The Perils of Blogging

I am sure most of you are probably already aware of the recent drama where a writer was sued by a photographer after using a copyrighted picture on her blog.  If you haven’t seen the story then I thoroughly recommending checking it out at the following link.  It is, in my humble opinion, a MUST READ for anyone who blogs, and not just writers.  Even if you don’t have time to read all my post, go to the link directly below and read that Roni Loren’s story. 


It was just one picture and that is all it takes if it is owned by a photographer who has had enough of people using his/her pictures on the internet without paying them for the use.  

The blog post was scary.  
The comments are terrifying.
Here are a few of the things that I learned at the above link and also at this link, where the above post is re-blogged with permission. 
Photographers are far more fierce in their protection of copyright than most of the writers I know.  I know my books are pirated, but I generally put it down to a fact of life and the nature of the internet.  For one site you get to take them down, another five upload them.  I have never once considered sueing someone for pirating my books.  But maybe I should.
*  Although Roni Loren (the blogger who was sued) does not disclose the figure she had to pay to the photographer, other commenters on the blogs have shared similar stories and the figures are not small.  Can you afford to shell out $17,000 in a court case?  I know I can’t afford that amount of money.  It is more than I make in a year at my full time day job and book sales combined.  Hell, if that is what you can get for suing someone and I successfully sued all the pirates out there who have uploaded my book I could afford to give up the evil day job.  Of course, that photographer in question is probably better established than I am, so I guess I am working for a while. 
Did you know there are groups out there who do nothing except track down photos being used in breach of copyright continually?  I didn’t know the organisation was that involved.  I had mistakenly assumed that photographers were as lax as writers such as myself are.  I’m not saying all writers are, just myself.  
*  Another assumption I had made is that with sites like Pinterest and Tumblr out there, where sharing is the whole point, that sharing on those sites was allowed.  Wrong again!  They are referred to in the comments at the blogs above as lawsuits waiting to happen.   The same goes for Facebook.  How many of you have shared a photo or picture on Facebook?  I know I have, well, that is enough to get you sued as well.
I do find it rather ironic that clicking to the Facebook profiles of some of the photographers criticising the writer shows they are not above sharing things on their Facebook walls.  I wonder how many of the others are similarly inclined to fail to practice what they preach.
*  Ah, but what about creative commons?  Surely they are okay to use, right?  Wrong!  The photographers posting on the blogs tell of their pictures appearing there time and again despite being copyrighted.  You cannot trust creative commons or wikicommons to be genuinely free to use images.  
The ‘Fair Use’ policy, in my opinion, is not worth a damn thing.  In the world of online blogging, there is no such thing as fair use, because no matter what you do, if you post a picture without getting the permission of the owner you are in the wrong and can be sued for money you don’t have.   It doesn’t matter where you found it and ignorance is no excuse.  If you use it they can sue you.
* * * 
So, after reading the above blog posts, and a lot more very worrying comments, particularly those from photographers who are very much in the “you’ve got it coming” camp, I had a blitz on my sites. 
Tumblr is closed down permanently and will not be re-opened unless I end up opening a new account for something entirely different.  Certainly I have no intention of opening up any time soon.  
I have gone through my Facebook wall and removed all photos from it that were shared.  I have deleted every album containing pictures which were not my own.
All blog posts with pictures that are not book covers or photos I have taken are either removed entirely or have had the pictures removed.  Apologies to a couple of guest bloggers who have had pictures removed.  My new policy for guest bloggers will be no pictures other than book covers unless you can provide me with a permission from the artist/photographer.  
I have removed all the photos from my banner save for the seascape scene.  This is a personal photo of my own and should any photographer dare to come here and claim it as his/her own and sue me over that I’ll raise merry hell with them and fight them through the courts for damages of my own.  
Any photos you see here or at my Facebook page in the foreseeable future will be ones I have taken with my own camera.  Unfortunately, I don’t know any gay men who would like to get naked in front of a camera for me.  Sorry!  
Of course, this may not even be enough since caching on the internet means that photographers can find if you have used one of their pictures in the past and sue you then.  One commenter at the blog above suggested approaching the photographers/artists and offering to pay for the use of the image before you are sued.  Which is why I decided to look into how easy that would be since it would certainly be preferable to being sued.

The Experiment
I decided to see just how easy it is to contact these artists/photographers who are demanding we get permission to use their pictures and/or pay them to use them.  
How easy is it?

Bloody hard from what I’ve seen the last couple of days.  

Have you ever tried to track down the source of a picture on the internet?  Have you ever tried to find the artist/photographer of a piece you like?  This week, after my blitz, I decided to try it.  Here are the results.
The Sexy Merman Painting
Picture number 1 is a work of art detailing a very sexy blond merman.  Those who share some of my friends on Facebook will have already seen it, but if you have not then here you can use the link to the reults below.  No, I won’t be posting it here since my efforts to find the artist have come up with nothing.  Yes, that’s right.  I tried to find this artist and am at a brick wall.  

Using the “drag picture” to search for it wherever it is posted via Google (something else I learned from reading the comments) garnered me 36 results.  With such a low number, you’d imagine one of them would be the artist, but I can’t find him or her there at all.  Lots of blogs, Facebook accounts, etc.  Lots of Russian sites and in light of the look of the merman I am inclined to think the picture may be Russian in origin.
Two of the images show a website address over the bottom right corner of the image, but it would appear that those two sites are merely claiming it as their own, rather than having produced it.  Though I admit that my Russian is non-existent and Google translations are hardly the best way of figuring this out.  
Looking at the sizes of the pictures, only one of them would appear to be larger than the rest and on the basis that everyone else has probably reduced it, I have sent a message to the owner of the site to see if she can shed any light on the origins of the picture.  I’ll add a note in here if I get any joy in that avenue.  The site owner is a writer and not, as far as I can see, an artist as well.  
But there is no obvious site for the artist in the results I am getting back right now.  

The Colourful Kittens

For my second picture I tried to find the original photographer for a set of rather colourful kittens.  I quickly discovered that the original picture had four ginger and white kittens rather than the multi-coloured kitties on the one I had seen.  However, searching for that picture brought back more than 2000 results, mostly free wallpaper sites, but is the photograph really free to use?  I have no clue and sorry, I am not searching through more than 2000 sites for the origins of the picture.  I don’t have that sort of time and I doubt anyone does… well, apart from a photographer set on sueing the 2000 plus people using the picture without permission I suppose. 
Gay Men Kissing in the Surf
For my third and final experiment I decided to search for a picture of two men kissing in the surf on the beach.  I firstly found a number of other photos from the same photoshoot and relatively few hits for the exact photo I was searching for.  This one HAS to be easy to find the photographer for.  Not a hope – two pages not found and two blogs.   Looking into the similar images does throw a bit more light onto the mystery.  The model would appear to actually be an openly gay Israeli singer.  As such I doubt his pictures are free to use.  Celebrity photoshoot pictures, no matter whether he is not as famous in other countries, are almost certainly off limits for re-posting.  

Now, what you might think is that maybe this gorgeous singer wants to get his face known out there.  Surely it is good publicity to have his picture shared?  Well, it might not be his choice.  He doesn’t necessarily own the rights to his own photos and if the photographer doesn’t want them sharing it is up to them to sue the person using the photo against his wishes. 

Conclusion

So what do I find at the end of this small experiment.  I found nothing except three photos/pictures I would not dare use on my blog for fear of being sued.  
I have a sexy mermen story in the works, but I won’t be illustrating any blog posts about that with the picture I linked to above, at least not without having first got permission to use it.  And since I doubt I’ll get permission, since I can’t find the artist in the first place …. well, the blog posts will have to be illustrated with my own pictures, so feel free to point me in the direction of a sexy merman for me to photograph please.

Photographers can demand we ask permission and pay them, but tracking a photographer or artist down isn’t that easy in the vastness of the web. 

Which leaves bloggers such as myself with the following options:-

*  Track down some paid sites and pay to use their pictures (can’t afford it just yet).
*  Use only my own pictures (working on it).
*  No pictures at all. 

Neither option is particularly appealing, right?

Well, I just have to remind myself that being sued by a photographer is even less so, but since nothing ever completely disappears from the internet I could still end up being sued anyway, since I have no way of knowing if one of the pictures I have used in my blog is copyrighted by a photographer who may decide to sue me.  Chances are slim since I haven’t used many on the time I have been online, but even so, the attitude of photographers is enough to scare the hell out of me.  

6 responses to “The Perils of Blogging

  1. So interesting. I think you are definitely on the right track. I've had the idea of an author sharing group for a while now. Seems like this would be the ideal time to start that!

  2. That sounds like a great idea. Assuming you mean personal photographs or art work, though my skills with a pencil or paintbrush are severely lacking.

  3. Creative Commons is okay if you go the original aite of the copyright owner and read what they require as attribution for their photos. Some have put them into public domain, and others allow free use as long as their copright is credited. You can't simply lift photos from Creative Commons but need to check the original sources and the photographer's requirements for use of his/her photo.

  4. Probably in most cases that is okay, but the issues arise when – as photographers in the comments at the other blog say – other people upload their photos to creative commons without their authority and how is a simple user supposed to know what is up there legitimately and what is not?And if you know it is up their when it shouldn't be, how do you contact the source? My experiment into just three pieces made it clear to me that it is virtually impossible.

  5. if you know photoshop you can create your own merman

  6. Nice idea, but I am afraid I have no talent at all in that sort of thing. I shudder to think what my merman would turn out like, but I suspect it would be anything but sexy. LOL

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