hina’s largest provider of stock photos has been fined 300,000 yuan ($44,700) for selling images that were in the public domain.
Visual China Group (VCG), a Beijing-based photo agency that partners with Getty Images, was found last week to be offering the world’s first image of a black hole for sale on its website, stating that users needed to contact VCG for commercial use rights on the photo which was shown with the company’s logo overlayed on top.
Netizens quickly questioned how VCG had come into ownership of the photo which was produced by a team of 200 scientists based on observations made through the Event Horizon Telescope and then distributed for free on the website of the European Southern Observatory.
Soon, more questionable copyright claims turned up, including VCG offering images of China’s national emblem and flag for sale, charging 1,000 yuan ($150) for using the emblem on a magazine cover.
VCG shut down its website last Friday after being ordered to do by internet regulators in Tianjin. The company soon issued a public apology, blaming the incidents on poor oversight of third-party contributors and promising to rectify its problems and strengthen its management.
The website still remains down. Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Tianjin Cyberspace Administration announced that VCG had been hit with a 300,000 yuan.