I contemplated if I should address this on my blog or let my visitors never know, but I think the underlying issue is important to expose.
Yesterday afternoon I received a call from the chief photo editor at the Dallas Morning News. David Woo started the conversation with a hello. He knew my name, got my cell number, and wanted to know where I lived.
When he said he was from the Dallas Morning News, I thought he was calling about a request I made with Cowboys beat writer Calvin Watkins for a short interview on my blog.
I didn’t think Watkins would turn around and inform his colleagues that I was using a picture, albeit sourced from where I got it, without direct permission.
The picture, according to Mr. Woo, came from a television station DMN owns. The DMN doesn’t have any protection on its photos. One can easily download them from the Web onto a computer and keep them. Using them, according to Woo, is a different story.
I made it clear to Watkins that I am also a journalist. I guess that didn’t matter to him. He never even replied to my request. He just ratted me out for this petty incident. If my use of the photo lacked permission, Watkins’ actions lacked class.
That request resulted in a bizarre phone call from Mr. Woo. Here is how it went:
Woo: Hey Dan (he said my last name), this is David Woo at the Dallas Morning News.
Me: Ohh, hey, David. What’s up?
Woo: Where exactly do you live?
Me: I live in Virginia, why?
Woo: Well, I need to send you an invoice.
Me: An invoice? For what?
Woo: Well, I checked your Web site and you have a picture of Tony Romo’s thumb wrapped up. That’s our picture. You didn’t ask permission to use it. I’ve got to charge you for that picture.
Me: Charge me? Why? I will just take it down. There’s no harm with the picture being up there. I source it to the TV station that took it.
Woo: Yeah, well, we charge for use of our pictures. You make money off that Web page, don’t you? You can’t just use our pictures without permission.
Me: OK, I will take it down, David. There’s no reason to charge me for it. I’m not sure what the problem really is here. It’s a picture of Tony Romo’s thumb wrapped in a bandage. I doubt this is front-page stuff. I don’t get it.
Woo: OK, well, I will give you this one chance. But I’m here to help you. Listen, I love the Dallas Cowboys as much as anyone. But just ask for permission if you want to use any of our stuff.
That’s where the call pretty much ended. But I was irritated. You Google my name and my articles are plastered all over the Internet on various Web pages. My work on exposing serious flaws with the indigent defense system in this state has been carried by publications all over the place. I would never think of demanding they pay me for it. But I understand the principle of the argument.
I reviewed the fair use doctrine and Mr. Woo has every right to ask me to take the picture down. But does he gain from this? Does anyone gain from it? Are there times when a picture shouldn’t be used, and times when it really shouldn’t matter? Apparently, Mr. Woo drew the line in the sand. Watkins gave him the stick to do it. I couldn’t tell if he was playing a game with me or if he was honestly upset. It just blew my mind, really.
I respect the Dallas Morning News and their photographers. I meant no harm.
I didn’t think the approach of Mr. Woo was much to woo over, though. And I certainly lost a bit of love for Watkins, my favorite Cowboys writer. I mean, come on Watkins, you like to play like that? You can’t even reply to my e-mail with a simple “not interested?” You turn me in for something as petty as this? Give me a break, Watkins. Give me a break Dallas Morning News.
Here I come Fort Worth Star Telegram.
The Landry Hat is considering a ban on the use of photos. Blogging the Boys rarely uses photos and Grizz told me today that he doesn’t use them because he has deep respect for copyright laws. Although he’s never had a situation like this happen to him, he has avoided it with his policy. I know you all don’t care, I imagine, if I use photos or not. I bet many come here to see what goofy post I will make from day to day. But this time, I am pretty serious about this. I was bummed. I feel scarred from the Cowboys home newspaper. Personally, pictures help brighten the blog. They make a blog more interesting. But is it worth the risk of having corporate big guys sending you bills or lawsuits? Hell no! This is a lesson to all bloggers out there: Beware. The next Dallas Morning News may come down on you.