. said...

As I read through the Sweet Juniper discussion again, I was reminded of two things I've learned -

1. Don't change your permissions to a Creative Commons license, unless you're okay with your work being used somewhere else. The CC license is something that weakened the plaintiff in the Virgin Mobile case.

2. If you're really concerned you can register your photos with the copyright office - it's $45 for as many photos as you can fit on a disk (into the thousands), and it greatly strengthens your rights in court.

Does anyone know the copyright registration process for writing?

k said...

Here it the pic of ad itself:

Notice how they got rid of the logo on the hat & flipped the pic.

(I had to delete my comment & repost because the link got cut off - hope it works this time!)