Colombia: Bloggers Fight for Creative Commons Rights

Last week, Colombian Flickr users and bloggers united against a regional newspaper that violated the Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd) Creative Commons license that a user placed on her photographs, a license which has full legal standing in Colombia.

Through a message on Twitter, mariacecita, a photographer from Cali, Colombia, let her friends know that the regional newspaper El País from Cali had copied one of the pictures from her Flickr page and used it on their weekly magazine to illustrate a photography exhibition. Not only did they not cite her as author of the picture, they modified it and printed it on their regional newspapers which is sold for profit, breaking all three of the license's conditions.

Maria Claudia Montano´s flickr picture

Photo used by El País taken by Maria Claudia Montano and used under a Creative Commons license

Mariecita, or Maria Claudia Montano, through her flickr comments, started reporting on the day's events, and a couple of bloggers picked the story up and made sure word spread, and now more than 40 different bloggers and Flickr users, and many more in the comments, have joined to show their support. Patton [es] is one of the bloggers that is thoroughly reporting on this case. In his blog post: On thievery and intellectual property… he mentions other recent cases of theft by mass media, other bloggers and advertisers, and he is also keeping an updated list of blogs and sites who have picked up the story. Carlos Caicedo has also blogged extensively on these events, and filipogs [es] wrote and spread the word by sending emails out to different bloggers so they would pick the story up.

Mariacecita, the flickr user who got robbed, didn't even get a true apology. Instead, she got excuses. La Rana Berden reports [es]:

De alguna manera los señores de la revista Gente Joven encontraron el Flickr de Mariacecita (fotografa lomo-lover caleña recomendadísima) y decidieron sin el más mínimo asomo de verguenza descargar la imagen y publicarla. Vía twitter me entero de todos estos acontecimientos. Ante los airados reclamos de la autora de la imagen por tan soberano descaro, alguien tan despistado como los editores de la revista argumentaron: “entonces lo mejor seria q las subieras a un sitio donde no se pueden bajar”.

Somehow, the people responsible for Young People Magazine found Mariacecita's Flickr account (highly recommended photographer lomo-lover from Cali) and decided, without the slightest inkling of shame to download the picture and publish it. Through twitter I found out about this. As a response to the author's complaints about such an outrage, the magazine's editors stated: “then you should've posted it to to a site where it couldn't be downloaded”.

Eventually, the El País de Cali newspaper replied in a public letter, stating that they had used the picture to illustrate the exhibition in which Mariacecita would be participating and that they take extra care in respecting author's rights : the ironic detail is that Mariacecita herself states that she is not involved in such exhibition, and in any case it doesn't affect the licence that she has placed on her pictures.

This isn´t the only case of El Pais using Flickr photographs in their newspaper and not crediting their authors: Meneame, a digg-type website in Spanish, has also featured the story with other cases that have come to their attention thanks to Mariacecita's case. The only credit that El País has given to these photographers is placing a label stating that the pictures came from “”/El País, and one of the first comments has links to different pages in the newspaper where this happens.

Este es solo un caso, pero el diario el País de Colombia suele, de manera sistematica y repetida, robar fotos a usuarios de Flickr. Estos son los links de las fotos robadas de Flickr (el primer link que pone gatonegro enlaza a las paginas en cuestión):

This is only one case, but the El País Newspaper from Colombia seems to, systematically and repeatedly, steal pictures from Flickr users. These are links to the pictures stolen from flickr. (the first link that gatonegro posts links to the pages where they appear)

On one of the most recent cases of blogger content theft, La Encargada received an apology and $25 dollars as compensation when a national brand store lifted one of her posts and used it to advertise a product she had written about. She discovered this as she saw the ad with an article she suspiciously recognized as her own on the back of a magazine being given away at her university.

Legal action is being considered against El País, and a facebook group has been created for anyone interested in supporting this cause against El País de Cali and their blatant disregard for Creative Commons licenses.


  • Hola,
    I will add your site to my blog and hopefully help spread the word. Thank you for making me aware of the situation.


  • […] Artikel erschien zuerst auf Global Voices. Die Übersetzung erfolgte durch Clemens Harten, Teil des “Project Lingua“. Die […]

  • Sadly, this type of situation is all too common. It stems largely from misconceptions about copyright itself and/or Creative Commons. Though one would expect better of a newspaper or magazine, that isn’t always the case.

    I hope this matter is resolved quickly and to everyone’s satisfaction, this time of abuse can not go unchallenged…

  • It seems like really this isn’t a Creative Commons problem so much as a straight out copyright one. The newspaper didn’t even mention CC in their excuses, apparently they just completely disregard ownership of things once they are online (“then you should’ve posted it to to a site where it couldn’t be downloaded”).

    Hmmm, is it me, or is the El Pais site one from which photos can be downloaded? I guess we can use their photos for whatever we want.

  • It’s hard to understand there could be such ignorance from photo editors who have wits enough to search and download images from Flickr in the first place. The sad thing is if they played nice, Flickr photographers would probably be happy to have their photos in the newspaper, with credit. They seem to want to learn the lesson the hard way.

  • […] work has been misused. I’ve written about some examples of this. My favorite recent is the war that has broken out in Columbia about a newspaper’s improper use of a CC licensed photograph. CC didn’t invent […]

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