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Sharing Other People's Work Online

Updated on December 28, 2012
I took this photo on my trip to Michigan in 2011.
I took this photo on my trip to Michigan in 2011.

Copyright And Sharing

Here is an interesting article on sharing other people's photographs across the blogosphere. It also applies to other people's writing as well and of course artwork, paintings and drawings.

It inspired me to write my own article. One that I've been thinking about for awhile. My first thought about it came when a friend who is also a photographer asked me how I stopped other people from using my pictures. I really didn't have an answer and I've never really thought about it that much and quite honestly I don't care if other people share my photographs. I'm sure plenty of people have since I post my work on my blog as well as facebook.

The problem comes in when people share other people's work and they don't give the proper attribution. If you are unfamiliar with what that means, it means when you post someone else's picture on your blog or social network you tell your readers whose picture it is and if possible where it came from(that is the website, blog, etc.) It only takes a few seconds to give credit back to the originating artist.

On my own blog I very seldom post other people's photographs and when I do I most definitely give credit back by stating who the photographer is and his/her website. I don't alter it it any way. Personally, I don't like hosting someone else's photo on my blog but on occasion I will if it's a particulary good photograph and I don't want them leaving my blog right away. And there's nothing wrong with that if you provide the artist's name, a link to his/her website and it isn't copyrighted. I always post a link and attribution.

One thing I don't do is host a copyrighted image. If it's copyrighted and I want to include it on my blog I simply post a link to the website.

I personally don't recommend having a blog that hosts only other people's images. That's a good way to run into someone who is less than pleased about your sharing of their work. Of course it's impossible to stop the flow of information and when someone sees a photo they like they share it. The problem with some social networks is that the original website is came from is not referenced. Now some social networks like pinterest put the name of the website/blog where the photo originated which is a really good thing. That way, the original author/photographer gets credit. This is something that I really like about pinterest. One thing I've noticed about them however is that when someone shares a photograph from a site where the image is copyright protected(which in all practicality you wouldn't be able to download, that is the purpose of copyright protection) it doesn't hold on to the copyright protection when it is shared and hosted on the pinterest site(once it is on pinterest anyone can download it to their hard drive with ease). So for those you who think that copyright protection will ultimately protect you and control people from downloading your images, you are wrong. That is if they share it on pinterest or a site like it. What this means for you is that you lose your copyright protection from being downloaded without your express permission. This, in my opinion, is a problem for those photographers who expressly want their images protected from just anyone downloading and using them. I don't quite see the problem with sharing but the whole premise of copyright protection is to avoid people using someone else's work and claiming it as their own. Granted, I don't know how many actually do that but there are apparently enough for many photographers to protect their work.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the user/sharer. When/if you download something off the pinterest site, facebook, myspace(or other sites that allow this type of sharing) be aware that you might be downloading something that was originally copyright protected. If you do and someone files a claim against you for copyright infringement at some point don't say you weren't warned. The excuse that you didn't know, because you got it from another site and didn't know it was said photographers work, won't pass muster and you could face fines and penalties. Not to mention, if you have your website/blog monetized with programs like adsense, amazon, commission junction, clickbank and other affiliate programs you could not only lose all of your earnings but have your accounts deactivated and you could be banned from ever signing up with these particular programs again and even if you are allowed to continue to use them you will be watched like a hawk to make sure you don't break their terms of service again and if you do, you won't get another chance. For that reason, I highly recommend not sharing photos on your blog/website from social networks like pinterest, facebook or similar sites. The risk to you is too high. It does give a link back to the original photographers site but it is too easy to forget to check the owners site and read their terms of service(if they have one) on sharing their work. Not all photographers want you to share their work so remember that.

This doesn't mean you can't share a photographers/artists work. You can post a link on your blog/website, just don't host any of the owners images on your site. As long as you follow this rule you will be fine.

There have been a number of instances where I want to share someone else's work. Maybe I particularly like a photo of an abandoned house they have posted and I want to share it with my readers. First, I make sure the image isn't copyrighted. And when I do share it I post a link to the owners site as well as the photographer's name on my blog so my readers know who took it. In fact, I usually state that I didn't take the image in question since I post mostly my own pictures. It doesn't matter that the other person's image may be better than mine(it may be alot better), I still refuse to take credit for someone else's work.

I have a photographer friend who posts all his work on facebook(I've tried to get him to start his own blog, we do overlap in some of the images we take{he likes to take pictures of abandoned houses too} but mine often go into other areas) but he either has no time for it or doesn't want to and is content posting his work on his facebook page. Regardless of this, I always give him credit if I share one of his photos on my blog which I don't do often, I don't want to appear greedy. That's something else you want to avoid. Don't use too many of the same photographers images. It can make you look as if you're following that photographer too closely(which isn't necessarily a bad thing) or even stalking one particular artist. Besides, you're not giving credence to all of the really good photographers out there and there are many. Just type in nature, plants, flowers, fashion, still life, food, creative photography, abandoned houses, etc. and you will find alot of images, good images from many photographers. Whatever your genre there are plenty.

This same principle applies to writing. If you choose to share an article on your blog/website make sure to give credit to the original author and it's in the public domain. If you choose to share quoted text make sure it is exact when you share it. Personally I avoid sharing articles that are not in the public domain. Public domain doesn't mean you can go to a competitors blog and share their article word for word on your blog. I recommend just providing a link to the blog post you want to share. And it avoids someone(who's not paying attention) from coming along and unknowingly giving you credit for someone else's article. This isn't something you want either or you shouldn't anyway.

I, personally, don't want to take credit for someone's else's writing, photos, artwork, etc. I want people to read my writing(good or bad), look at my photos(whether good or bad). It doesn't matter if someone's else's work is better than yours(and there will always be someone's work that is better). It is easy to think that just taking someone else's writing/art and calling it yours will hurt no one. It hurts you the most.

If your writing/art/photography could be better then practice, don't use someone else's as yours.

As for social networks like facebook there is no way really to know if you're sharing a copyrighted image. In fact, there are probably a good portion of images being shared that are copyrighted and once they are shared on sites like pinterest(like I stated earlier) they lose their copyright protection. Let me be a little more clear on that. Once on pinterest(and other social networks as well) they can then be downloaded to the users hard drive whereas on the original site they are copyright protected and can't be downloaded. This would not negate you from civil punishment and due process should the site owner persue copyright infringement.

Copyright infringement is illegal so remember that. It is theft. Plagiarism(using other people's words as your own) is also illegal.

It is okay to use images that are considered freeware however I very rarely use an image that I didn't personally take.

I'm by no means of the word an expert when it comes to copyright law but I hope that some of my tips help.

Here are some links to more information on copyright information.

Copyright Protection On The Internet

Copyright Cop

Copyright Infringement

A link to helping you protect your images. There is a lot of good information here. Some of it I agree with, some I don't. One way of protecting your images is to add your URL below the image or at the bottom. Unfortunately, users can simply crop it out. I've never been a fan of watermarking across the middle of the image but it can definitely discourage a thief from swiping your photograph unless they can photoshop it out which they probably can. There are some software companies out there that can help. If someone really wants to steal your image however they will find a way. Of course if someone is not deliberately trying to steal your picture but rather just share it they probably won't bother with taking your website's URL out and that can have the added benefit of driving people to your site. You must weigh the pros and cons of copyright protecting your work.

There are more links within these webpages that you should also read and become familiar with.


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