China's largest stock photo flinger has been forced to backtrack after it tried to put its own price tags on images of the first black hole and the Chinese flag.
Visual China Group reportedly tried to hawk out the first-ever image of a supermassive black hole and its shadow, which was the painstaking work of boffins running the Event Horizon Telescope.
The Visual China Group has announced that they have the copyright of the #BlackHole image. And all the people in China should pay for it if they use it in anywhere. What a tragic day is! pic.twitter.com/IWPgqV9uDf— Melon_NG (@MelonNG_CN) April 12, 2019
The website is reported to have tried to suck users into payment, describing the picture, on which it affixed its logo, as an "editorial image" and directed users to dial a customer rep to discuss commercial use.
According to Reuters, the firm said it had obtained a non-exclusive editing licence for the project for media use – but it was widely understood the images were released under a Creative Commons licence, specifically CC BY 4.0.
The pic pushers were also said to have drawn criticism for asking for payment for images such as China's flag and logos of companies including Baidu.
After the Tianjin city branch of China's internet overseer stepped in, Visual China apologised and said that it would "learn from these lessons" and "seriously rectify" the problem.
It blamed issues with non-compliant pictures that had been provided by contributors, but said it didn't properly review the images and that this had revealed "weak links" in its management.
It concluded its statement by saying it apologised again to "the majority of netizens and society!"
The Chinese stock-pic giant has worked on multiple distribution deals with US pic titan Getty Images since at least 2006, according to marketing bumf on its site. ®