On stealing photos. And the morality of a three-year-old.
In November of last year, when my nephew was three, he was given a playmobil plane for Chanukah. It was long fought, with him having picked it out of a catalog a month before, called his grandmother in New York and asked if please please please she could buy him something he referred to as “the California airplane.”
When it arrived, he was elated, running around the living room in a figure 8, between my sister, who was applying stickers and putting the plane together, his grandmother, who had made the plane arrive, and any available floor space. I rememeber specifically, he kept on saying, “I’m so happy! I’m so excited about the California airplane!”
A day or two later, after some infraction (throwing a toy at someone, I believe, and this is a pretty strictly anti-throwing house), my brother in law put his hand on the airplane and tried to talk to J about throwing. “Are you going to stop throwing?” he said, as he pulled the airplane away from J. J went blind with possessiveness. It was perhaps, not the finest hour in parent-child interaction, my brother in law pulling the plane away from J, and insisting that he say he was sorry. The plane was pulled further out of reach, up and away, and my brother in law insisted he apologize. And J didn’t hear a word he said.
My nephew wasn’t having it. It was his plane, and he loved it, and he’d played with nothing else for two solid days. And so, as instructed in day care and general three year old life, he used his words.
That’s not your plane.
Give it back.
It’s not yours.
You can’t have it.
Grandma gave it to me.
He wailed and sobbed.
That’s not fair.
It’s my plane.
He keened and wailed.
Eventually the detante ended, and he got his plane back. He snurfled the last of his snotty tears, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, and cuddling the plane towards him. “My plane.”
Three year olds know what is theirs, a lesson they learn early and hold close throughout the rest of their lives. The thing they learn after that is, if it’s not yours, then don’t take it.
Which brings me to the great spate of photo theft of late on the blog. On not one, but several occasions recently, I’ve had people just download photos from the blog and reuse them on their site. Sometimes they link to me, sometimes someone else tells me they’ve seen the photos. The first time it was a tourism site I happened to come across. Photo by bearshapedsphere on creative commons, they said. I wrote them and said, “No, it’s not, take it down or pay.” They took it down.
The next most recent event included a newbie blogger in Chile who I actually made make a public apology on his blog. Which he did. And then on Friday, another blogger in Chile (this one in her mid 20s, some 22 years older than my nephew) not only took photos from my blog, but also walked off with some from another gringa blogger and then tweeted her thanks.
What I should say here is that it’s particularly egregious because these three most recent events include people from my small community, people who write in English about Chile. I’m as likely as not to run into them at a party, to have friends in common with them, or to give them some link love (or not) from the blog.
On a “backchannel” conversation (which makes me sound like much more a spy than I am), with a bunch of friends, professional photographers included, it was suggested that I should a) demand money b) make her take them down and c) call her out. It is tempting, oh-so-tempting to call people out.
For now, consider this truism that even a three-year-old knows. Photos found on other people’s sites? Not yours.
Next time it’s name and shame time, as Matt Wilson suggested. I encourage all of you to do the same (despite what I wrote in this article on MatadorNetwork on content scraping about just accepting it). Next time you find someone stealing your stuff, shout it from the rooftops. I know I will.
Hacer el perro muerto (from the picture above), means to dine and dash, or walk out on a meal without paying. I took a photo of this stencil on March 11, 2007 in downtown Santiago. You should not dine and dash. I bet my nephew knows that, too.
Also, the two bloggers who took my photos took photos of the protests. I hereby suggest that if you want good protest photos, that you get down and dirty with the protesters. And bring a lemon. You’re going to need it.
Hear hear.Well said. Love the 3 yr old airplane story. So true
I guess this is my version of whining and keening. Also, thanks!
Great post and great nephew!
thanks, Melissa. He’s a keeper. And his airplane is divine.
The 3-year-old story is nice, but the main point is the one at the end. Taking pictures is hard. It entails physical risks to both you and your rather expensive equipment. Those of us who are freelancing might get $50 or $100 for a picture now and then, but mostly we have invested in this equipment and invested our health in photography because we want to tell stories. Having other people take the photos without permission and use them for their own stories is just annoying.
Some people do ask for permission first. I usually send them this: http://shouldiworkforfree.com/
Thanks setty, I knew you’d have my back. BTW, got any plans for Tuesday morning? I’ll be on the edge of the melee.
And so true about wanting to tell stories. Well said.
Content theft is incredibly irksome! I spot my photos in various corners of the Interwebs quite often, and while I do usually put up a fight, sometimes I just can’t muster the energy to see things through until the end (those who steal photos aren’t exactly the most responsive lot when it comes to emails). I very rarely call people/sites out when they lift my photos, but maybe I should start doing so…
Katie, could you imagine if it were another English speaker in Negochea? This is what I was dealing with in all three of these cases. I aggree, that I see stuff sometimes and I can’t be boetherd to chase it down all the time, but this person is theoretically pat of my community. I can’t even make it make any sense. Amyway, she took it down, and I haven’t heard any more from her. I think she’s been schooled. Next time I go public!
For some reason, I think there’s a feeling that if you can find it on Google image search, you can use it. I now know that’s wrong, of course, but there was definitely a time when I didn’t realize that I couldn’t just search for an image, download it and use it (although I would never have taken a photo directly from someone else’s blog because for some reason that felt different to me). Obviously there will always be people who intentionally steal content from others, but I think that right now there are also still people out there who’ve finally figured out that just because words are online doesn’t mean they’re free for the taking and are now beginning to apply the same logic to photos. I think many people are still at the stage of not realizing the internet has the same rules as “real life,” but they’re getting there.
Maybe we could “help” them to understand it? Just kidding, but yes, it is possible that somewhere, somehow, they believe that all fo the internet is for free use, but how could someone who went to a US university not know more about plaigarism? I liked what Setty said above, about how taking pictures exposes you to risks, and we do it gladly, to tell stories. I actually very seldom use even CC photos (not my own) on my blog. I just want to tell you what I saw, not what someone else saw. But that’s just me. Thanks for chiming in, Emily!
What a good post. I recently read another blog discussing theft of blog material. I can understand why someone would want to use one of your photos, but is it so hard to ask and talk to you first? And as you said, it is a small community of English speaking bloggers in Chile, why risk the possible “bad links” stealing could cause.
Maybe I am old, but I have noticed some of the younger bloggers here in Chile, sometimes do things without thinking of the consequence’s, (not all of course, but some).
Sorry I shouldn’t say that about younger bloggers, I suspect under 30 is much more common than over 40 for the age of bloggers here.
yep, I am 40, and I think (with you, I’m guessign), I now know 3 other bloggers in Chile who are older than me. The younger set seems to have more to say, it seems!
Yep, 40 here too, problem is, I tend to feel (and behave) like a 25 year old! One day I will feel all grown up!
I’m bringing immaturity back. Join the club!
Thanks Elizabeth. I hadn’t noticed this before, but also I proably don’t read as many gringo blogs in Chile as I might. I am asked for photos fairly frequently and I sometimes say yes, especially if it’s for something like Wikipedia (the first photo here is mine: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mocochinchi).
But like Setty said (above), it’s about storytelling. And it’s my story to tell!
BTW, am seriously considering building a solar oven for my balcony. Save me! Living in Santiago, I could do some serious cooking during the summer!
The blog discussing theft was in a different country, stealing of blog material happens all of the world, I guess. And how can you know it is happening with so many blogs out there?
But you are right, it is your story and your work and no one should steal that.
And I loved the bit about your nephew, really hard to go against a crying 3 year old!
I’ve never had anyone steal photos because my photos are crappy, but I have had people still my content without asking, tweeting, or even linking back to me. I actually just found a girl that apparently followed my old blog quite religiously and had reused MUCH of my content. It was disturbing, and not to mention RUDE. Not once do I even remember her commenting on that blog. They think that what they find online is free stuff. It is not, people!
oh yes, I’ve had lots of words stolen as well. Scrapearoonie. But the photos are more curious to me, because there’s sort of this “justification” where people think it’s close to being ok. It is so not close to being okay!
This is a topic close to our hearts. As we’ve been trying to clean up our photo gallery, we’re finding more and more of our images used by government websites, hotels, restaurants, tour companies, blogs, etc. Rather annoying to follow up and ask them to take it down or pay for usage, but rather that then let people think they can just take and use anything off the internet.
A couple of years ago, a supposed journalist cropped our copyright out of a photo and used the image in an online article. Then, he let us know about it because he was so proud of the article and completely clueless about his theft. Sad state of affairs.
A well written and enjoyable post as always Eileen, but I do wonder – should we be more graceful? I think about this often with my two jobs, one grading university papers and the other as a professional photographer. It’s evident that first and second year university students have a great deal of difficulty with plagiarism. But although a student may not have referenced another’s work perfectly, they are very rarely intentionally attempting to deceive the reader into thinking that it is their original ideas. It is clear there’s simply a lack of understanding in this area (which is not acceptable at higher levels of tertiary education). When my images are used online without permission, yes, my initial feelings revolve around how incredibly disrespected I feel, I’ve put my creativity and effort into producing the image and they have just taken it (and infringed upon my copyright licence)…. but if they’re not pretending that it’s theirs and they are crediting my work sufficiently in the spirit of sharing a beautiful image with more people or to help illustrate their own story, well what’s the real harm? I don’t know about you, but I love creativeness and think it’s wonderful when people explore the realm of their own creativity. Some people are new students in this area, and don’t know how to go about expressing themselves without ‘borrowing’ from others (which doesn’t feel nice when you’re ‘others’) but are they intentionally trying to deceive their viewers into thinking it’s their original photo? If so, that’s terrible and maybe they should be shammed, but if not then some kind correcting direction (as you have assumedly given to said blogger) seems fitting in my opinion. After all, I know for me, the reason for (sporadically) writing a blog is simply to record and share my ponderings and news and to hopefully entertain a few friends in the process. It’s not a competition and it’s hard to imagine that anyone using an image that doesn’t belong to them would have done so with nasty intent.
Hi Amanda, it is your right to allow people to use your pictures to tell their story. I prefer to use my own pictures to tell my story, and not to have other people use them to tell theirs. To me, it’s not flattering, and it’s not an expression of creativity to use another’s photos. Reasonable minds will have to differ, here. Also, setty’s point about how I risk myself and my fancy equipment comes to mind again. BTW, my fancy equipment (strap, and camera itself, plus camera bag) reek of tear gas now. You can’t get that stealing photos off the internet (see latest post)!
That is commitment and a big risk indeed! Awesome story “Tweens vs. teargas” post today!
A long long time ago when Xanga was cool, I had a personal blog and wrote this long personal existential type review of my day and saying goodbye to family and how i felt, etc. I go to this one girl´s xanga to see my same personal entry but with names and places copy and pasted out. Way wrong! Sorry you´re dealing with plagarism, Geesh, How hard is it to link back to someone anyway?
she did link. But I am selfish. You want to tell your stories, you use your photos. I figure no one gets confused that way. If you want to use someone else’s photos which are not creative commons, you have to ask. It’s just common courtesy. Also, I’ve never heard of Xanga, which shows you how out of it I am, but I’m sorry someone stole your work, that’s terrible!
I think you need to put something on your page that explicitly states that the content here is copyright, do not use without permission, ask first, what your ‘link’ back policy is etc. Something like “All original content and photos by Eileen Smith are copyright protected. You must email me for permission before re-posting content or original photos from Bearshapedsphere”. Also have a copyright c at the base of the page.
Then, if someone does use a foto or words[and I’m sure they still will] you can know that you have made clear your policy. Some folk think it is ok to use a foto if they link back to source, especially for non-commercial use/blog. It may not be, in your case, so help them know that by clarifying the status of your content.
damn. More smart advice from Mandi. Lucky to have you on my side, and will take this to heart.
Stealing might be wrong, but linking isn’t. If these guys are linking to you, they’re doing you a big favor by improving your authority with google. Authority as in SEO, as in more people will read your blog and you’ll do better. Maybe someone will buy a photo of yours, or see the post and offer you a consulting job. Maybe they’ll pass on your blog to their friends.
If they don’t include a link, obviously you should call them out on it. Thinking about things in terms of intellectual property and mine vs. yours might be right legally, but you’re hurting yourself in terms of building buzz and getting your message out.
Obviously, you can post a warning about all materials being copyrighted, but do you think that will help you get heard?
Thanks for your comments, Jonathan.
I don’t think that people are doing me a favor by using my pictures. They could easily link to me without using the pictures, and I don’t believe that all links are good links. Also I’m no SEO expert (in fact, I don’t purposely employ any SEO tactics here, which makes me possibly a gigantic fool), but links and SEO are not the same, and I’m pretty sure they have nothing to do with each other.
I take a very live and let live attitude towards this. You do your thing, and I’ll do mine. I’m happy to make contacts with people, keep in touch, make friends, inform and be informed in the blogosphere, but I have no desire to make anyone else internet famous, or to become internet famous myself. I believe it grows organically. I could pimp myself out and comment left right and center, and leave links to my blog just to increase traffic. But that’s not the kind of traffic I want.
You know, what bothered me most about this situation is that this person is someone who blogs about Chile in English. It’s a very small community. But also? It’s over. And yes, I’ll keep on saying I prefer that people contact me before using my photos, and maybe I’ll say it’s okay, like I have done to wikipedia, several mapping softwares, a few political web pages, Global Voices (a citizen media clearinghouse), and a couple of magazines that have featured articles about me.
I hate my photos (and content) getting copied.
That’s why I now put the big ugly (c) notice on all photos so that if they remove it, it becomes intentional theft.
smartypants! But me da paja! But I know you’re right!