July 20, 2012

Fair Use Fracas

This image brought to you by Wikipedia Commons.
Totally legal to use, and totally flipping creepy.
Henceforth, expect similar creepiness and irrelevance.
I just finished reading an article on author Roni Loren's blog that I think is important for all bloggers, Tumblr-ers, Pinteresters, and so forth to check out. Basically, it has me questioning a number of my own practices as a blogger and a pinner, so much so that I'm seriously contemplating discontinuing my use of Pinterest and changing the way I do things on my blog.You can follow the link above for the full article, but I'll summarize some of what it says here. This may not be news to some of you, but it sure was to me. Some of the information I'm providing is from Roni Loren's article, and I'm adding my own comments to this. (See? Now I'm paranoid.)

Source-citing
It doesn't matter if you go out of your way to list the source from which you borrowed a photo, you can still be sued for breaking copyright laws. Half the time when I use a photo on my blog, even if I'm citing a source, I don't know for certain that the source I'm citing is the owner of that photo.* It's like a telephone game of image borrowing, and who the heck knows where it originated? It doesn't matter if I cite my source. If I used it, I can be sued.

Non-Commercial Use
Again, it doesn't matter if my blog is not-for-profit. If I use somebody else's image without their say-so, I can be sued despite not making any money off of it. For many artists, it's the principal of the matter, not the loss of potential profits.

Providing a Disclaimer
Just because you went ahead and added a disclaimer to your blog doesn't mean you're in the clear. Stating that you are not claiming ownership or rights to the image doesn't absolve you from copyright infringement or from any repercussions.

Unless you receive permission directly from the owner of the copyrighted image, you are breaking copyright law and could end up paying the price. Roni Loren herself ended up finding this out the hard way. The only 100% safe images are those gleaned from sources providing approved images for public use, or those you take yourself (which could be a lot of fun).

As for Pinterest...
Take a moment to read their Terms & Privacy section. It's enlightening, I assure you. In short, it places the burden of responsibility and any ramifications of copyright infringement on you the pinner. I don't know for certain, but I'm betting the same rules apply when pinning copyrighted images on Pinterest as using them on your blog. Do so at your own risk.

So?
I guess I'm just seriously asking myself: Is it worth the risk? As a writer hoping to get published, I of all people should be wary of borrowing content without permission. How would I feel if the borrowed content was from one of my stories? As much of a pain in the arse it might be, I'm going to try and only use my own photos or images in the public domain or creative commons from now on. I might not find exactly what I'm looking for, but at least I won't be breaking any laws.

If you blog, tumbl, or pin you should really take a look at Roni Loren's article for a more comprehensive look at this topic.


* Okay, probably far more than half the time.


20 comments:

  1. It's one of the reasons I use my own photography as much as I can on my blog.

    Thanks for the heads up! I'll definitely keep this in mind for when I do use other people's images.

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    1. I'm thinking this could be kind of fun. I have a decent camera, so it might be a bit of an adventure trying to come up with my own relevant pics. :D

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  2. Thanks for sharing! I just went back and tried to link to or replace photos/videos that weren't either promotional images (book/movie cover), from their original sources, or used with permission. It's a tricky area but this was a helpful nudge!

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    1. I always kind of of knew this stuff, but it just seems like I really should start taking it seriously. I still haven't decided if I'm going to go back and delete pics from previous blog posts. A year's worth of pics might be a pain in the arse. O_o

      P.S. I managed to read about 4 or 5 chapters of GREAT EXPECTATIONS yesterday! I'm slowly but surely catching up. :)

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    2. I scanned through my images before diving into the project (you know when you're adding an image, and one of the options Blogger gives you is "from this blog"? I opened up a new blog post just to scroll through that screen) and it turned out that I didn't have TOO too many that I had to change...and for now, at least, I only replaced images if it was vital to the post; otherwise, I just took down the picture and made some of the text a link to the picture I used, so if someone is reading through old posts they can click through and see what I'm talking about. It's not like I think I've got dozens of people sifting through my old posts anyway, so I'm satisfied with that as a stopgap. That was a lot faster than trying to find a public domain image to replace each one.

      And yay for Great Expectations!

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  3. Thanks for sharing. I'm so forgetful about this. Must be more source-citing! Also...if I were good at photography, I'd use my own photos. Also -copyright is such an interesting concept, and one I certainly don't think about often.

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    1. Aside from book cover images, I'm going to make sure I use personal photos or common use images from now on. I just don't want to take the risk.

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  4. Pinterest made nominal changes to their user agreement after a firestorm earlier this year. It's in your best interests to try and pin from original sources if possible; lots of websites have a pin it button now (and you can add a pin it button to your own toolbar). When I scanned through stuff for a redecorating project if a pic said IKEA sofa, I clicked the picture which (if it was pinned from IKEA or had the web address on it) went right ot the IKEA site. Then I pinned it myself. Retailers WANT you to pin for their site because it's free advertising for their products. I understand people use PInterest for all sorts of things, so the gray areas of where and who you're pinning from are definitely worth considering.

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    1. I just got rid of my Pinterest page because I just don't want the hassle. Plus, it tends to be more of a timesuck than I need anyway. I figure I'll just use my own photos or images for common use from now on. No issues there. :)

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  5. Good to know-- working my way through my blog replacing old images with open source ones!

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    1. I'm trying to decide if I'm going to do that too. I have a year's worth of posts I'd have to go through, but I still might go ahead and do it. I'd just rather not get myself in trouble, you know? :)

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  6. Thanks for sharing, Jaime! I think about those things but then thought Pinterest pictures as they are html and not copied onto the blog were okay. I guess not necessarily. Hmmm...Lots to think about!
    Maybe YA bloggers could start a Flickr account where we put all our own pictures that other bloggers may use...:D

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  7. For a while I've been using pictures that are clearly public demain (old paintings, sketches, etchings, etc.), or adding "public domain" to my searches. I'm fairly certain that we won't get into trouble posting things like book covers. I can't imagine publishers (and published writers) would object to us promoting their titles this way.

    It's hard because you want to be outraged--you're not making money from the pictures, and you're even drawing attention to the work of others, so why should the owners of the work care? But I wonder if we're more outraged by the inconvenience of having to use our own pictures (or hunt out copyright-free pictures)? As has been said, there is nothing wrong with copyright holders enforcing their copyright. Taking someone to court--especially someone who is willing to comply with a request to remove the pictures--is without question an over-reaction. But as owners of creative work ourselves, we should respect that. One day it might be our work someone's distributing for free without our permission!

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  8. Cripes. This put the fear of God in me.

    On my blog, I mostly use my own pictures and book covers (lots of those), but I do throw in an occasional pretty image from Google Images or some random Tumblr site. I'll definitely be more careful about that... What's really terrifying is my Pinterest account. I'm going to take a careful look at it and the bazillion images I've pinned and repinned over the last year. I hate to shut down the whole operation, but more so, I'd hate to be sued for unintentionally using someone else's image.

    Thanks for sharing this, Jaime!

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  9. This is a great post. I know personally that I don't pay nearly enough attention to where my pictures come from. My blog is just beginning but I have used a few pictures from Google images. I will definitely try to use public or my own pictures from now on.

    Thanks for the great post.

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  10. Oh my. I am now sufficiently paranoid....

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  11. This is good to know. I've kept it in the back of my mind when posting images on my blog.

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  12. Whoa. Thanks for this, Jamie!

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  13. I read that. It's going to make my blogging quite different from now on.

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  14. I had no idea about any of this! I'm sure this makes me sound extremely ditzy, but I just assumed if it came up in Google Images, it was okay to use.

    Wow. I definitely am going back and changing my pics out. Thanks, Jaime, for the heads up.

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