A right-wing national newspaper has secretly provided funds towards a privacy campaign encouraging protesters to bring face masks to the streets of Britain, Netpol can exclusively reveal.
BY OUR COPYRIGHT CRIME REPORTER
The Mail on Sunday, a prominent mainstream ‘news’ provider responsible over many years for numerous attacks on protesters and their right to demonstrate, has handed over £330 to Netpol’s ‘Cover Up To Defend Your Privacy’ appeal.
The ‘donation’ comes after a scurrilous and tawdry attack article appeared in its print and online editions, on the weekend before June’s huge anti-austerity demonstration in central London.
In the article the paper’s reporter, Ben Ellory, crudely attempted to smear Netpol and other activists as ‘face mask rioters’ and helped himself to a photograph from Netpol’s website. We can reveal that correspondence with Mail on Sunday managing editor John Wellington demanded payment from the newspaper for the misuse of a copyrighted photograph and offered a “compelling case” that Ellory, “who knew or ought to have known that the image was protected by copyright”, had committed a criminal offence under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
After initially attempting to negotiate for a smaller payment, the paper quickly backed down under the threat of legal action.
Netpol’s campaign for protesters to think more carefully about mass police surveillance during demonstrations and rallies – and about the privacy and anonymity of themselves and others – was successfully launched at the People’s Assembly Against Austerity march on 20 June (above). Despite the Mail on Sunday’s hysterical claims of alleged plots to bring “anarchy and violence” to an otherwise peaceful march, there were no reported arrests during the demonstration itself.
The human rights group, a network of activists, campaigners, lawyers and researchers who highlight and challenge disproportionate or excessive policing, is now calling on participants at future demonstrations to make or buy their own face coverings, choosing a colour that reflects their campaign, or simply stands out from others.
Last night Netpol coordinator Kevin Blowe confirmed receipt of funds from what is an apparently unlikely source. When asked for comment he said:
“We are delighted that the Mail on Sunday’s unexpected contribution to our campaign means we have reached our crowdfunding target.”
“More seriously, anyone who discovers their photographs have been taken and used without permission by a newspaper should complain and demand payment. Reporters who steal a ‘free’ photo from a website or a Facebook page are not only undermining the livelihoods of freelance photographers. They are also breaking the law.”
“We would have expected a newspaper like the Mail on Sunday to recognise and understand this. After all, it is usually so ready to vehemently condemn alleged lawbreakers”.
Netpol is grateful for the helpful advice we received from a number of individual members of the NUJ’s London Photographers Branch.