Tuesday, 16 September 2008

What Happens to Bullies?


Would setting the license on this image to "All rights reserved" count as irony?

Well, I reckon it would be a tad ironic, same as I think that people who upload photos to photo sharing sites and then use copyright as an excuse why they suddenly don't want their photos shared are seriously contradictory.

Truthfully, I think they're just closed-minded and mean-spirited individuals who enjoy using their own invented take on rules as an excuse for bullying, but you can make your own mind up on that. The story below is true. No names are mentioned, not to protect the guilty, but because I don't discount taking this matter further if I don't receive a satisfactory public retraction and apology.

Normally, I'd be content to afford abusers all the respect and attention they deserve (none whatsoever), but I do not suffer fools gladly and there is a limit. When they make their actions public, it would be foolish not to manage and defend my online reputation against their ignorant and false accusations.

Oh, whilst I could do, I have no intention of responding in their native Spanish, because if there's to be any "mal entendido" (misunderstanding), it shall be in their interpretation. This person's profile indicates that they work in the media (well that's funny, so did I for a lot of years, as do a number of my friends and acquaintances), so the chance that they simply do not understand copyright issues is, I believe, negligible. Even if it's possible their malice may not have been personally directed at me, their manner makes me feel that these false accusations may fall under the definition of cyberharassment.

There's a chance too they considered it OK to have a go at me because I'm a woman and / or an English name amongst a Spanish-speaking group. There are already too many of this type in real life in Spain, then add the tendency for cowardly types to be abusive when hiding behind a computer screen.

Whatever their problem, I think they need to be given a very clear message that this kind of behaviour simply isn't tolerated in civilised society.

It seems curious to me that this man (presumably) consciously and voluntarily joins a photo sharing site, then (presumably) voluntarily uploads his photos, (presumably) so he can share them publicly. He then adds photos to a public group - voluntarily again (with and without invitations) - to (presumably) share them publicly a bit more. If that isn't the reason why he joined such as site, then why didn't he just keep the images hidden on his hard drive?

He then discovers a Flickr badge (made with the Flickr tool), which randomly rotates tiny, square 75 px x 75 px thumbnails of images from the group. He then claims that is "including his photos on my site without his permission."

This claim is laughably ridiculous for the following reasons:

  • No reasonable person would call those tiny thumbnails "the photo."
  • They're randomly rotated from Flickr, where he put them, where they remain. They're not downloaded and hence not "included" in the site.
  • He added his photos to Flickr and the group himself, so "permission" for this normal use (that is available to all) is already implied.
  • Nobody is claiming nor violating any copyright.

This is not a case where I have done something "borderline" or that could be thought of as wrong by some people: this is where I have used the absolutely normal, publicly available Flickr feature in it's usual and expected manner, yet he decides to take umbrage with it for absolutely no good reason at all.

Clearly, if he didn't want his photos to be promoted and seen by people that is entirely his prerogative, but if that was the case, he should not have joined a photo sharing site, nor made his photos public, nor added them to groups.

Maybe he didn't understand how it works, but everyone knows ignorance is no defence and, it certainly didn't give him the right to do what he did next.

In fact, nothing at all makes it right for anyone to falsely and publicly accuse someone else of "a crime" or "robbery" just because the result isn't what you want. It certainly doesn't excuse the threatening tone used in emails, nor his later attempts to cover up his own errors (that made sure I did not have an equal opportunity to defend myself against these false accusations.)

Those badges only have one purpose: to lead people to the photo page, giving the photographer the benefit of more viewers to his photos.

The only reason I put that badge on my website is to make it more interactive; to give photographers and group members the favour of exposure for their photos, give site visitors more to look at; more information, to enable them to see more of Tenerife. This directly benefits site visitors, photographers, Yahoo/Flickr and even the island (which was the whole point, really.)

The only person it does NOT benefit directly, because it takes traffic away from the site, is the site owner, i.e. me. Thus, it's a service, for the reasons listed above, that I more or less offer "out of the kindness of my heart."

Many photographers thank me, when I invite them to add photos to one of my groups. I don't ask or expect that, but it's nice when people bother.

So, what does this ingrate do when they encounter the badge?

They write me an officiously worded email, accusing me of "un delito" (a crime), then maliciously accuse me of "robo" (robbery) in the public forum of a different public Flickr group (of which I am a member and have met other members in person - more than likely my site was identified - but which is not my group and, neither is it the one they allege (falsely) to have a problem with.)

Worse, upon discovering that their accusations were entirely without merit, instead of admitting it or apologising, they've attempted to pass it off as a mere "mal entendido" (a misunderstanding - not on my part it wasn't) and asked the administrator to remove the thread (destroy the evidence).

Removing stuff does not make it go away online. As I'm subscribed to a feed of the particular forum discussion, I was able to save a copy of their comments before they were deleted, in which they had further added a "warning" to others to "look carefully" at what groups they add their photos to.

This is another gross (and ignorant) slur, which might lead others to think there is something wrong in the way my group is administered. To make it perfectly clear again: neither the way I administer the group, nor the way in which I use the standard badge is anything at all out of the ordinary.

NOTE: this person is still adding their photos to other Flickr groups, obviously ignorant of the fact (or deliberately ignoring it) that ANYONE in the world could make a similar badge for that or any other group and post it anywhere.

But even without understanding how Flickr works, it should be obvious to any reasonable person that sharing photos online, publicly at a public photo sharing site (the purpose of which is explained, clearly in English, Spanish and numerous other languages), means that you are making your photos available to be shared. Photos can be published elsewhere (with credit / link), even though the photographer retains full copyright (that's a concept that has been present in the media since forever.) There are even code snippets (provided by Flickr) so that images can be placed on other websites (following the guidelines that, "... specify that if you post a Flickr photo on an external website, the photo must link back to its photo page.") There's also the "Blog This" button on photo pages that allow photos up to 500 px to be posted to blogs. (Though none of those applies or has been used in this case.)

Don't like this? Then set your Flickr account so that your photos are only available to your friends and family, or better yet, do not upload them.

So next, he tells me (in a further email, in a snotty and superior tone) that he has "no desire to continue the discussion". In other words, attempting, once again, to sidestep his his own culpability and, presumably, hoping that I will be intimidated into thinking I was at fault, go away. Sorry, I'm not so dumb.

He then snarkilly comments in that email that he "hopes" the photos have been removed - at the end of the very same sentence, where he already says he has removed his photos from the group himself, so yes, obviously.

He also attempted to quote me chapter and verse of some guidelines he's made up, but I would just point out that the Flickr guidelines take precedence and say that, "Flickr is not a venue for you to harass, abuse, impersonate, or intimidate others." (With the emphasis on harass, abuse and intimidate.)

Harassment and false accusations (made publicly to a forum of which I'm a member, where, reasonably, this could have identified my site and harmed my reputation) are injurious and difamación and calumnia certainly are "delitos".

Ordering people around or intimidating people with threats is called being a bully, most bullies are trying to make themselves feel more important and bullies often pick on someone they think they can have power over.

What Happens to Bullies?

"In the end, most bullies wind up in trouble. If they keep acting mean and hurtful, sooner or later they may have only a few friends left - usually other kids who are just like them. The power they wanted slips away fast."

Image by cowfish (Via: Londonist)

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