Photographer Yolanda Crisp is, I believe, the partner of Labour’s South Thanet parliamentary candidate, Polly Billington. As followers of my blog will know I have written several articles about Ms Billington (see links below) and will be writing more soon.
It would appear that Ms. Crisp and, I believe, Ms. Billington too, were not best pleased with my articles. I assume that they believed they were damaging Ms Billington’s reputation and might undermine her chances of achieving her long held ambition of becoming a Labour MP.
But, as important as Ms. Billington’s personal ambition might
be to her and, by the looks of it, Ms. Crisp too, climbing the greasy political pole does not entitle a wannabe MP, or their partner, to threaten, bully or extort, someone for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Let’s be clear, the Human Rights Act 1998 permits anyone to make or publish reasonable, well-founded criticism of another, providing that such criticism is not defamatory, encouraging violence, or in any way discriminatory. My articles did not fall into any of these categories.
Also its a long established legal principle that the right to criticize, and hold politicians to account is, in a democracy, a fundamental component of freedom of expression even if such criticism shocks, offends, or angers.
Yet instead of taking my criticism in her stride, Ms. Crisp, possibly encouraged by Ms. Billington, decided instead to embark upon a campaign of bullying, threats and extortion. Presumably to frighten me off from writing more articles critical of Ms. Billington.
This profoundly anti-democratic campaign began on 28th February 2023 when I unexpectedly received this less than friendly, e-mail from Ms. Crisp:-
Dear Mr Driver
It has been brought to my attention that you have breached my copyright by using one of my photographs on your website without permission or license.
I have attached a screenshot of the photograph and I would ask you to remove the photograph from your website by 5pm tomorrow (1st March).
If the photograph is still on your website after 5pm you will be invoiced £10 a day for every day it remains on your site.
I have also attached an invoice for the breach of copyright and the unlicensed use of the photograph over the past 7 days.
The photograph in question is one of Miss Billington which
appeared on her Wikipedia page and which was taken by Yolanada Crisp.
Like most people I was under the impression that Wikipedia is an open source internet site which anyone can visit and freely copy from. But just to be on the safe side I decided , after receiving the email, to remove the photograph from my website.
However, I did not, and will not, pay the £170 invoice. I believe Ms. Crisp’s demand is unfair, and extortionate, particularly bearing in mind that my blogsite is free to use and I did not profit in any way by using the photograph.
A few days later I checked Ms. Billington’s Wikipedia page to find out what the licensing status of the picture actually was. I discovered that the photograph was in fact subject the Creative Commons licensing scheme.
Providing that I credit the photographer the Create Commons license permits me:-
To Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
To Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.
The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms.
I freely admit that I made the mistake of not crediting Ms. Crisp when I published the photograph on my website, but bearing in mind Creative Commons is a licensing system which is based on better sharing: sharing that is contextual, inclusive, just, equitable, reciprocal, and sustainable Ms. Crisp’s response to my error was by any standards a stratospheric overaction, especially her crude attempt to extort £170 from me.
I can only assume that Ms Crisp, and possibly Ms Billington’s displeasure about my articles caused one, or perhaps both of them, to lose all sense of reason and send me an aggressive, threatening, and extortionate e-mail, rather than a polite reminder about crediting the photograph as most others would have done. But it doesn’t end here. In fact it gets worse
On 30 April I published another article about Ms. Billington. It was a speculative piece about whether Ms Billington would, should Diane Abbott be barred from standing as a Labour candidate, resign as South Thanet’s Labour parliamentary candidate and return to Hackney where she lives and is a councillor, and put herself forward as PPC for Diane’s vacant seat which is also in Hackney.
Knowing that the photograph of Ms Billington I had used previously was subject to the Creative Common’s licensing scheme and, provided that I credit Ms Crisp, I could use it without sanction, I decided to include it in this blog. But, within hours of publication I received another email for Ms Crisp:-
Dear Mr Driver
I've been informed that once again you have used one of my images without permission. You have until 12pm tomorrow to remove the photograph from your blog.
My work is not available to use without a licence regardless of whether you add a credit or not.
I also want to make it clear that I will not licence any of my work to be used on your blog as it would be professionally detrimental to me.
On this occasion I won't invoice you for the use of my work without permission but I would remind you there is still an outstanding invoice for you to pay for the previous incident of you using my work without permission. I would appreciate that invoice being paid by May 14th.
The next day (1st May) Ms Crisp sent me another e-mail.
Dear Mr Driver
I don’t licence my work under a Creative Commons license.
I once again request that you remove my image from your site today, otherwise I will have to contact Wix to inform them you are repeatedly breaching my copyright under the DMCA.
I’m sure you realise that this could lead to them taking down your website until the image is removed.
Not only was Ms. Crisp still trying to grab my cash, but she had now escalated her threats to include having my website closed down too. It also appeared to me that she was being untruthful about the licensing status of her picture of Polly Billington.
When I published my article on 30 April the picture of Billington was subject to a Creative Commons license. However, when I checked again after Ms Crisp’s email of 1 May I discovered that at 2pm on that day, she had edited Ms Billington’s Wikipedia page and changed the licensing status of photograph to her personal copyright.
This action was recorded on the page change log of Polly Billington’s Wikipedia entry. A change of licensing status cannot be applied retrospectively so Billington’s picture remains on my blog post about her chicken run to Hackney
I did replied to Ms Crisp’s email of 1 May as follows.
Dear Ms Crisp
Thank you for your email which is very surprising.
I copied the photograph of your partner, Polly Billington, from her Wikipedia entry yesterday.
At that time her Wikipedia page clearly and unequivocally identified the picture of your partner as being subject to a Creative Commons licence. I have a screenshot which proves this to be the case.
I notice that the licensing status of the picture was changed today at 2pm. I have screen shot which proves this to be the case.
The licence status change was made one day after I had
copied the picture and published it on my website. At this time the Creative Commons licence was in place and my actions were entirely lawful.
A subsequent change in licensing status cannot lawfully be
applied retrospectively so I will keep the picture on my website.
A reasonable person would likely conclude that your
statement "I don’t licence my work under a Creative Commons license" is in fact disgracefully misleading and deceitful, when the evidence reveals that until 2pm today you did "licence my work under a Creative Commons license"
I would think that a complaint to Wix would be unsuccessful as would your earlier extortionate demand for money. There is no legitimate or reasonable basis for either.
It appears to me that your actions are motivated by a misguided loyalty to your partner, and Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Polly Billington. It is inconceivable that Ms Billington would not have been aware, supportive of, or directly involved in, your despicable actions.
You, with I believe, your partner's compliance or involvement, have sought to bully and intimidate me; sought without lawful right to extract money from me, which some would call stealing, and now you threaten to have my website closed down. Simply because I have used in a fair and reasonable way one of your photographs in articles which have legitimately and reasonably criticised your partner.
Your actions, and possibly those of your partner, are nothing less than an effort to attack my Article 10 Human Right to freedom of expression.
As you know it was a Labour Government which introduced the 1998 Human Rights Act.
It would undoubtedly bring the Labour Party into disrepute if a party member, especially one standing in a parliamentary election, was in any way encouraging, supportive of, or associated with, a bullying, threatening and extortionate effort to silence the lawful work of a citizen journalist and deny him/her/ they the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
I have heard nothing further from Ms Crisp but on checking Ms Billington’s Wikipedia page I noticed that her much disputed photograph has now been taken down.
It’s extremely unlikely that Polly Billington would not have been aware of her partners bullying and threatening behaviour towards me. This behaviour was motivated by my criticism of Billington and it is inconceivable that the couple didn’t talk about it and what to do about it. It also appears that Ms Crisp had editorial access Ms Billington’s Wikipedia page, again it would be strange if the couple did not discuss the content of the page and agree changes such as the copyright of the disputed image
Bearing all this in mind I believe that on the balance probabilities Ms Billington knew all about her partner’s campaign of threats, bullying and extortion against me. Over the period 28th February until 30th April Miss Billington appears to have taken no action to restrain her partner’s unacceptable behaviour towards me. It therefore appears to me that there is a strong possibility that Ms Billington supported, encouraged and perhaps even participated in this nasty sustained attack upon me.
I suspect that others in the Thanet Labour Party knew about this attack, but stood by and did nothing.
For many months Keir Starmer and his team have been attacking the Tories for their lack of ethics and morals, especially when dealing with bullies such as Priti Patel and Dominic Raab. Yet here we have the partner of a prospective Labour parliamentary candidate and, I honestly believe, the candidate herself, engaging in or supporting the serious bullying of a citizen journalist
I am shocked that someone who was once a BBC journalist and who is now a parliamentary candidate for a party which introduced the Human Rights Act 1998 and which also supports a free and uncensored media should by, allegedly supporting the inexcusable actions of her partner drag herself and her party into the stinking cesspit of political immorality normally occupied by the Tories.