Ukrainian journalists often call for joint action to protect their copyright, including on the Web. In practice, some colleagues, in particular those working for online publications, do not have accuracy and professionalism among their priorities. Trying to be the first on the matter, some journalists do not check their information for reliability, use someone else’s intellectual product and do not cite their sources. Last week, a video made by our Den TV project was at the epicenter of the debate, as it was being used by many Ukrainian online platforms without permission and any source citation, and some were trying to use it to discredit the opposition. Let us recall that on January 10, The Day’s journalist Maria Semenchenko and our contributor Ivan Liubysh-Kirdei were among the first to report night skirmishes and “corridor of shame” for riot policemen which took place at Sviatoshynsky district police office at 109 Peremohy Avenue in Kyiv. In fact, we have posted a complete chronicle of events immediately after the conflict on our website and on The Day’s YouTube channel, with no retouching, no voiceover, and novoice comments, accompanied instead by text explaining the context of the images and containing extensive story of what preceded the clash. Most importantly, we have posted videos in chronological order. As it later turned out, this over 10-minute-long record contained rare footage that only we managed to shoot, including Yurii Lutsenko’s dispute with riot policemen, and his obscene statements in particular.
Without any warning, permission and source citation, blogger Dmytro Skvortsov, known for his frequent Ukrainophobic statements, posted an out of context snippet of our video as his own product on YouTube, on his blog and in social networks. The truncated video distorts the real picture of events and is being widely disseminated as Skvortsov’s product entitled Why Tehminatoh Got His Just Deserts [Tehminatoh is a mock nickname of Lutsenko, who is known for his burr and once called himself a member of the Terminator’s team. – Ed.]. In two days, that video got more than 200,000 hits. The saddest thing, though, is the fact that dozens of fellow journalists used our intellectual product without permission, including those from reputable online publications. However, trying to get exclusive information, these journalists disseminated the distorted and truncated version of our video, not its complete version entitled Night Skirmishes and “Corridor of Shame” for Riot Policemen at Sviatoshynsky District Police Office, which has been posted on our official channels. Again, no source citation mentioned this publication.
It is surprising that journalists, who picture themselves as ardent advocates of copyright compliance and promoters of modern journalistic standards, saw our logo in the video aimed at discrediting the opposition, but never went to The Day’s website to inquire whether this was the complete version or cited the original source.
Media experts point out that the case of The Day’s video has become a litmus test for the Ukrainian journalism.
“The person who recorded the video has full copyright to this product. They can permit or prohibit any use of the record by others, including copying, reproducing, cutting, or assembling,” director of the Media Law Institute Taras Shevchenko commented for The Day. “If the copyright holder has not granted permission to use their product, it a priori means that they prohibit doing so. It is another matter that fast dissemination of videos on the web often makes it hard to establish the copyright holder of a product and find the offender, but this is a matter of the legal culture of our bloggers and journalists. People who use someone else’s video should take into account the provisions of copyright law and request permission to use.”
According to media lawyers, media and media platforms that distribute their videos usually ask colleagues to do as little as cite the original source. We consider these rules to be the best, because they are technically easy to comply with. However, in The Day’s case, even this basic requirement has not been met. Only a few TV stations have obtained our official permission to use the product.
Analyzing the situation around illegal use of The Day’s video, media lawyer Shevchenko stressed: “It is important to note that copyright law prohibits not only unauthorized use of videos, but also any interference with raw footage, including compiling, cutting, and assembling. Video is its author’s work, and all must cite the original version. If someone wants to use a fragment of the video, they must turn to the copyright holder with a new request, even if they already have permission to use the complete footage of the story. I agree that the modern information society requires speedy provision of information, but it cannot be done at the expense of quality. Verification of information and its source is a key rule of journalism. Otherwise, political consultants would find it easy to use media in their information wars for the purpose of mud-slinging campaigns. They would be able to spread some slander, and then retract it, but it would have already entered the public consciousness.”