It was a crazy week in the blogsphere. Are you still feeling the ripples? Fellow WANA blogger Roni Loren (trad published romance author) posted a candid cautionary tale that has bloggers running scared: Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics On Your Blog - My Story
Yep - this blogger posted a picture she didn't own the copyright for and didn't have express permission from the photographer to use, she was sued, and lost the case. You mean that happens? Uh - yeah. We're all artists. I've had my work stolen, even posted online without permission or compensation. It can be maddening - even if credit is given. As bloggers it's easy to search Google for an image and use it. We reason that we haven't made any money from the photo so no harm no foul. If that's how you feel, and I know there are a lot of bloggers who do feel that way, I want to present another side of the story. I interviewed award-winning photojournalist Brent Foster (a fellow Canuck) about how he views copyright and bloggers. **Keep in mind that this is not legal advice - I'm not a lawyer, Brent is not a lawyer.
While copyright laws - especially fair use terms - do differ between Canada and the U.S.A. both countries give creators full copyright (this includes art, music, images, written word, videos, etc.). Bloggers beware.
LHW: As a photographer, what is your perspective on others using your work online even if it's just on a blog, even if they link to your site or give you credit, even if it's been published in a newspaper/magazine, even if they haven't made any money off the image? Is this a cut and dry issue for you, or are there shades of gray? (ie/ Pinterest)
There are so many shades of gray with people using my work (and other photographers work) online. Truthfully, I think it comes down to respect, context, and sometimes even cross promotion. As a photographer that crosses multiple platforms in photography (I shoot editorial, wedding, commercial, and cinema) things become very blurry. For example, let's say a high-end wedding blog wants to use a pic I took of a venue for an upcoming feature about them with credit and a link back to my website http://www.brentfosterphotography.com
... no problem. Now, if that same blog takes the image and uses it without permission, or a credit with link back, and we have a problem. Let's say the venue now looks at the blog, likes the image, and then takes it from the blog for their own website/commercial promotion claiming they didn't know who took the image and simply got it from the blog... now we have a really big problem. I think you can see where I'm going here. Each and every case may very well be unique.
In my wedding photography, I want people to come across my images with my website link/credit in as many places as possible when searching for photographers, ideas, etc. Being featured on blogs that thousands of brides see is a big part of my marketing, and sharing the photos I take with those blogs benefits the blog, and our business, so it's a natural win-win.
The editorial side is kind of the opposite. Many times, I am investing my own money to work on stories focusing on social issues that I feel have to be told. In order to get those stories out to editors, and show my body of work, the images are often presented on my editorial website http://www.brentfoster.com
. If a blogger randomly grabs those images to add to their site we have an issue. First of all, the stories are often sensitive, and can be used on sites that may not line up politically with the story. The images taken out of context of the full story could end up anywhere on the web, and this poses a huge problem. For example, someone that took a photo I took of a child suffering in Africa could be adding it to their blog for what they would consider the right reasons (eg. a campaign to raise money, etc.) but then that same image could be taken from their blog and end up on an inappropriate site. The other part, of course, is that because a lot of the work I do on large editorial stories is self funded, that means I have now payed to give content to a blogger stealing my images. Lastly, in order to sell a story I've spent weeks/months on to a large editorial client it most often must be exclusive. Even if a blogger took an image and credited me, a simple google search by an editor at a large magazine could lead them to deciding not to run the story.
LHW: If a blogger wished to use one of your images (or any photographer's), what would be the polite/professional way to approach the issue?
The best way to use a photographer's image on a blog is simple. Take the time to call/email them and ask permission. That photographer will certainly let you know their policy on releasing photographs for blogs, etc, and it will save you a law suit.
LHW: What message would you like to send bloggers in general about the use of sharing images they don't own the copyrights for?
Be polite. Simple as that. If someone stole your content to go along with a photo, how would you feel about that? It works both ways. Again, most photographers want their work out there, they just want to be respected, and not ripped off. Save a lawsuit. Call/email that photographer, and ALWAYS credit them.
What I take away from this is: 1) it never hurts to ask. If the photographer sends you a price list and you're looking for free, then you have your answer. Nothing ventured nothing gained. 2) As fellow artists let's offer photographers and other creatives the same courtesy and respect we ask for - clear and simple. 3) If you're planning to self-publish and are looking for cover art then meticulously search out copyright info and secure written permission or suck it up and pay for exclusive rights to the image.
I think another part of the problem is that many bloggers don't have a stockpile of posts or schedule two or more weeks in advance. When you're up at 2AM bleary-eyed looking for a picture to go with the blog post you've just spent 4 hours writing, you're more likely to bend on the rules and grab an image from Google and not worry about attribution or copyright. That is a slippery path. Many bloggers I know have gutted their blogs in response to Roni's post. But the reality is that Google creates a cache of your blog, so anyone who knows how can pull up that blog post with the stolen image and still sue you even after you've removed it from your site. Begin as you mean to continue and respect the work of others.
A few responses to Roni Loren's post have already surfaced. These are great resources for industrious bloggers who are looking for free images. Also, in response, WANA Mama Kristen Lamb created a WANA Commons group on Flickr where WANA peeps have shared their own photographs for bloggers to use with attribution. To date there's over 1,400 photos on there.
Blog Images Made Easy: Tips From a Non-Graphic Artist
via August McLaughlin
7 Free and Legal Places to Find Photos
by Melinda VanLone via Marcy Kennedy
Where To Get Photos For Your Blog
via Meghan Ward (this explains the various copyrights granted, and how to interpret those tiny little symbols)
Drum roll please.... The winner of the last Facebook critique by me is Coleen Patrick. Thanks to everyone for helping to promote the Candid Writer. Watch for a new giveaway in August. A special thank you to those who have recently subscribed. I love writing this newsletter each week, I hope you enjoy receiving it. I'd love to hear your feedback - what I'm doing right, what I'm doing wrong - topics you'd like to see covered. I read every response. firstname.lastname@example.org