Have you heard of SOPA? Of course you have. Have you heard of Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who in October filed SOPA — which promotes harsher penalties and even jail time for people caught violating copyright laws, and is basically the reason that today you can’t access Wikipedia and Reddit and various other sites, which are protesting the act? Lots of people are mad at Smith, because if there’s anything people do really well on the Internet, it’s get mad at people who threaten to take away their “free Internet” (more about all that here). They’ve gotten so mad that they’ve gone to Smith’s website and done a bit of digging, and, well, it appears that Lamar Smith may be in copyright violation himself. This is called “Internet Justice.”
Jamie Lee Curtis Taete at Vice writes,
I decided to check that everything on Lamar’s official campaign website was copyright-cleared and on the level. Lamar is using several stock images on his site, two of which I tracked back to the same photographic agency. I contacted the agency to make sure he was paying to use them, but was told that it’s very difficult for them to actually check to see if someone has permission to use their images. (Great news, copyright violators!) However, seeing as they’re both from the same agency and are unwatermarked, it seems fairly likely that he is the only person on the entire internet who is actually paying to use a stock image (and he’d be an idiot not to).
So I took a look back at an archived, pre-SOPA version of his site.
This is a screenshot of his site as it appeared on the 24th of July, 2011. [At right, above]
And this is the background image Lamar was using. I managed to track that picture back to DJ Schulte, the photographer who took it. [At right, below]
And whaddya know? Looks like someone forgot to credit him.
Schulte had no record of Smith ever requesting permission to use the image, and said that it had been available under the Creative Commons license, which required users to attribute the image to him and not use it for commercial purposes. The image does not appear to be attributed. Said Schulte to Vice:
“I do not see anywhere on the screen capture that you have provided that the image was attributed to the source (me). So my conclusion would be that Lamar Smith’s organization did improperly use my image. So according to the SOPA bill, should it pass, maybe I could petition the court to take action against www.texansforlamarsmith.com.”
Oops! The house of cards is crumbling.