SIMON FARRELL-GREEN AGAINST DENIZEN
Case Number: 2247
Council Meeting: MAY AND SEPTEMBER
Ruling Categories: Plagiarism
Simon Farrell-Green publishes a food reviewing website called Eat Here Now. He complains that The Denizen, a lifestyle magazine, has used information and an image from his website without attribution or permission. His complaint is upheld.
In March last year the website carried a review of a Waiheke foodcart called El Sizzling Chorizo. It was illustrated with three photographs. In January this year The Denizen published an item on El Sizzling Chorizo using one of the website's photographs and a paragraph of text that closely resembled the website item in its composition and phrases, and offered no additional information.
Mr Farrell-Green complains that the magazine has breached a copyright that is clearly asserted at the end of all reviews on the website and elaborated on on a page on the site that explains its policy for giving permission for reprints.
He notes The Denizen has used an image without payment, permission or attribution to the photographer, David Straight, who had been commissioned by the website.
He cites passages in the magazine item that he considered were clearly based on the website's review "with some light reworking".
"The magazine," he alleges, "has failed to maintain even the most basic standards of journalistic professionalism and ethics, and has breached copyright law."
The Editor's Response
The Editor advised the Press Council that when she received Mr Farrell-Green's initial complaint she had treated it very seriously and an apology to the website would appear in the next issue of The Denizen.
The issue published on April 23 contained a publisher's note that read, "In issue two of Denizen influence was taken from food websitewww.eatherenow.co.nz on the review of El Sizzling Chorizo, including the use of David Straight's photography for which we apologise."
The Complainant's Response
Mr Farrell-Green welcomed the editor's acknowledgement and that the magazine had credited the photographer, "albeit in a part of the magazine that is easily missed".
He remained concerned that plagiarism had not been admitted. The apology used the word "influenced" which he did not consider accurate. "It is clear that the review was cut and pasted and then rearranged from mine." he said.
The Press Council does not normally uphold complaints after a publication has published an admission of its error, particularly when the admission includes an apology.
But in this case the belated acknowledgement of the website and its photographer was published on the title page of the magazine, below its listing of staff and contact information. The admission consisted of two lines in smaller type below a paragraph that contained a warning that "no part of the magazine may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher".
The correcting item ought to have carried its own heading, perhaps simply 'Apology', to draw fair attention to the matter, and deserved a distinct place on a page more likely to be read. It was not given due prominence and was not explicit.
The publication of what amounted to a précis of the website's review and the use of its commissioned photograph, both without attribution, was seriously unprofessional.
It is not for the Council to say whether The Denizen's conduct meets the law's tests of a breach of copyright but the text was clearly plagiarism and unfair to the website.
The complaint is upheld.
Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Chris Darlow, Sandy Gill, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, John Roughan, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.