Monday, 26 August 2013

Photographic Folly


I’m sure many of you will be aware that I usually have a photograph to accompany my blog postings. I like to think that it adds a little more eye-candy to the post. These photos usually come from my own photographic library (currently approaching 10,000 images, and always growing). On those times when I don’t use my own image, I usually use a piece of clip art, or perhaps the cover of a book. In other words, I do this to ensure that I don’t infringe anyone’s copyright. (Technically, using book covers does infringe copyright, however, most publishers don’t kick up a fuss because they like the publicity.)

The reason I mention this, is because, if you have time, I would seriously recommend you read the following blog posting by romantic author Roni Loren: http://www.roniloren.com/blog/2012/7/20/bloggers-beware-you-can-get-sued-for-using-pics-on-your-blog.html. This shows how an ordinary person, who did not set out to harm anyone, found herself on the wrong side of the law, when using some photographs found on the Internet to illustrate her blog.

It’s something I find many writing students do - especially when tackling assignments on travel writing. They write their articles and then search the Internet for some suitable images. As a writer, you would be mortified if someone stole your words, but, because photographs are everywhere on the Internet, many people think it’s okay to help themselves to anything that they can find. What’s on the Internet is free to use, right? No. I own the copyright in this blog posting, and I also own the copyright in the photo accompanying this post. (Yes, even though it is a photo of me, I took it, because I set the camera up on a timer. And also, remember, it is the person taking the photo who ‘creates’ the photo, not the person who owns the camera.)

I’ve mentioned before how photographs can increase your chances of selling your words. Indeed, that’s what my next book is about (I’m reading the final proofs as I write this), so I understand why writers look for images. But the safest way to do this is to take your own photos, or to get permission to use photographs (for writers the best source is directly from PR and Media departments who have photographs for this precise purpose - to be used in publications to publicise the destination/product.)

So next time you need images to illustrate your article, or book, remember that copyright applies to every creative form, just as much as it does to words. Don’t make the mistake that Roni Loren did, because it could lead to financial claims, or months of heart ache from threatened legal action.

Good luck.

11 comments:

  1. Yes, interesting ... but if the writer using the images gave credit to website they came from, would that perhaps go some way to prevent getting sued?

    Ron

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    1. Hi BirderRon,

      Giving credit isn't enough. You must ask permission, and if the photographer wants to charge you for using their image, they have every right to do so.

      If I cut and paste the entire contents of JK Rowling's crime novel into my blog - and then just crediting her (or whichever pseudonym she's using), that won't stop her suing me.

      By asking permission, and being given permission, the creator is issuing you a licence to use their work. (And they can charge you for that licence.)

      Simon

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  2. I've got a great example of this happening my new book for writers too (in production at the moment - same publisher I believe)! It was a situation where a former colleague at an old workplace had used a photograph from the web that belonged to Getty Images. It cost the company £1000 in copyright infringement fees. I always use my own pics except where I have express permission. Clip art is a funny area. If you read the detailed restrictions on Microsoft's T&Cs, then it says they shouldn't be used commercially, which technically means you could get in trouble for using them too. I tend to avoid them, but it's such a grey area (and frankly, I'm not sure) so I've stayed well clear of clip art discussions in my book. :-) @susiekearley

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    1. Yes, I know what you mean about clip art. I wouldn't classify my blog as a commercial enterprise, but you'd be treading on dodgy ground if you used clip art in a book!

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    2. Yes, I thought that after I'd posted. Most writers blogs are probably not deemed commercial. My book's more about selling articles to magazines.

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    3. Good luck with the book then!

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  3. Thanks for a useful post, Simon. These days I try to use my own photos (or clipart if it specifically says 'free to use') but I trawled through my older posts and found a couple of photos that I probably shouldn't have used - and I've changed them! Phew! Don't want to be sued!!

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  4. Very timely post for me too, Simon. I was looking for an image for my posting yesterday and was tempted to use an image from the Lynard Skynard album. I decided against it and used a picture of my mindmap instead. It isn't as pretty, but at least I own it.

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  5. Really useful post Simon. I'd heard about this and ever since have tried to use only my own photos on my blog. With a camera phone it's not that difficult as they take such fantastic photos these days. I'm glued to mine, it's like a third arm.....

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    1. You're so right, Cara. Most people have cameras on their mobile phones these days, and no-one seems capable of going anywhere these days without their mobile phone with them - so most of us have a camera with us at all times! It so much easier to take our own photos, and it avoids all of these issues!

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  6. Really useful post Simon. I'd heard about this and ever since have tried to use only my own photos on my blog. With a camera phone it's not that difficult as they take such fantastic photos these days. I'm glued to mine, it's like a third arm.....

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