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Pavel Polosin describes PenzaNews future illegal photo use lawsuit priorities

16:48 | 21.05.2016 | Society

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Penza, 21 May 2016. PenzaNews. The PenzaNews editor-in-chief Pavel Polosin has commented on the situation related to copyright lawsuits that will be initiated by the agency’s founding body “VolgaInterMedia,” and also described the future priorities for such illegal photo use lawsuits.

Pavel Polosin describes PenzaNews future illegal photo use lawsuit priorities

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“This week ended up very lawsuit-intensive for us. On May 17, the Intellectual Rights Court declined the appeal by ‘VPenze.ru,’ and the very same court declined a similar complaint from ‘Penza-Press’ on May 18. Moreover, the next main session on Tuzov’s case was held on the same day. On May 19, the Penza region Arbitration Court held a session on compensation of court expenses related to the ‘Penza-Press’ lawsuit. Also, on May 20, we held a meeting with a founder of one of the Penza media sources – I will not divulge the name – related to out-of-court settlement for compensation of illegal photo use. In order to avoid any wrong thoughts that already began to appear thanks to certain people, I find it important to explain the stance of PenzaNews on a number of issues,” Pavel Polosin said during an informal meeting with media representatives held in Penza on Saturday, May 21.

According to him, the notion that PenzaNews took an unethical position against certain media sources by resorting to lawsuits, generated by certain parties, has no factual basis.

“When it comes to unethical, this word is better to be used to describe ‘stealing’ photos from your very colleagues, taking something that does not belong to you, and putting somebody else’s product as your own. But is the ethical side of the question really that important for the people who just need to fill in their ad-free newspaper space with information, because the ads were already sold and the money transferred? A lawsuit is a forced measure when the talks have no effect, when the people do not hear us and even laugh at us, because they believe to be above the law. Now this is what is unethical,” Pavel Polosin explained.

Over the past five years, he reminded, there were a number of situations, including with “Pro Gorod Penza” newspaper [founded by “Penza-Press,”] when PenzaNews staff called the media sources with requests to put up active hyperlinks to the news messages quoted on the websites.

“Actually, hyperlinking to the quoted news agency is obligatory when the information is reprinted by other media. This is included in the Media Law, but not everyone adheres to it. Also, the link to the news agency saves the quoting media sources from being held responsible for its contents. Again, it is mentioned in the law, but apparently few people know that. Personally, I do not understand the issues that prevent them from hyperlinking to the news agency that provided the information,” said the PenzaNews editor-in-chief.

He also rebuked the notion that PenzaNews is allegedly trying to siphon money out of their colleagues in the field by “shaking the last few rubles” out of them, causing some of the sources to cut staff or even close down.

“I heard there was a practice when an employer – usually the media founder – when faced with an illegal photo use lawsuit, tries to redirect all financial responsibility related to the violation upon the exact person responsible – a reporter, designer, or editor-in-chief. In other words, the ‘guilty’ person ends up losing a part of its salary, which they could have received as job premiums, over the span of several months. But that is entirely an employer-employee situation in each separate media sources. Why must we end up being guilty for these sanctions? Because we expressed our legitimate claims or initiated the lawsuit? No. Please, do not mix up the notions. If there are any real attempts to ‘throw down the burden’ of an employer on an employee’s shoulders in Penza, we must speak openly about it. If that happens, I believe many other journalists will show solidarity, write about it, and eventually enforce the employer to change their mind,” Pavel Polosin said.

According to him, the same can be said about the media websites where the front of a media source hides a single man who attempts to generate an editorial office’s worth of bustling activity and earn money through advertising.

“A one-man-band, that’s how it must be called. We all know that such people exist. Sitting in their homes very nearly in their pajamas, because they have no money even for the office, stamping out newspieces of questionable quality with somebody else’s photos, and offer services at predatory pricing. And with all that, they claim themselves to be ‘news agencies’ and confusing their users. According to them, somebody else, like us, must bear the expenses to produce high-quality product, pay salaries, taxes, rent costs and so on, while somebody else will just ‘steal’ them with no punishment to follow. And if any claims arise, they begin to squeal about ‘suppressing’ the ‘free press.’ An excellent approach – an absurd one, but a very much existing practice, very Penza-style,” Pavel Polosin remarked sarcastically.

He also reminded about the arrival of PenzaNews to the media market 9 years ago and its fight for “a place under the sun” with no supplementary administrative or material support, unlike other media sources that were being created or already working for certain purposes.

“PenzaNews is a private independent news agency created in 2007 by a group of like-minded people. As you remember, until our rebranding in 2011, we had very few photos on our website. Practically none, I would say. The website practically worked as a text-only newsreel, like REGNUM or Interfax back then. We had no photos produced by ourselves or somebody else to attach to the photos. Obviously, we were at a big disadvantage compared to the websites that wrote about the same events but with somebody else’s photos. Text and photos looks much better, attractive and professional than text only, no doubt. But in 2011, five years ago, we decided to focus on producing our own photos. That was when we began the production of our own photo archive, which became a photo chronicle of Penza. Over these five years, we published dozens of thousands of photos produced by PenzaNews staff – mostly with pro-level expensive equipment, which helped our photos be bright, beautiful and enticing. This requires enormous hard work – work by people who work on creating high-quality content day to day, and received praises at many levels, including very high up. This is paid work, and it required colossal effort and expenses, both in financial and technical terms. And when people tell me: ‘Really, is it so difficult to just point a camera and shoot?’ I just cannot understand these people. Honestly. Really. Only complete amateurs can thinks this way, not professionals. The professionals know the cost of their work and their labor. And again, people also ask me: ‘How can a photo cost 25,000 rubles?’ It’s not the cost of a photo. It is the cost of a compensation for its illegal use. A fine, basically. The production cost of a photo is defined by a number of factors, but the size of the compensation is determined by the court within the limits set by the Civil Code – from 10,000 to 5,000,000 rubles for each act of illegal use. Please, explain to me – what is this obstacle that prevents a person who wants to use the photo to purchase the use rights legally by signing an agreement? Why do these thoughts get to their minds only when the Arbitration Court gets to deal with a lawsuit against them?” Pavel Polosin asked, adding that the use rights purchasing mechanism is already implemented and successful abroad.

“And nobody there even has a thought to use what’s not theirs without a permission, unlike some people do in Russia. If a publishing house needs a photo or a video, they ask the copyright holder, discuss the terms and sign an agreement. Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that there is a streamlined information market abroad, while we have none. Maybe because the whole notion of property was never being destroyed and demolished on the West, unlike we had it done to us? For 70 years through, the Communists were telling each generation that everything around them belongs to everyone. And I think the current problem lies either in the poor knowledge of the law or the lack of any wish to know the laws of the copyright – in our case, the photo intellectual copyright,” the PenzaNews editor-in-chief said.

He also pointed out that when it comes to the claims, instead of apologizing and reaching an amicable compromise, the violating parties begin to justify their actions and crying innocent.

According to Pavel Polosin, following the current legislation will spare anyone from any claims.

“I heard another strange opinion – some say that in order to avoid PenzaNews lawsuits, better not take anything from them: instead, they say, take from somebody else who will issue no claims like they do. Again, to rephrase them, what do they think? Go ahead, steal on! But not from them, from others! Do they really think that those other parties will issue no claims later on? They will. And with extreme prejudice, when they realize they have a precedent on their hands. So what should everyone do, actually? Either produce their own content – which is, obviously, very expensive in large amounts; or buy them from the copyright holders – again, expenses; or use them on fair use basis with copyright holder’s permission. So we end up in a situation when you either pay, or ask for permission and link to the source. As for PenzaNews, a number of reporters and publishing houses regularly call us and ask us for permissions to use photos, the rules behind linking to them, and so on. And then we know that the newspaper ‘So-And-So’ will have our photo on a certain date. Obviously, such media sources will never be targeted by lawsuits, as they use our content fairly and properly. However, some apparently have something that prevents them from subduing their pride, pick up a phone and call us, or write us a letter with questions. This is why the PenzaNews website has terms of use of information, photos and videos, including for such people. Just begin using them, and there will be no claims,” Pavel Polosin summed up.

In conclusion of the informal meeting, the PenzaNews editor-in-chief thanked the colleagues for finding the time to meet, and urged them to respect each other’s work.

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