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Beeb borrows copyrighted Flickr image

TV news surprise for Brum snapper

Well, Mike wrote to the Corporation demanding an explanation, and here it is:

I write in response to your recent email regarding an image used as a backdrop to BBC Birmingham's news studio.

My name is David xxxxxxx and I am the BBC Information Complaints Co-ordinator with responsibility for the BBC's English Regions therefore this matter has been escalated for my personal attention. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying over the Christmas and New Year period.

I have now had the opportunity to investigate this matter with the relevant senior personnel in Birmingham and have set out the circumstances below. The image to which you have referred on Flikr [sic] is indeed that which was visible behind the Birmingham interviewee on the BBC News channel on 18 December. It appears that this came about due to human error.

As you may know, studio images like this are achieved by a colour separation overlay process whereby a green or blue background is replaced electronically by a still image such as a city centre skyline, or a live camera shot such as Big Ben which can been seen showing the current time behind interviewees contributing live to news programmes from our Westminster studio.

The team in Birmingham recently installed new CSO equipment and before it was fully functional, the engineers had to test the cameras and screens and therefore needed an example image to use as a background.

An internet search for images of the Birmingham skyline brought up a photo of the city centre (via a website not connected with your Flikr page) and this was then loaded into the system just as an example backdrop to internally test and calibrate the new equipment.

It was never meant to be used in broadcasts but unfortunately due to an oversight, this internal test image was not deleted before the system was brought fully online.

This is obviously very unfortunate and we apologise most sincerely for this error. The image has been immediately removed from our system to prevent any future reuse.

I hope that by explaining the background to how this situation came about you will see that it certainly was not deliberate. I would note the website from which the image was sourced appeared to make no reference to copyright and had no facility for copyright to be enquired about or validated, although I understand that the image has now been removed from that website.

Nevertheless, we recognise that your image was used on air and would like to offer you a payment of £75 by way of a usage fee on the understanding that this represents final settlement of the matter. If you are agreeable, I would also ask that your image entitled "bbc news 24" on Flikr at be removed along with the comment "why is the BBC using this copyrighted photo of mine on news items" attached to the "Birmingham Skyline" image at

If our proposal is acceptable, perhaps you could contact me personally via and I can arrange for matters to be progressed.

In conclusion, thank you once again for bringing this matter to our attention and allowing me to investigate. Please be assured that this matter has been taken seriously and alongside the immediate action taken to remove the image, senior management will be speaking to those involved to ensure that they have a full understanding of copyright issues for the future.

Yours sincerely

Complaints Co-ordinator
BBC Information

Mike says he's considering the BBC's response and its offer, although he notes he's not entirely satisfied with the explanation. ®

Happy ending update

Mike got in touch this lunchtime to report: "Just to let you know the BBC have resolved the issue. I'm happy with the settlement and have removed any comments I made on Flickr. The BBC may license the photo for future use."

Good stuff, all sorted, big group hug, etc.


The BBC has a nice piece on a sorry Flickr tale which "highlighted the issue of copyright in the online age". Enjoy.

Oh yes, and a heads-up to bitter wallet, which examined the Flickr matter yesterday.

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