Monday, July 13, 2009

Photos shouldn't be stolen

I'm all about sharing content online. With one caveat. Link back and attribute that shared content to the original creator. I've been very stringent about this area with the content I share via MinnPics. The photographers who take those photos work hard and are proud enough and generous enough to share their content with the world and everyone should respect that work.

But what happens when the shared content online lands in a print publication where the publication earns money from someone's free content? If you're south metro (Minneapolis) blogger Bill Roehl, you send the offending This Week Newspapers (and parent company ECM Publishing) an invoice for $300 for using the unattributed photo. But being skinflints who seem to be in the business of devaluing the work of others while profiting from it, they ponied up a mere $50.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened and, because of unscrupulous and uncaring business people, it definitely won't be the last. I have seen it happen within my own office. Someone will demand a particular image for a client and while we do our best to use something from one of our vast subscription image services, we have very little pull in the situation and when push comes to shove the demanding party usually succeeds in pilfering an image from someone's website.

The obvious problem with this is that the image from whatever website was chosen may (or may not) be copyrighted by that particular website. It may have been stolen from another website by a flat out shitty web designer. We go round and round about how Google image search isn't an art source full of images free for the taking. Those images belong to other people and not everything you view on your monitor is yours to download and re-use. The second problem with using content residing online is that the resolution is about 1/4 of what is optimal for printed materials so while it is "free" the quality is basically shit so you've broken a law or two and shortchanged paying customers by providing lower quality images.

Another possibility is receiving a client's okay to use an image that resides on their website. They demand it and know that because it's on their website, they own the image. Or at least they think they do. This happened a few years ago with a client who chose an image (shitty as it was) from their website for a print publication. The problem was than an unscrupulous web designer had stolen this particular image from another website (a large fitness club rhyming with wifetime) and we were stuck in the middle with a rather strongly worded letter full of legalese. While this taught a couple people a lesson, it didn't percolate down to the rest.

The lesson here is to attribute people properly and if you're unsure about an image, ask questions or simply don't use it. If you don't like hassles, be honest and quit being thieving pricks. Yes, I'm looking at you This Week Newspapers.

Now that I'm off of my soapbox, head over to the Creative Commons obeying MinnPics and shower down kind words on the fabulous photos showcased there. (And if you're in the south metro this week, it's the final week of exhibition of the artwork from the Savage Art Show. The photo I entered is on display at Associated Bank in Savage, MN)

1 comment:

Bill Roehl said...

Thanks for the link Sornie.