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While the world marvels at the first black hole image ever taken, a Chinese photo-sharing community is setting off a huge public outcry over its use of the landmark photo and a wider debate over copyrights practices in China.
As soon as the European Southern Observatory released the black hole photo on April 10, Visual China Group (VCG), China’s leading stock image provider that’s compared to Getty Images and owns Flikr’s one-time rival 500px, made the image available for sale in its library without attribution to the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHT), an array of radio telescopes that captured the image of the black hole.
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“This is an editorial image. Please call 400-818-2525 or consult our customer service representative for commercial use,” said a note for the black hole image on VCG’s website.
Internet users took to social media slamming VCG for monetizing a photo intended for free distribution among the human race. Most of images on ESO are, according to the organization, under the Creative Commons license.
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Unless specifically noted, the images, videos, and music distributed on the public ESO website, along with the texts of press releases, announcements, pictures of the week, blog posts and captions, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, and may on a non-exclusive basis be reproduced without fee provided the credit is clear and visible.
VCG swiftly revised the note to say the black hole photo should not be used for commercial purposes, but Pandora’s box was already open. The incident sparked a plethora of comments on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, condemning VCG’s opportunist business practice. The site is said to often play the role of...
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