nettime's_hatchet_man on Sun, 6 Sep 2015 04:12:42 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Getty imposing fee, NDA on bloggers for meme


Getty Is Quietly Charging Bloggers For 'Socially Awkward Penguin' Meme

One of the Internet's favorite jokes belongs to the photo service.

Sara Boboltz

Entertainment Editor, The Huffington Post

Posted: 09/05/2015 11:34 AM EDT

Around the spring of 2009, some nerds began adding macro text to a photo
of a penguin on the Internet. According to Know Your Meme, this became
what's now known as the Socially Awkward Penguin meme -- a format for
sharing two-line stories on cringeworthy social encounters.

You've probably seen it on Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter, Imgur,
Tumblr, BuzzFeed or some other Internet culture-obsessed place. And
Getty Images -- which owns the rights to the original penguin photo --
is apparently none too happy about that. If you run a blog, you might
want to be careful about posting SAP.

In a written statement, Getty confirmed to HuffPost that it has "pursued
and settled certain uses" of the photo "in instances where it has been
used without a license." (Disclosure: The Huffington Post is a Getty
subscriber.) One affected blog, however, wants to get the word out.

GetDigital editors explained in a post on the site this week how Getty
had contacted them about a three-year-old post featuring the SAP meme.
After a few written exchanges, the image service requested EU785.40
(around $875) in license fees -- about twice what the blog says it would
regularly cost for a publication its size to use the image for three
years. They paid the hefty sum out of court and deleted the offending
images, but Getty had one more request. GetDigital said the company
forbade them from talking to others about the copyright issue or else
risk official legal action.

"Apparently this method is very successful," the editors wrote, "but of
course it will not work on us." In addition to sharing their experience,
the editors created a new SAP meme for anyone to use.

Getty clarified in another written statement that, in copyright
situations, it usually requests specific details of the settlement to be
kept confidential. The company referred HuffPost to image licensing
information available freely on its website.

With the right Google search, the original image is easy to find. "An
Adelie penguin struts its stuff" reads the caption for the photo, taken
by now-80-year-old George F. Mobley for National Geographic. A handy
"calculate price" button sits next to it -- GetDigital used this to
estimate its dues -- with editorial fees ranging from a few hundred U.S.
dollars to thousands.

Internet memes, though, can pose sticky copyright questions. To whom
does an image that's been recontextualized and rewritten a billion
times, privately and publicly, really belong? Reuters does not seem to
have pursued legal action against any of the many, *many* sites that
posted the "McKayla Is Not Impressed" meme during the Summer 2012
Olympics. The production company behind the 2004 film "Downfall" filed a
copyright claim in 2010 against all the YouTube videos repurposing a
scene showing Hitler's rage. (Many of the videos remain online.) But
later, the owners of two hugely famous memes -- Keyboard Cat and Nyan
Cat -- won a lawsuit against Warner Brothers in 2013, which used their
images in a video game called Scribblenauts. (The meme creators were
eventually paid.)

Getty represents more than 200,000 artists who, it points out in the
statement, "are entitled to be paid" just as the owner of Keyboard Cat
(RIP). And, as always, we can probably blame 4chan -- the cesspool of
filth and depravity that created many early Internet memes, likely
including SAP -- for starting this whole mess. But the reality of
creative copyright is often hazy -- just ask Pharrell -- and it stands
to reason that any and all conversation around the subject should be

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