Is Lamar Smith going to send himself to jail?
US Congressman and poor-toupee-color-chooser Lamar Smith is the guy who authored the Stop Online Piracy Act. SOPA, as I'm sure you know, is the shady bill that will introduce way harsher penalties for companies and individuals caught violating copyright laws online (including making the unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime which you could actually go to jail for). If the bill passes, it will destroy the internet and, ultimately, turn the world into Mad Max (for more info, go here).
I decided to check that everything on Lamar's official campaign website was copyright-cleared and on the level. Lamar is using several stock images on his site, two of which I tracked back to the same photographic agency. I contacted the agency to make sure he was paying to use them, but was told that it's very difficult for them to actually check to see if someone has permission to use their images. (Great news, copyright violators!) However, seeing as they're both from the same agency and are unwatermarked, it seems fairly likely that he is the only person on the entire internet who is actually paying to use a stock image (and he'd be an idiot not to).
So I took a look back at an archived, pre-SOPA version of his site.
This is a screenshot of his site as it appeared on the 24th of July, 2011.
And this is the background image Lamar was using. I managed to track that picture back to DJ Schulte, the photographer who took it.
And whaddya know? Looks like someone forgot to credit him.
I contacted DJ, to find out if Lamar had asked permission to use the image and he told me that he had no record of Lamar, or anyone from his organization, requesting permission to use it: "I switched my images from traditional copyright protection to be protected under the Creative Commons license a few years ago, which simply states that they can use my images as long as they attribute the image to me and do not use it for commercial purposes.
"I do not see anywhere on the screen capture that you have provided that the image was attributed to the source (me). So my conclusion would be that Lamar Smith's organization did improperly use my image. So according to the SOPA bill, should it pass, maybe I could petition the court to take action against www.texansforlamarsmith.com."
Oh dear. Luckily for DJ, there are people out there like Lamar making new laws to protect the little guy against online copyright theft. Keep fighting that good fight, Lamar!
Why did Lamar's site go down after this post went up yesterday? We aren't sure, but something smells fishy.
We need your help! Join our "Shop a SOPA" Copyright Hypocrite Hunt and help us find copyright violations on the other 31 SOPA co-sponsors' websites.
We've contacted the office of Lamar Smith and are waiting on a response.
For more on SOPA, read this.
For more on our disappointing elected officials, read this.
Or maybe you're in the mood for some kittens.
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @JLCT