As writers and Internet consumers, we all know the posts with the fun graphic of some sort will get more attention. An easy way to avoid dealing with copyright issues, is to create your own art using your camera, camera phone, GIMP, PicMonkey or Photoshop. However, what if you don’t feel like you can get those incredible shots? What’s stopping you from using those photos? If they’re on the Internet, they must be available for anyone’s use, right? Otherwise, how can Tumblr and Pinterest even exist?
This kind of mistake can make you vulnerable to legal actions . In this scenario, ignorance is not bliss as you can read in this story, where blogger, Roni Loren tells about being on the receiving end of a copyright lawsuit. I wanted to give you the perspective that you may not have thought about. What is it like as an artist to try to proudly display your art, but to vigilant against people using it without permission?
Today, we’re talking with Cyndi Calhoun, she is a teacher, she also runs a web site for the school she works for in addition to her web site, Pictimilitude and an artist, who has recently showed her work at True Blue Art Supply in Asheville, NC. She is here to give us the perspective on what a copyright is like as the person potentially being stolen from.
1. Have you (or anyone you know) ever found that your art had been stolen by another blogger? Actually, when I have done image searches with my images, I haven’t found them on other sites. Those that are on other sites, so far, have been with my permission. That’s not to say someone hasn’t swiped my images – I’m SURE they have – but I haven’t found them around the web, yet. I have found my words copied numerous times and it’s just as easy to swipe an image without permission. All it takes is a right-click.
2. Why do you think there’s so many bloggers who don’t know about copyright laws in concern with artwork? I think it’s because the Internet itself is a bit like the wild west: people have their own rules. You can find unlimited information for free. By extension, why wouldn’t an image be free? I think that’s where all the misunderstanding starts. Add to that the people who should know better don’t. I just recently completed a class and we had to do presentations. NOT ONE person credited the photos they used in their presentations and I know for a fact they weren’t their images. Even teachers and students don’t know that an image may be copyrighted. It comes down to education and spreading the word.
3. Could you tell a little about the kind of artwork you post on your site, and how you would feel if you found someone had taken it without acknowledging you, the artist? This is an issue I constantly struggle with. I want people to see my work and one of the best ways of marketing in this day and age is on the internet, via social networks and your own website. But it’s a mixed blessing: while you want traffic to come to your site and you want interest in your photos/artwork, people can easily take your images and do what they want with them. Watermarking is only mildly effective: a little photoshopping or cropping will remove a watermark. You can disable the right-click on your website, but that annoys more people than it helps. You can shrink-wrap an image, but anyone who’s at all saavy with computer code can easily circumvent any protective measures you might take. If someone had taken my work without acknowledging me, I’d first approach them about it. Many people don’t know that images are copyrighted unless they’re specifically released as Creative Commons images or otherwise released into the public domain. But, if they didn’t take the work down and/or made a lot of money off of it, I’d have a problem. I know of an artist who posted images on his site and a company in China made billboards with his artwork. Another company made t-shirt designs with his work. He had a tough time getting the companies to acknowledge his designs and pay him their fair share for the profits they made. After a few lawsuits, he finally recouped the money owed to him – but not all of us have that kind of time and resources to devote to this sort of thing….I still don’t have the answers. I just try to remain vigilant, watermark my images, and try to use a lower resolution. I just hope I don’t find my artwork on a billboard someday and find that someone else has made millions off of it.
It’s the bad apples we ALL have to watch out for – we need to have each other’s backs as bloggers.
4. Do you think in this digital age it’s in some ways easier or harder for a photographer to get noticed? (Or both) In this day and age, anyone who takes photos can market themselves as a photographer. I have seen a lot of websites with amateur and professional photography. Then, with powerful programs like GIMP, Photoshop and online image editing services, anyone with a little motivation can create some pretty amazing images. In that sense, it can be extremely difficult to stand out from the crowd. In a way, it also can separate the true talent from mediocrity: those who are persistent in their work, those who strive to be the best and stay in it for the long haul will be the ones who finally get noticed. It’s really a combination of a lot of hard work, marketing, and talent. That’s what turns heads. Having said that, I’m not a professional photographer or artist. I’ve studied both via classes and personal experience and I try to take my own advice: stick with it, improve, learn all I can, and use my talents and skills to help set me apart from my competition.
5. What advice would you give to bloggers who want to incorporate more clips/pics/art into their posts? Just do it. I know it’s cliché, but unless you make yourself practice, you’re not going to get better, you won’t develop any latent talent you have and there’s a real element of enjoyment from challenging yourself make a blog post that’s mediocre with images that are OK to a fabulous post with fantastic images that really make you stop and take a look. That is harder to achieve, but you have to start somewhere. A year ago, I had barely started with photography. I had a lot more experience with art. But, you have to develop your photography skills – at least a little bit – to enhance your blog posts. For me, I’ve always viewed photography as an art form: it’s an extension of my paintings and drawings I like to do, too. At the same time, understand that anytime anyone shares anything on the internet, it’s at risk for being swiped. Most people out there have good intentions. It’s the bad apples we ALL have to watch out for – we need to have each other’s backs as bloggers. If I ever come across another’s work – whether written or in the form of images – I make every attempt to contact the original owner of the work.
Well said, Cyndi, well said. So have you as bloggers had any issues with copyright? Do you have more questions than answers now? Let me know in the comments.
All photos in this post used with permission from Cyndi Calhoun, and all rights are hers.