[FINAL UPDATE:Douglas Todd, the Vancouver Sun, and its owners – Canwest – have so far refused to answer my demands for payment. No surprise, and so be it. For now, I think it’s worth noting that Douglas Todd’s blog continues to post uncredited photos. That is to say – he continues to steal intellectual property from other writers and photographers, apparently with the full consent and support of Canwest and the Vancouver Sun. I guess I wouldn’t mind so much if he was something other than a so-called ethics columnist. So what’s he thinking? What the Sun thinking? Well, whatever. A more litigious update to be published later this year.]
[UPDATED AT END OF POST!]
[SECOND, BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Douglas Todd/Vancouver Sun probably stole from Getty Images, too! SEE END OF POST FOR COMPLETE DETAILS!]
[THIRD BREAKING NEWS UPDATE! Douglas Todd – ethics writer! – caught posting comments to his blog under a pseudonym! See images at the end of this post, under Third Update!]
Imagine this blogger’s delight when his news feed picked up a Vancouver Sun article entitled “China’s stress on “harmony” keeps tight lid on religion.” After all, a solid 25% of the posts on this blog have concerned Chinese religion (and religious freedom). And, I must admit, my excitement rose when I read that the writer of said article was one Douglas Todd, whose biography (printed above his column) suggests a veritable Caesar of the Opinion Pages:
Douglas Todd has gone on to become one of the most decorated spirituality and ethics writers in North America. He has received more than 60 journalistic and educational honours, many of them international.
Surely, the Sun’s readers were in sound hands: Internationally renowned ethics writer!; Thinker of religious thoughts! Douglas Todd, International Man of Many Awards. What could be better?
Well, to start, that Buddhist temple photo that he used to illustrate his piece about Chinese religion? It wasn’t taken in China. It was taken in Hanoi, at 12:59:42 PM on June 16, 2007. Yeah, that Hanoi – the one in Vietnam.
How do I know that? Because I took the friggin’ photo and posted it to Shanghai Scrap in a post that – in its first sentence – mentioned that it was taken during “an inadvertent tour of old Hanoi’s vast catalog of small Buddhist temples.” Here’s my post and photo. And here’s a screenshot of Douglas Todd’s column at the Vancouver Sun, taken ten minutes ago [UPDATED: at some point between 8 AM and noon, Vancouver time, somebody at the Sun decided to find some China photos; see update at the end of the post]:
Now, I suppose Todd (or his art department?) can be forgiven for the oversight. After all, he talks about Buddhists, and really – what’s the difference between Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists? They’re both Asian, aren’t they?
Racial oversights aside, I do believe that there are three things that Todd and his cheapskate paper cannot be forgiven for doing:
1. They cannot be forgiven (until they pay me) for using my photo without asking for permission. And this first sin is made ever so much worse by the fact that Todd insists on promoting himself as an internationally renowned ethics writer. I guess stealing the intellectual property of folks he finds via google image (or whatever) doesn’t register in Todd’s ethical universe.
2. They cannot be forgiven for running the photo without attributing it to ME.
3. Todd’s column stinks. I mean, unbelievably awful, filled with fact errors that even an elementary fact-check – hell, google search – could have straightened out. My favorite:
What is the long-range future of religion and spirituality in China? Despite the rising optimism of many convert-seeking non-Chinese Christians, I don’t expect Protestants or Catholics will experience dramatic growth in China for a long time
Say what? If there’s one certain for those of us who cover Chinese religion, it’s that religious belief – especially Christianity – is the fastest growing social movement in contemporary China. Nothing else even comes close. And this is an opinion – nay, fact – supported by foreign surveys, and by surveys taken in China and reported by state-owned media.
Then again, what should we expect from a columnist and/or paper that illustrates an op-ed about Chinese religion with a photo of a Vietnamese Buddhist temple, stolen from a blogger in Shanghai.
[Addendum: Vancouver Sun staff may reach me through this blog’s contact form to make arrangements for the unauthorized use of my photo. Otherwise, just respond to the email that I sent to email@example.com.]
[UPDATE: Well, you wouldn’t know it from looking at Douglas Todd’s blog, but somebody – Todd himself? – decided to seek out some China photos to replay MY Vietnam photo. Now, I owe my knowledge of this Vancouver Sun subterfuge to a devoted friend and reader, by the name of B, who called from another time-zone to tell me – in the middle of the friggin’ night – that somebody at the Vancouver Sun was covering tracks. So, as of 4.5 hours after I blogged this post, the Vancouver Sun now has TWO – count them, TWO – undeniably China-based photos illustrating Doug Todd’s column. Here’s the embedded URL info in the image. And Here’s a screen shot:
Now, there’s plenty of interest here. First, somebody at the Vancouver Sun changed the photo without any notation, correction or otherwise. So – violation of basic print and online media ethics, 101, right there. Second, the Vancouver Sun/Doug Todd – doesn’t bother to attribute the photo that replaces mine. Even worse, Mr. Todd and the Vancouver Sun do so in express violation of the terms outlined at the site, iguogo.com, from which the first new photo was taken:
The Web-site and the Web-site Content, including the text, graphics, button icons, audio and video clips, digital downloads, data compilations and software, may not be copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, transmitted or distributed without the express written permission of IgoUgo and/or its third party providers, except you may make a single copy of the Web-site Content on your hard drive or in print for your own personal, non-commercial use, provided, that you do not alter the Web-site Content.
The Vancouver Sun is in total violation of this agreement, nevermind the fact that the image title – “China-Buddhist_Boulder_Figure.jpg” – meets Doug Todd’s requirements, perfectly. Especially after having screwed up with a Vietnamese photo.
But, for the record, we’re not done. For whatever reason, the new version of the article includes a second photo, sourced from this URL. I’m not adept enough at surfing URLs to figure out the terms, much less the author, but needless to say, it’s highly unlikely that Douglas Todd, much less his paper, bothered to obtain permission for commercial use of the image. Here’s the image:
If anybody has info on how I can contact the owner of the image that the Vancouver Sun is now using, please let me know.]
[CLARIFIED! Several comments and emails have suggested that a junior art department staff member – and not Douglas Todd – was responsible for stealing my photo. Thanks to Douglas Todd, we now know that this is not the case. In the comments section of the column in question, Douglas Todd posted this response to a comment (by me) that the photo was taken in Hanoi, by yours truly:
Adam: Sorry about the photo error. I had the understanding the photo was public domain and taken in China. I removed it several hours ago. I found the photo on a public website called “Religion Facts.” I have not yet read your blog, but will take a look. Doug
Any page on ReligionFacts may be printed, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes only (e.g. for personal or classroom use). You may not reproduce any pages, articles, charts or tables on another website. You may, however, include excerpts with proper attribution and a link to ReligionFacts, and you are more than welcome to link to any page.
[BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Thanks to a comment (below) from Sean, we now know the source of the second of the two images that Douglas Todd/Vancouver Sun used to replace the one that they stole from me. It comes from none other than Getty Images, one of the world’s largest, and most important providers of digital stock photography. You might be okay stealing photos from me, but you’re definitely NOT going to be okay stealing photos from Getty. Here’s a sceen shot of Doug Todd’s column from yesterday:
And here’s the home page for the photo, clearly identifying it as being licensed by Getty Images:
Now, you may ask, what evidence do I have that this photo was stolen, and not paid for? Fair question, and here’s the answer: since Sean’s comments to this blog ID’ing the Getty photo, the Getty image has been replaced with yet another unattributed photo:
Does anybody begin to get a sense that the Vancouver Sun and its ethics columnist don’t want to pay for photos? What is it with these people? Can’t CanWest (the Sun’s owner) afford licensing fees?
Whatever the case, I’ve notified Getty Images of the unauthorized use of its image. I’m sure they’ll take an interest.]
[THIRD UPDATE! Even a cursory review of Douglas Todd’s blog will reveal that the man receives a suspiciously large number of awfully positive comments. For example, on August 28, 2008, somebody left this doozy in defense of Todd:
Goodness Rocco, do a little research yourself into who it is you are criticizing. To suggest that Douglas Todd, winner of numerous awards for his reporting on spiritual matters doesn’t “have a clue about what christianity is all about…” seriously undermines any other comment you might offer. And as an atheist, I am no apologist for organized religion or people dedicated to reporting on religious matters.
“Douglas Todd, winner of numerous awards?” Who writes this stuff? Douglas Todd?
Well, in the case of one of Todd’s recurring commentators/characters, the answer does appear to be Douglas Todd. Below, see a screen grab [click to enlarge] from a fairly lengthy thread on whether or not the Vancouver Sun should have identified a Christian group connected to a recent mumps outbreak. In the course of the discussion, Todd was accused of posting comments to the thread under a pseudonym by a poster using the name “Let’s see if you post this Comment.” [Full disclosure: I know who posted that comment.]. While reading below, keep in mind that the Vancouver Sun’s blog comment forms are sticky – that is, a user’s name is stored via cookie and only over-ridden when a new name is inserted into the name form. Click on the image for an enlarged version …
Now, I may be wrong (I don’t think so), but what appears to have happened here is that Douglas Todd posted as Cherryl at 10:01 PM at August 29. Then, on August 30, he returned to the blog intending to post as himself (as Doug). But in doing so, he forgot to insert his name into the name box on the comment form, and instead left Cherryl’s in its place.
I guess it’s possible that Douglas Todd has someone in his home or home office by the name of Cherryl who insists on posting ravishingly positive and complementary comments to Doug’s blog from the same computer that he uses to comment. But I doubt it.
Of course, this would and probably will be easily cleared up when the Vancouver Sun examines the list of IP addresses connecting to Doug’s blog. In the meantime, here’s a list of Todd blog posts for the month of August 08 that inspired “Cherryl” comments:
- Should Christian Group Identified With Mumps Outbreak Identify Itself? [three supportive “Cherryl” comments]
- Todd Bentley is/was Canada’s new Aimee Semple McPherson
- Mumps Outbreak in Christian Group Raises Ethical Alarms [by a long mile, the best of the lot. In it, “Cherryl” explains to another poster why she can’t reveal her true identity – odd last name, on a “protest group’s” website, and a weird intimation that somebody tried to kill her by messing with the brakes on her car “… but until I get an unpublished number can we still be friends[?]”
- China’s Stress on Harmony Keeps a Tight Lid on Religion
- Soccer Brings Out the Philosopher in Us [another classic]
- Todd Bentley: B.C. bad boy stirring up a faith healing storm
- The Dutch: Pragmatic About Sex Drugs – and religion
- John Edwards and All of Us Operate with “Mixed Motives”
- The Trauma of War: Finding Healing
I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Cherryl’s” comments disappear over the next few hours (they were still there at 23:15 GMT, 30 August 08). But just in case that happens, I’ve taken screen shots of all of them.
Needless to say, this is hardly the kind of behavior that one would expect from the religion and ethics writer at one of Canada’s most important daily newspapers. Indeed, it doesn’t seem very ethical at all and – if I owned the newspaper – probably grounds for disciplinary action. But, then again, the Vancouver Sun and Canwest don’t seem particularly concerned about Todd’s prior theft of intellectual property, so I don’t see why they’d care about this, too.
Of course, all of this could have been avoided with a simple email …
[UPDATE: A friend emails to point out that there’s another instance of Todd signing a comment under a different poster’s name on same thread. Again, click to enlarge. The offending comment, in this case, is John Barr.
I really don’t know what to make of this except to suggest that Todd is getting sloppy/lazy. The ultimate proof, of course, is in the log of IP addresses maintained at the Vancouver Sun. But this sure looks pretty definitive. I’ve been reading blogs since the early days of Andrew Sullivan, and this is the first time I’ve seen anything like this.]