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The debut of the first-ever picture of a black hole was probably one of the biggest stories this author has ever covered on this blog.
The picture came to us as the result of a years-long collaboration between scientists around the world.
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Not only did the picture confirm a lot of what the research teams had expected, but it also gave us all a glimpse into a profoundly strange phenomenon in our universe.
So it's a little strange that 500px and Visual China Group decided to pretend they owned this fresh, quite famous image.
They’re what PetaPixels calls the “Getty Images of China” and, despite the team behind the picture of the black hole releasing it under a Creative Commons license, the company slapped a watermark on the picture and put it up for sale on their website.
Techcrunch reported that text on the Visual China Group webpage with the black hole image stated that, “This is an editorial image. Please call 400-818-2525 or consult our customer service representative for commercial use.”
When contacted by a prospective buyer, the customer service representative from VCG confirmed that the blackhole image belonged to the company.
This got the attention of some ever-capable Internet sleuths who quickly uncovered that VCG was licensing everything from company logos to the state emblems of the People’s Republic of China.
Selling images of the emblems of the PRC state is apparently illegal no matter what VCG thinks about the black hole picture rights.
After being told to cut it out by state authorities, or to stop “illegal, rule-breaking practices,” VCG shut down its website to remove all offending images from its database.
In response to the shutdown, the company said: “We failed to do our due diligence in assessment, leading to the appearance of substandard content. We have taken down all non-compliant photos and closed down the site voluntarily for a revamp in accordance with related laws.”
The shutdown resulted in a 10% decline in the stock price on the Shanghai exchange according to PetaPixel’s report.