Sunday, February 10, 2013
My AHA! Copyright Moment - I Don't Want to Be Sued
About a week ago, I read a blog that set off major warning bells in my head. It was from a blog called Lark and Lola, and you can read it here.
The title of the blog was "A Friendly Word of Warning to Fellow Bloggers" (me): and it dealt, quite eloquently, with someone taking pictures of her Pyrex collection and posting it on Pinterest as their own. She also talked about how she made money on her blog, how much work it takes to load her pictures, and how when people steal pictures that it can hurt an income - even if it's just the small monthly amount that bloggers like us earn.
Her blog linked to another blog, one called "Bloggers Beware: You can get Sued for using Pics on your Blog." and reading it will turn your blood cold. The blogger's name is Roni Loren, and she is, by all appearances, a super talented writer and blogger who innocently used a photograph on her blog, only to get her pants SUED OFF by the photographer who took the picture.
I'll quote directly a small portion from Loren's blog:
"Well, on one random post, I grabbed one random picture off of google and then a few weeks later I got contacted by the photographer who owned that photo. He sent me a takedown notice, which I responded to immediately because I felt awful that I had unknowingly used a copyrighted pic. The pic was down within minutes. But that wasn't going to cut it. He wanted compensation for the pic. A significant chunk of money that I couldn't afford. I'm not going to go into the details but know that it was a lot of stress, lawyers had to get involved, and I had to pay money that I didn't have for a use of a photo I didn't need.
It wasn't fun. But the fact of the matter is, I was in the wrong. Unknowingly. But that doesn't matter. And my guess is that many, many of you are doing the same thing I was doing without realizing it's a copyright violation. So I wanted to share my experience so that you can learn from my mistake."
Please go and read the entire article really quick, and then come back.
Are you back? Okay, are you FREAKED OUT like I was? I was sort of bothered by the first blog - a pressing on my heart that was like the subtle ticking of an alarm clock -only to read Loren's blog and thought "OH MY GOSH. CRAP."
I use picture all the time on my blog. ALL THE TIME. I always figured (wrongly), that if a photographer posts their image on Google Images than it was fair game. Right? WRONG. It is NOT fair game, like I guessed. To be fair, I NEVER thought I was hurting or stealing from anyone. I assumed that if it was on Google Images, that the photographer themselves had loaded it onto Google Images for the general public's use.
Nope. Nope. Nope. As suggested in the Last Day Ago blog, if you surf to the comments at the bottom, a man named Jordan posted this, and it struck me the same way, and convicted me right then and there. I had NO idea. To quote:
"As a photographer, I can explain this using one of my experiences as an example.
I have an image that I put a lot of time and effort into capturing, then processing to perfection. A 16 x 20 canvas sells for between $399 and $499, and it was my best-selling print in that price range because it was such a unique piece. It somehow made it onto Tumblr, and from there it just took off. At one point it had been re-posted on Tumbler more than a thousand times, I have no idea how many times it was posted on Facebook or Blogs or wherever. I come across it randomly on the web, no credit is ever given. Initially it had my watermark on it, but that was Photoshopped out somewhere along the way. Sales of this piece have dropped to the point that I no longer include it in my portfolio. It went from being a unique image to one that is seen all over the web, and there is nothing special about it any more. Sales of my other pieces have not increased - the Tumblr crowd is not interested in purchasing higher-end photography. Exposure doesn't always equal sales."
Wow. Just...wow. (*Insert choice word here*) I have never in my wildest dreams imagined that I was hurting someone's livelihood, someone's career or the way they put bread on the table. If I had known, if I had thought that I was doing that, I NEVER would have put up pictures that weren't mine. Like I said, I always guessed that the photographer's or artists themselves had loaded them onto Google Images to be used.
*I have permission for that photo! Promise!*
As a person who works in the creative arts, as a writer, I can't imagine if someone stole my words, or copied Elly in Bloom and put them it out there as their own. I would be FURIOUS. I would certainly go after them with the threat of legal action. So I can absolutely understand photographers or artists pursuing those that post their work, even if those bloggers - like myself - are acting in complete and utter ignorance and innocence.
I desire to see artists make a fair living from their work and shame on the person who willfully stands in their way.
In conclusion, you might notice some MAJOR changes have been made to this blog in the past few days. All pictures or art that was not my own and NOT put out publicly on the internet by a certified media company (i.e, movies, book covers, famous people, tv shows, etc.) has been permanently removed.
It took me 5 HOURS to sort through 652 blog posts to strip it of all the pictures that weren't mine. Saying it wasn't a major task would be lying.
As you can imagine, there was some terrible collateral damage: Any post that had to do with Pinterest has disappeared. (PS - Pinterest!! How are they NOT getting sued like every day?)
The biggest and saddest casualty of this purge was the "If I Got Married Today" blog posts. This greatly grieved me, because those were BY FAR my most popular posts, with one of them topping 12,000 views THIS YEAR. 23 posts in all, all of them with views in the thousands. But...here is the truth: they were also the WORST offenders of all my posts in terms of photos that weren't mine, so there was no way to get around it without deleting them completely. They had to go. It would have taken me years to track down the origins of each photo, to get permission to keep each and every photo from the photographer, and that's if they said yes instead of, "Oh really? It's on your blog? Let me call my lawyer..."
It was a hard choice, but in the end all of them had to go. Did I shed a tear for those posts when I clicked on the tiny little trash can? Did I shut my eyes for a minute, thinking of how much time, how many words and guest bloggers contributed to those blogs? Certainly.
However, I also let out a sigh of relief when I deleted them, knowing that I have protected myself, and many photographers from what was a honest mistake, but a complete mistake nonetheless? Absolutely. It was the right thing to do, and it was the wrong thing to have them there in the first place. Rest assured, all the pro-pictures that I've ever posted of weddings I always had permission from the photographer to use.
If you are a blogger, I would heed you to read the blog at Last Day Ago AND the full blog over at Roni Lauren's blog to get a better idea of where you can find free images, what you can and cannot use, and how a disclaimer on your blog won't protect you.
It might stop your heart for a few hours, but it's worth it. I would rather blog with a clear conscience than have one filled with the best images. If anything, this has encouraged me to take more pictures and to look into where I can find free images to make this blog the best it can be.
Good luck in your own purge. I'm sure, right now, somewhere, there are alarm bells going off in someone's head. It will be okay. It might just take a few hours and a few tears.
Just because you have posted them with only innocent intentions does not make it right. That's up to us.