While the world watches in awe the first image of the black hole ever taken, a Chinese photo sharing community has triggered a huge public outcry over the use of the image and sparked off a discussion about copyright practices in China. According to a report by TechCrunch, the first ever image of black hole was released by the European Southern Observatory on April 10, and China’s leading stock image provider, Visual China Group (VCG) made the image available for sale in its library without even giving credit to the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration (EHT), which captured the image of the black hole. This has created a huge uproar and raised the question of copyrights once again.
According to a note on VCG’s website:
“This is an editorial image. Please call 400-818-2525 or consult our customer service representative for commercial use.”
This note on the website has come under tremendous fire and internet users took to social media to launch a scathing attack on VCG for monetizing an image that is intended for free distribution.
After the furore, VCG hastily removed the image and added a note which said that the image was not to be used for commercial purposes. But it was all too late as the Pandora’s Box had already been opened. The action on part of the VCG sparked a vicious reaction on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter which condemned VCG’s opportunist behaviour in exploiting the opportunity blatantly.
After the incident, VCG’s shares plummeted by 10 percent Friday morning in Shanghai, giving it a total market cap of 17.66 billion yuan ($2.63 billion).
After widespread anger broke out against VCG’s blatant disregard for regulations, the government was quick to respond and it asked the photo site to end its “illegal, rule-breaking practices.”
The site responded by apologizing in a statement:
“We have taken down all non-compliant photos and closed down the site voluntarily for a revamp in accordance with related laws.”