ethics

Hello mag lifts stories without payment…

Hello magazine website makes money lifting copy without permission 

ethicsAfter complaining how my copy was simply reproduced without permission nor credit to me, Hello magazine took it down 

But by then Hello mag had already earned money through clicks to ads on that page

And the magazine still did not pay me for the days they used my copy

Hello magazine seems to resort to anything to get readers. In 2016 George Clooney claimed the magazine ‘completely fabricated’ an interview with him.

As a media agent representing ordinary people I do not charge them fees. Instead I make my living out of writing their stories for them (exactly as they want.)

If I were a PR agent I would charge what can be a hefty fee for professional advice – and for all the costs I incur when I take on someone’s story (phone bills, internet, travel costs to name a few.)

So my writing is valuable. The copy I create, which belongs to me, can only appear in publications which have permission from both myself and the interviewee. Quite apart from how I make my living, interviewees rightly want some control over where their story appears – for example, some interviewees will not want their story to be published in some newspapers or magazines or websites.

Of course when a story appears on a national newspaper website, it is often shared or reported around the world. But then under fair usage rules only a small amount of the copy can be used and then both the source of the copy and the author must legally be credited.

Most publications abide by these rules. So I was recently stunned to see Hello magazine website copy and paste two of my stories which appeared almost in their entirety on their site.

While briefly referring to the website from where it was lifted, there was no credit to me as legally there should be. Instead a ‘journalist’ had proudly put her byline on the top of it as if she had written it.

Hello magazine is not the only offender. I notice Sky News website also regularly lifts whole swathes of copy and shamelessly reproduces it word for word.

This practice not only deprives me of a living – if Hello mag and Sky News wanted to use that copy then they should have paid me for it – but it deprives interviewees of payment too. This is because when I sell a story to a publication I arrange a payment for the interviewee too.

But also this practice has wider implications for the journalism industry which is already struggling to survive. I have to say that generally I notice journalists rarely make good business people. Too many of them allow byline bandits to stick their names on their copy, too many of them accept it’s ok for Sky to use copy and photos for free (‘Sky News does not pay for stories’ the news editor told me recently, as if that was an acceptable explanation.)

But these ‘journalists’ are killing journalism. After all, why should any bona fide editor pay me (or any other writer) for a story only to have the whole thing lifted by a rival site? This practice continues to put freelance journalists and writers out of business as their copy is literally just stolen and they simply cannot make a living.

Indeed thanks to this practice, you might have noticed there are a lot less exclusive stories and investigations around these days. Instead paid for stories are being replaced by PR puffs for TV programmes and adverts masquerading as ‘features’.

Indeed such practice is killing journalism.

 

Sophie Vokes -Dudgeon, Online Content Editor at Hello says: “Thank you for contacting the website yesterday regarding your interview. It was taken down from the site immediately.

“Our intention is always to remain within definitions of fair usage of quotes and to accurately credit the source of the story and to link to that story. If errors occur we try to rectify as soon as possible.

I am alerting the team to avoid your features and those of other freelancers, where it’s possible to identify, in the future.”

UPDATE: Since writing this story Hello mag has struck again this time helping themselves to precious personal photos from interviewee’s Facebook pages.  I have requested they are removed and that Hello make a donation to the family for using them without their consent.

Are you a writer who has had your copy lifted by Hello magazine, Sky News or another publication? Let us know below…

 

 

Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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