Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Wasn't Trying To Rip Anybody Off - Honest

I've sited podcasts as inspiration for blogs before. Not only did Saturday's episode of On The Media inspire this blog, it ignited 3 days worth of panic driven research and work. One of the show's features told the story of Righthaven, a law firm which is buying copy rights from newspapers, then suing bloggers who use the copy written material without citing its source.

I wasn't worried initially. Many of the people being sued, were posting major portions of, or entire, news articles on their blogs. I DO quote news articles, and other sources, in my blogs. However, I ALWAYS cite specific sources, and provide a link to the full article/site. When using the information, I either use quotation marks around short direct quotes, or I write my own prose to convey what I've learned.

I was feeling pretty secure in the knowledge that I wasn't committing plagiarism, until little bird, or The Holy Ghost, or something whispered the word, "images," into my ear. It suddenly struck me that I use images, from around the internet, in my blogs. Thus, I decided to research the topic of image use in blogs. What I found scared me.

I spent Sunday reading multiple articles on the subject, hoping to find one that said using images on blogs fell under the terms of "fair use." I found the opposite. Google lists multiple stories of bloggers & artists being sued over image use. Remember the HOPE poster from Obama's 2008 campaign? Apparently, the artist, Shepard Fairey, used an AP photo of Obama to design the poster. Even though Fairey worked for the subject of the photo, Obama, AP owned the photo and was able to force Fairey into a legal settlement.

Legal sites such as Aaronhall.com agree the rights to a photo lie with the photographer. I had no idea who the photographers were for all the pictures I'd used. I'd made sure not to steel text, which I saw as the meat of a blog, but I'd treated images as garnish, and tossed them in willy nilly. Plus, the background on my food blog was a collage of pictures I'd collected from all across the internet. Panicked, I did more research to figure out how to legally use images.

1. First of all, I can use any image I take with my camera. With this in mind, I'm going to try hard to carry my camera with me, where ever I go.

2. Next, sites such as The Stock Exchange host licensed pictures on their site. I can use pictures displaying the following license, for free.

"You may use the Image

*In digital format on websites, multimedia presentations, broadcast film and video, cell phones.
*In printed promotional materials, magazines, newspapers, books, brochures, flyers, CD/DVD covers, etc.
*Along with your corporate identity on business cards, letterhead, etc.
*To decorate your home, your office or any public place."

Or, I can buy the right to use "Rights Managed" pictures from these sites. I replaced the background collage on my food blog with a new $4.00 collage.

3. Few users realize it, but people who post pictures on Photbucket sacrifice their copyright to such pictures, unless they mark their photo album as private.

"By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Photobucket Services, you hereby grant to Photobucket and other users a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content marked “private” will not be distributed outside the Photobucket Services."

I couldn't use a picture someone posted of Captain Kirk, because the poster can't waive Paramount's copyright. However, if someone posts a picture of a grilled cheese sandwich it's fair game.

4. The same widget which allows me to sell items through Amazon, allows me to post images of Amazon's merchandise within my blogs. Thus, I can use in image of a book I'm reviewing as long as I get the image from the widget.

5. Public domains such as CIA Factbook and The Smithsonian Institute are paid for with public money, making their photos free to use.

I wasn't merely upset by the thought of potentially being sued. When it comes to the law, I'm about as conservative as Joe Friday, so the idea I'd been breaking the law bothered me greatly. Therefore, I've deleted my blogs' pictures, and replaced them with legal images when I could. From now on, I'll ONLY use legal images, but when I can't my prose will have to paint my pictures for me.

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