A campaign is building steam in Ivory Coast to correct a wrong created by the so-called Carlalie-gate scandal. Audrey Carlalie is a young Ivorian photographer (and a friend of mine), who published some great images of the firework display in Abidjan at the end of year celebrations. The photos were widely seen on Facebook. But then, despite the inclusion of a watermark, the photos were copied by the most popular Ivorian website, abidjan.net, as well as various newspapers, all using them without permission, payment or credit.
The scandal has shed light on an important area, but one in which sadly little has changed for several years. This is the first time there’s been a major outcry over copied photos, although the problem is frequently met by those in the online community, who might, say, as is popular here, publish photos from a night-club/concert and then find another site simply copies the photos to attract users to their site. I probably read more newspapers more regularly than most Ivorians, and I frequently (daily) see content taken from publishers such as Jeune Afrique, RFI, BBC and Lettre du Continent, without permission or payment (and sometimes without recognition). Jeune Afrique have in the past resorted to moral appeals to ask newspapers not to steal their material because it undermines the journalistic trade, an argument they fell back on after finding that legal channels didn’t bear fruit. Their call seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Abidjan.net itself, while being a popular and excellent resource, has built its entire position in the market, from aggregating articles from real content-producers like newspapers.
There are bodies like the editors’ association (GEPICI), the National Press Council (CNP) and the ministry of communication that should be doing something about this. When it comes to the case of photographs, there is generally a real lack of professionalism – archive photos are regularly used without indication (regular readers will be very familiar with: the balaclava-ed rebel used for every combatant story, the convoy of pick-ups for every coup d’etat story and the charred corpses from Congo, used for every Ivorian human rights story), photos are lazily chosen (I recently saw a photo of San Pedro, California, used to illustrate a story about San Pedro, Ivory Coast), or, as in the this case, simply taken without permission.