Skip the navigation

D'oh! Homer 'photo' exposes Chinese media piracy

No, it's not a Simpsons episode plotline (yet, anyway)

By Steven Schwankert
August 2, 2007 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - A photo of Homer Simpson accompanying a genuine article about multiple sclerosis (MS) has exposed Chinese state-run media's penchant for using images without permission.

The article, which appeared on China's official Xinhua News Agency's English news site on Monday, displays text about a new genetic discovery relating to MS, attributed to "agencies." Alongside is an x-ray rendering of the diminutive brain of the cartoon character Homer Simpson, attributed as a "file photo."

Homer Simpson's brain on Xinhua
Homer Simpson's brain, as it appeared on the Xinhua website

This isn't the first time Chinese media has fallen prey to satire presented to an English-language audience. In 2002, the Beijing Evening News (Beijing Wan Bao) picked up an article from humor site The Onion, stating that the U.S. Congress had threatened to move out of the Capitol building in Washington unless the building were upgraded to include a retractable dome. The newspaper also ran a drawing The Onion had published of the fictional new roof design.

Both online and print media in China routinely use photos downloaded or scanned from other sources without proper attribution or copyright permission.

Strangely, publications in foreign languages -- therefore, those most likely to be read by foreigners -- are frequent offenders. Last year, the state-run English-language newspaper China Daily's Web site ran 13 topless images of a female Italian volleyball player, clearly marked both with logos for the magazine Men's Health and an Italian Web site. The spread was considered sufficiently racy to receive a link from Gawker Media pornography blog Fleshbot.

"Despite the foreign-language polishers, the writers and editors who produce English and other foreign-language content for Xinhua and other state-owned media organizations do not have the cultural awareness necessary to avoid errors like the misuse of the Homer Simpson illustration," said Jeremy Goldkorn, editor of the English-language Chinese media blog Danwei.org. 

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
Our Commenting Policies
Internet of Things: Get the latest!
Internet of Things

Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!