REEL NEWS statement on BBC copyright abuse 7-11-13

bbc news screengrab

On Thursday October 31st  the BBC continuously ran a news item in which they accused the UNITE Trade Union of ‘bullying tactics’. This was brought to our attention by people who recognised that the report contained some of our footage which had been lifted from the REEL NEWS youtube channel.

We would like  to make it clear that footage which depicted a demonstration by UNITE members and others against the illegal practice of blacklisting was used without our knowledge or permission. It would be difficult to quantify our anger and disgust when we realised to what purpose our ripped material was being used.

We immediately contacted the BBC and demanded that the report be taken down as it violated both our copyright and our moral rights as creators. The BBC refused and the report continued to roll throughout the day on both the main news programmes and hourly on News 24. The report was later put on BBC iplayer despite our complaint being lodged.

At no point did the BBC attempt to contact us to ask permission to use the footage, though we can be reached very easily through a number of different channels. Nor did they credit the footage to us having used it without permission. We would only sell material to commercial broadcasters upon request if were completely satisfied that we agreed with the context in which it is to be used. We have regularly refused to license material on that principle, regardless of financial incentives offered.

In this case the footage has been used out of context to illustrate a narrative that we would never have agreed with under any circumstances, because that narrative is not supported by evidence. The news item in question centered around a lawful, theatrical and silent protest by, mainly retired, UNITE members outside the home of one of the Grangemouth Refinery bosses. The only available image of the action in question was a poor quality still. The news item then moved to our footage (shot over six months previously) of two UNITE protests that were part of their leverage tactics during the Crossrail dispute, targeting specific construction companies that are ruining people’s lives with the illegal practice of blacklisting. The protests in question were in response to a refusal to talk to the union over the sacking and blacklisting of a UNITE health and safety representative. In fact the second protest was organised in response to Crossrail security attacking the UNITE rep in question the day before, when he was protesting peacefully outside the gates, and was a typical example of bullying and intimidation that had been going on for months.

It is our belief that the BBC would have been aware of these facts as the footage was ripped from a short film with a very clear context and narrative.

Since 2006 REEL NEWS has built a close working relationship with rank and file trade unionists. We are regularly invited to events and actions that we alone are trusted to report on. We will not tolerate the BBC lifting our material and then misusing it to attack the very people whom we are trying to give a voice to.

Today we have had a meeting with officials at the National Union of Journalists and agreed the following course of action. Firstly they will on our behalf be contacting the BBC and demanding a right to reply on the Points of View programme or suitable medium. Secondly we seek and an assurance that this will not happen again. Thirdly we will seeking a financial settlement that reflects both the abuse of our copyright and also the damage to our professional reputation with our Trade Union friends. If the BBC do not cooperate we will not hesitate to pursue a solution through the courts.

Finally the jaw dropping double standards of the BBC’s report are not lost on us. On one hand they claim that a handful of people, most of them pensioners, silently protesting near a millionaires mansion to be “bullying”. Yet the fact that 800 hard working Grangemouth employees were blackmailed into accepting a deal they had previously rejected with the threat of unemployment was not even mentioned. That is exactly the kind of bullying that REEL NEWS was launched to expose.

The film from which the footage was lifted:

For further information: 07956 429059

Category: New
  • Tim Hoy says:

    Invoice them for both your intellectual property and for violation of that copyright. Or better still see them in court.

    November 7, 2013 at 11:48
  • Mary Ann Wheeler says:

    I think a mass action is called for with the BBC. I would encourage anyone to cancel their TV license fee in protest of the BBC bias. A direct shot that will hit them where it hurts! (All in favour say Ay!)

    November 7, 2013 at 11:50
    • nick bulmer says:


      November 9, 2013 at 09:56
  • Pax says:

    What is fair use?

    In copyright law, there is a concept of fair use, also known as; free use, fair dealing, or fair practice.

    Fair use sets out certain actions that may be carried out, but would not normally be regarded as an infringement of the work.

    The idea behind this is that if copyright laws are too restrictive, it may stifle free speech, news reporting, or result in disproportionate penalties for inconsequential or accidental inclusion.
    What does fair use allow?

    Under fair use rules, it may be possible to use quotations or excerpts, where the work has been made available to the public, (i.e. published). Provided that:
    The use is deemed acceptable under the terms of fair dealing.
    That the quoted material is justified, and no more than is necessary is included.
    That the source of the quoted material is mentioned, along with the name of the author.
    Typical free uses of work include:
    Inclusion for the purpose of news reporting.
    Incidental inclusion.
    National laws typically allow limited private and educational use.
    What is incidental inclusion?

    This is where part of a work is unintentionally included. A typical examples of this would be a case where holiday movie inadvertently captured part of a copyright work, such as some background music, or a poster that just happened to on a wall in the background.
    Points to keep in mind…

    The actual specifics of what is acceptable will be governed by national laws, and although broadly similar, actual provision will vary from country to country.

    Cases dealing with fair dealing can be complex, as decisions are based on individual circumstances and judgements. This can be a very difficult area of copyright law.

    To avoid problems, if you are in any doubt, you are advised to always get the permission of the owner, prior to use.
    UK fair dealing legislation

    For specific details on fair dealing under UK law please refer to our factsheet P-27: Using the work of others.

    November 7, 2013 at 12:38
    • Huhster says:

      Fair use and free speech exist in America not the UK.

      November 7, 2013 at 18:12
  • Andy Mercer says:

    I’d sue them.. with the pay offs they seem to throw around. This should be good for half a million

    November 7, 2013 at 12:53
  • Jon says:

    I studied media law for a year. Take them court. That’s a winnable case.

    November 7, 2013 at 13:04
  • Dave Bonio says:

    I work in TV news and we regularly use youtube videos and such under the fair use policy but usually only a few seconds to illustrate a story if we’ve not got access to stock footage. The BBC should have asked to use it and offered an onscreen credit and some money, just out of good will. A mate of mine filmed a George Galloway event years ago that kicked off and he was the only one filming and he got six hundred quid for its use, I wouldn’t hold on to the idea you’ll get tens of thousands of pounds in compensation.

    November 7, 2013 at 16:35
  • Adam says:

    Pax, above, is correct. In the context of news reporting or documentary making, the BBC does not need to pay to license footage it uses under a fair use principles. Nor does any news organization. It is using the footage to report the news, not to make money.

    Also, small note, the BBC is a public broadcaster, not a commercial organization (like, say, Sky, or ITV). That’s why there are no adverts on the BBC.

    As for Jon, above, who studied media law for a year: why don’t you take a few minutes to study the law of fair use:

    November 7, 2013 at 18:21
    • brian hutchison says:

      Adam, your link is to a US law site. It doesn’t apply here in the UK.

      November 10, 2013 at 10:05
  • Matt says:

    Has it been considered that by uploading material to YouTube rights are given to Google, the BBC may have a deal with Google to reuse youtube material. It may verywell be the case that the BBC can freely rebroadcast youtube content without the content creator permission. They have a BBC 3 program that I believe is competely made of youtube submitted content for instance.

    November 7, 2013 at 18:32
  • Matt says:

    It’s pretty clear from the youtube TOS. It’s a commercial platform after all

    “For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in your Content. However, by submitting Content to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and YouTube’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels. You also hereby grant each user of the Service a non-exclusive license to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such Content as permitted through the functionality of the Service and under these Terms of Service.”

    November 7, 2013 at 18:37
  • Donach says:

    This would not be covered by fair use tho. It’s actually a misleading use of footage of a protest against blacklisting.

    November 7, 2013 at 19:18
  • Dvid Sangwell says:

    Or of course you could watermark your video then get the publicity from people using it. As the BBC is not Commercial good luck with getting money from them, but you may be better just getting the marketing gain from what is stolen than pursuing the thieves!

    November 7, 2013 at 20:25
  • Titus Groan says:

    There is a copyright exemption for news reporting.

    November 7, 2013 at 20:52
  • tom foxe says:

    Pax seems to think there may not be a good case. But the BBC can not claim to be in ignorance of the origin of the piece in question, or of UNITE’s demands that they cease broadcasting what is clearly an inaccurate, and in the context, slanderous piece of footage.

    November 7, 2013 at 22:05

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