Update, July 2013- After talking with CNN it became clear that the Youtube channel that this video was posted on was a fake. It was not a genuine CNN channel. So both CNN and myself had our content used without permission.
In December I did a report on the New South China Mall — aka the World’s Largest Ghost Mall — that garnered a good deal of media attention. Business Insider, The Daily Mail, Yahoo, Jyllands Posten, and many other media sources utilized my video footage and images and/ or used my article as a reference. On the heels of this surge, CNN rolled out their own article on the mall.
Immediately after they published the report, a friend contacted me to call it to my attention, thinking they may have churned my work. I read article and thought at the time that it was another case of run of the mill churnalism — where one news source rewrites the news of other publications. Nothing I can do about that, I couldn’t even ascertain for sure whether or not they even referenced my article.
More on Vagabond Journey: A Journey to the World’s Largest Ghost Mall
Then a little over two weeks ago a reader sent me a link to a video published on the CNN Exclusive Youtube channel together with the ominous comment, “How do you like CNN using your video as their own?”
What? I never gave CNN permission to use my content.
I checked out the video, and found that it was a two minute long clip taken directly from the 9 minute video I had previously published about the New South China Mall. To add insult to injury, there was a logo in the upper right hand corner that said “CNN Exclusive,” as though this was their original report. But this wasn’t a CNN exclusive, it was my exclusive.
What far gone juncture of journalism are we in that one of the largest and most successful news agencies on the planet has to take content from an independent blogger?
Though they did run the URL of my Youtube channel in the upper left hand corner of the clip for the first ten or so seconds of its airtime, this is not the proper way to compensate a freelance journalist for their work — especially when permission was neither requested nor granted for the reuse.
This is content theft, copyright infringement, whatever you want to call it. Rather than sending their own reporters on-site, my work was plucked and repurposed. I suppose the overhead is far cheaper this way.
My videos on Youtube may be embedded freely on other sites, but they may not be downloaded, edited, and republished without permission and compensation.
My original video about the New South China Mall went viral two times so far this year. England’s Daily Mail and Denmark’s Jyllands Posten asked permission to use it, and they compensated me adequately. Yahoo and Business Insider embedded the video on their sites, and I was compensated monetarily for their usage though advertising revenue. CNN seems to have just downloaded the video and used it as though they owned it without even contacting me.
What is worse is that CNN’s ripped-off version was monetized with advertising, thus allowing them to profit off of my work without me receiving a single penny or even a thank you.
As of now, I have no idea what other mediums this video was used in, as I only saw it on the CNN Exclusive Youtube channel. Though the other videos on this channel were previously published on CNN’s television news broadcasts and elsewhere through their network. My South China Mall video conceivably could have been aired in various other mediums in their vertical without my knowledge and then later dumped on one of their Youtube channels for archival purposes.
I expect small time bloggers and sites of dubious repute to reuse my content without permission — that’s the breaks of publishing on the internet — but a big news agency should abide by the rules a little closer than this. CNN should at least try to finagle free content with the “You’ll gain exposure” routine rather than outright taking it. Or when they screw up they should jump to the fore and attempt to compensate the parties whose toes they stepped on.
More than likely, this was some kind of mistake or error — something that could have been quickly cleared up through simply responding to one of my emails.
I’ve been trying to contact CNN about this for the past two weeks, but my emails go unanswered and my calls are entrapped in a dragnet of secretaries. I’ve been directed to their legal department, their photo sales agency, and the copyright office of Turner. All three just ignore me. Left with little other recourse, I went public with this on Monday when published a video on Youtube which outlined the situation:
Seemingly within mere moments of putting up this video, not only was the infringing content removed but the entire CNN Exclusive channel was axed. The evidence was removed as though it never existed, which makes me have a fleeting suspicion that there may be more to this story.
The now removed rip off was at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8WitBOWL0M.
The original video: