The power to “publish at will,” digital citizenship, citizen journalism, a working understanding of intellectual property rights, and digital ethics are all important topics for 21st century learners. Subjects from each of these areas were raised by the following request I received recently via FlickrMail from Terri Potratz in Vancouver, Canada:

NowPublic request for a photo I took

Terri wanted to use a photograph I took in September 2007 of Chinese organic milk in her September 23, 2008, article for NowPublic, “China’s Toxic Milk Update: More Recalls and Bans.” Now that I’ve authorized the photo to be used in this article, it shows up with its own linked page on NowPublic in addition to its original online home in Flickr.


Terri was able to find this photo and correctly hypothesize I’d be willing to share it on NowPublic because of two things:

I think the way in which NowPublic solicits direct permission from photo sharers (in this case, Flickr users) is a conservative best-practice for citizen journalists. While it is true I’ve already granted permission for Terri or anyone else to use and remix that photo as long as attribution is given to me as the photo’s author, it is conservatively safer to ask for permission to republish a photo online for a citizen journalism article. Virgin Mobile Australia didn’t take this step when it used a Flickr image of teen Alison Chang for a national advertising campaign, and the result was a big mess and lots of embarrassment for the company. (For more on that case and others, see my post from January 2008, “Understanding and respecting copyright a problem for many.”) While I agree with those who hold asking for permission to republish images that are CC licensed attribution-only (as mine are) is NOT required, I do see the utility in asking permission “just to be sure.” I think it is wonderful has created a streamlined way for citizen journalists to ask for re-publication permission from original copyright owners and integrate documentation of that permission as well as proper attribution within their website.

I’m wondering if use of the writing functionality could become part of a StoryChaser‘s teacher professional development institute down the road? I’ve been exploring options for facilitating a StoryChasers’ summer institute this summer along with several partner organizations. Things are not fleshed out yet, but prospects are looking hopeful. I’m very glad to learn more about NowPublic. It’s a site I’ve heard about in the context of citizen journalism, but hadn’t previously joined or explored in depth. Now I’m a member, and I’m hoping to write some articles for/on the site in the weeks ahead. 🙂

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4 Responses to NowPublic Citizen Journalism and intellectual property

  1. Great post. I wonder if you would like to post something ( or even become a member) of Global Voices Online.

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    Milton: I would certainly be interested in learning more about becoming involved with Global Voices Online. Since I live in Oklahoma, however, I’m not sure what I could contribute. I definitely make a point of sharing the website with others as a fantastic resource for following global events. The next two weeks are pretty crazy with K12Online08 but please contact me and let me know more. Thanks.

  3. You’ve raised some great points here and I’m thrilled that you see the merits of the crowd sourcing system we currently have in place at NowPublic.

    I’m looking forward to your contributions to the site, so be sure to get in touch as soon as you get some content up!



  4. Rob Walker says:

    Thanks for the excellent example and explanation of what we do at NowPublic. Some people get a little annoyed when we ask for permission to use pics already in the public domain.

    It’s done for two reasons really; our tools allow for us to search and request pictures through our system, as such it’s actually *easier* for us to request permission and have the rights-owner help us use it, as well as just wanting to be sure they approve of the use of that photo in the context of the given story.



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