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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On use of others' images.

I frequently find my images used by bloggers, and on other websites. While that's not really a big thing, it does bother me when the image isn't credited as mine or better yet, linked to one of my sites.

Mostly folks who make pictures of all sorts are happy to let others use them as it's both flattering and can bring in traffic. Usually there will be an exception for commercial sites, as we generally aren't happy with other people making money from our work.

Here's a guide for dealing with artists that create original art:

1) Ask permission to use copyrighted work. Usually you know where it's coming from and can find the author. And usually we're more than happy to allow use with credit.

2) Assume all art work is copyrighted. Original film, drawings or notes are pretty good evidence if it comes to a lawsuit. Copyright holders can notify the ISPs of infringement and under law, the ISP is obligated to shut down the site even before infringement is proved. This is a huge hassle for everyone. But I have done it when my work was stolen for a commercial porn site once.

3) If the author says no, go look for something else. There are images all over the place and someone's probably made something better anyway. And that artist is probably a nicer person.

4) If you can't contact the artist, the first choice would be a link to the place where the picture came from. The second choice would be a prominent credit very near the picture, or a website URL so the artist is getting some traffic for the work.

There are a lot of costs that go into making the art that we show. In the case of a recent specific picture that was used without permission, I traveled from Maryland to Pennsylvania and hired a far too expensive hotel room. Plus film and associated photo costs.

I sell my photography, but don't mind lending small scans out to folks. I do resent having it snatched without any compensation or even a credit and most photographers I know feel about the same way.



Blogger Anastasia said...

What if an image is emailed to a person and there's no original site detail?

I think the other alternative is for photographers to watermark their images.


Wed Nov 15, 02:34:00 am GMT  
Blogger D. Brian Nelson said...

Photographers have no obligation to watermark. Under the law all images are presumed to be the intellectual property of the maker. That includes images emailed to you. Someone made it and if it wasn't you, then you cannot presume it's OK to use.

There are some exceptions where an image can be shown under "fair use," which is applicable mostly to critics and those using the image as a talking point or for educational purposes, though even that is getting tightened up a lot lately in the U.S. and signatory countries.

I am not a lawyer and legal questions should be referred to someone more qualified to answer if there's anything at stake.

Wed Nov 15, 05:50:00 am GMT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


IMHO if you do not know who owns the copyright to the image you should not use it, neither should you use others copyright without their permission.

Watermarking is a viable option to allow you to trace who is using your images, also to prove that they are yours.

Brian (What would you like us to call you?)

Thanks for posting, all good points.

Wed Nov 15, 09:26:00 am GMT  
Blogger Anastasia said...

Then I guess that many can sue the people behind thousands of pages that boast the works of every single artist, from Michaelangelo to Picasso. In theory that can be done, and many pages can be ripped off the web, and at that point there'd be no point of having the Internet.

I don't think that an Internet Service Provider (which is usually part of a larger telco) could shut down any blog hosted on Blogger, Livejournal etc. I'm yet to see that happen, and I work in telecommunications.

Wed Nov 15, 09:26:00 am GMT  
Blogger Anastasia said...

Mr Gently.

Have you credited the Avatar image you're using? You're not, not when you're posting comments using an image from another person in a comments post. Isn't that so?

That's all.

Wed Nov 15, 10:41:00 am GMT  
Blogger bella said...

Don, thanks for posting this. It's something that's been in the back of my mind for a while. It's good to hear the artist's perspective.


Wed Nov 15, 10:46:00 am GMT  
Blogger D. Brian Nelson said...

Bella, you're welcome.

Anastasia, Art falls out of copyright after a statutory period. Because mostly of the music industry and Hollywood (may they burn in hell) the active period is now far longer than the artist actually lives. Think about Disney's rabid protection of "Mickey Mouse." Images of Michaelangelo's David and such are int the public domain.


Wed Nov 15, 02:02:00 pm GMT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you do about someone who lifts images off of your blog and posts them on their blog without asking or giving you credit?


Wed Nov 15, 03:06:00 pm GMT  
Blogger Richard said...

Take a look at www.yotophoto.com for photos you can use.

Wed Nov 15, 04:26:00 pm GMT  
Blogger fetishexplorer said...

A fair point, ive not been too great at that but try to link where possible. Agreed that I think many need to be a little more aware. When I start uploading more of my own pics I think Id certainly expect a link and a credit as a minimum.

Wed Nov 15, 08:43:00 pm GMT  
Blogger Anastasia said...

It either falls out of copyright, or the artists/companies don't need the cash (and don't kick up a stink).

I think you've missed a valid point in your post Brian, and that's one that covers 90% of people who blog who use images as avatars they don't credit. (my avatar is me/my image), and whether or not they should be crediting the image each time they post a comment everywhere. However those who do 'agree' with rights in here, usually use another's images as an avatar, so that's why I'm not really interested in the issue where blogging is concerned. 95% of people are so 'precious' about it, like they've lost their entire livelihood overnight, when the reality is that the world contains billions of people, all of whom don't see the image on the net anyway.

and yes, sometimes artists should take steps to ensure they don't have work they don't want copied displayed to thousands of people (if it worries them) because it's not like the right click button, or the prt scr button can be obliterated.

Wed Nov 15, 09:02:00 pm GMT  
Blogger ArtfulDodger said...

This is an interesting debate and is always a bone of contention between users, artists and the law. While copyright and trademark laws and the enforcement of same, vary from region to region, I have spent the last twenty years of my life working, creating and dealing with these issues. Here are some thoughts:

1) Copyright infringement always starts with the question of "scale". In other words, the balace between what it costs in legal fees to pursue for damages and what the actual damages might be. In 99.9% of the cases involving individual infringement, the scale is waaaaaay in the favor of not pursuing legal action. The cost of doing so would be prohibitive compared to the minor damage being done, the typical blog is lucky to get 400 - 1,000 visitors a day, which is a good sized floor in an office building.

The more a person/company has invested in a property, say the Mickey Mouse example, the more likely they are to pursue legal action. Disney has spent billions over the years making Mickey into what he is, they usually won't hesitate to protect that investment.

The most likely scenario on a personal basis is the attorney fall back, the ever popular "cease and desist" letter. If the perpetrator can be found, they can simply take the image/words down. We see this alot on the internet.

This is almost always the first step, even when Mickey is involved, depending on the scale. Now if you contract an asian company to start making millions of Mickey dolls for sale, that would be a different story. But even Disney realizes that taking legal action against an individual isn't worth their time and energy when the "damage" is minor. But you may get a C&D.

2) The copyright laws in the US have undergone significant changes in the last few decades. The Supreme Court ruled back in the late seventies that the act of creation signified copyright, even if the material was not "registered" with the US copyright office. This is simple copyright however, and there are degrees of coyright and trademark protection. Protecting works to the fullest extent of the law is time-consuming and expensive, but it can be done. My copyright lawyer always says to me, if you don't want it stolen, then don't show anyone. If your work is that important to you, then don't publish it on the internet. Period. Once you do, you have taken the step to remove much of your protection from a copyright standpoint. I know this isn't a popular opinion, but it is the truth. If this concerns you, then take the steps needed to trademark your work. That is a whole other level of protection that will ensure the protection of your work. But there are catches there as well.

The point being, if your work is important to you, then don't publish it in a format where anyone can steal it. It's akin to leaving the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition, eventually your car will be stolen. It is still your car, but someone else is driving it now.

3) Works created before that Court ruling have to have their copyrights renewed in seven year periods. If they didn't, then the work falls into the public domain. There are websites that list major works that are now public domain, from art to music to fiction to images.

4) The proliferation of images on the internet makes it difficult sometimes to know where or who the images belong to. Although I am a staunch supporter of artist rights and always have been, I also believe it is in the artists interest to also protect their works. This is a two way street. As stated above.

My own personal policy is to credit the source whenever possible, to create as much of my own original content as I can (Such as my own Avatar image), to never borrow, steal, or copy anything that is clearly labeled as copyrighted, and then to use whatever else I want in my editorial posts. That is why I have a clearly stated policy on my blog that if I am asked to remove an image I will gladly do so.

As we've seen with YouTube, these issues will continue to be debated and fought over for many years to come.

Fri Nov 17, 05:06:00 am GMT  

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