Ethical and Legal Concerns in a Digital World

The Amazing Homeboy

Posted in ethical issues,general concerns by digitalprof on December 29, 2005

I Only Wish I Could Write Like Him

For those who don’t know about Paul (Lester) Elliott, Paul Lester, Carlos, or the Amazing Homeboy, I’m want to introduce you.

Paul is a prolific writer on visual ethics, among other things. In fact I consider him one of the best writers I know. It is because of this appreciation of his work that I want to share it with others.

Here is a link to his “writings” site with links to many of his progeny. Do yourself a favor for the New Year and read some of his observations/musings.

His Spiral Web on the Nature of Coincidence is a special treat!


The NPPA Modernized Code of Ethics

Posted in ethical issues by digitalprof on December 29, 2005

Good Guidelines

When it comes to representing the visual (photojournalists and photo editors, still and video) journalism industry the National Press Photographers Association is tops in its field.

Under the guidance of a respected group from industry and academia the NPPA has issued a set of ethics guidelines that address new technologies in the “Digital World.”

A Confusing Legal Situation, At Best

Posted in legal issues by digitalprof on December 29, 2005

 Courts Just Can’t Agree

Two groups of photographers whose work frequently appeared in National Geographic magazine have recently had a new legal hurdle thrown their way courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Douglas Faulkner, Louis Psihoyos and Fred Ward (Faulkner) sued the Geographic in 1997 over the use of their photographs in a CD-ROM collection without their permission, or additional compensation. Jeffrey Greenberg (Greenberg) filed a separate suit against the Geographic in 1998, based on a similar complaint.

Faulkner lost on a summary ruling, and then appealed. The Faulkner appeal was denied. Greenberg won at trial, and then lost in a combined appeal with Faulkner.

The crucial element in both suits was the reuse of the photographers images in a new form…the CD-ROM. What the Supreme Court has ruled is that the reuse of the photographs in the new form was allowable under Copyright Law.

Certainly the cases were not unusual under the auspices of intellectual property as represented by the Copyright Act. The importance of the ruling is that it shows the inability of the current copyright act to address the issues of new technologies.

A Top Award for What?

Posted in ethical issues by digitalprof on December 29, 2005

What A Mockery

The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recently published an “open letter” concerning the SPJ awarding Judith Miller of the New York Times the First Amendment honor at it recent national convention.

To sum-up for those who may not be aware (so where were you that you didn’t hear this story?) Miller went to jail rather than reveal her source for a story appearing in the New York Times concerning information about CIA agent Valerie Plame. Plame is the wife of former United States Ambassador Joe Wilson. Wilson wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times that questioned information in a statement made by President George Bush in his 2003 State of the Union speech.

There has been great debate in media circles regarding this “honor.” If you have some time, and want to read some great venting do a Google search on this subject.

As for my posting…I just could not let the year go by without adding to the questioning of this dubious achievement by a leading organization in the professional world of journalism. And why is this posted on a blog about the “Digital World?” Quite simply, journalism is rapidly becoming a digitally dominated medium. Besides, it’s my blog.

The question I pose is simple: Does a shield law concern outweigh the ethics of “proper” journalism? It really seems to me to be a case of the chicken before the egg. I don’t believe you can have good journalism if a concern for the information received is faulty from the beginning.

For those with their heads still in the ground, the New York Times finally hitched-up their pants and admitted their reporter was “slack” in her duties enough to warrant remideration. Judith Miller was fired/resigned.

And now we will await the news of the source of that leak in the courts. Let’s hope that they do a better job with the truth than award-winning journalists may have done in the past.


Thanks to a comment posted by The Woodchuck I need to make sure to correct what most already know ( I really did know this, but the brain is old…so yup, I got it wrong!)… Ambassador Joe Wilson wrote an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times not a letter to the editor. Later, Wilson wrote a letter to the congressional committee investigating his claim, and that was published in the Times.

Thanks Woodchuck…please read his post…he seems to have an interesting blog. Contribute as you can.

So, who gave Google the right to publish your copyrighted work?

Posted in ethical issues,legal issues by digitalprof on December 29, 2005

Big Mother Won’t Ask Permission

OK, so here’s the lowdown…Google, the mega-web monster, has started their project to copy every known book in print…and for the kicker…WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION!!! Yes, even if you have your work registered with the Copyright office .

As illegal as this sounds its a case of David (us) versus Goliath (Google and their money)…so eventhough some leading writer organizations have voiced their opposition to this “piracy,” Google continues to publish the “stolen” product.

One of my books, Dulce’s Revenge, is on their searchable site…I can only conclude that my publisher gave them the data. So much for my rights.

Oh, BTW, Google says I an “opt-out” of giving them the right to publish my work. Sort of like a bank robber stating that if you don’t want them to rob your bank, you should just say-so now!

What happens to good people and good companies that let them think that they can change the world and its laws? Google used to be a leader in the world of “new technology.” now they have become just an abuser of intellectual property holders. So, why does Google copyright all of their work. I’ll just bet they vigorously defend their copyright.

Copyright laws have a rich history of protecting intellectual property rights, but they just don’t seem to have a place in today’s new digital world.

Associated Press–New Ethics Guidelines

Posted in ethical issues,legal issues by digitalprof on December 27, 2005

AP Addresses Digital Issues

The Associated Press has recently released a statement of News Values and Principles.

While the new guidelines are sweeping for any major news organization it still seems to me that they have no “bite.”

So, what are ethical guidelines about? Is there ever any punishment for violating the codes?

From personal experience, I worked for a major newspaper as a freelancer for eleven years and never received a single written guideline concerning what I could/should do concerning ethics, or for that matter, the law. Of course I was just a photojournalist!

The reporters got an inch-thick set of written guidelines, but not the people that give you the images that are trusted so much.

What do you think? Are ethical guidelines worth anything?

There are some organizations that lead the way in discussions involving ethics and the media. The Poynter Institute is a leader in the field. And, in the field of academic journals, the Journal of Mass Media Ethics has published for over twenty years on the subject.