December 20, 2007

Borrow from Flickr -> Live to regret it

Through Google Image Search & the like, it’s almost ridiculously easy to find pictures of nearly anything you can imagine–and just as easy to drag them into editing tools for your own use.  Do it to a motivated photographer, however, and the practice can end in tears.

Last week, an image taken by photographer Lane Hartwell was used without permission in a parody video posted on YouTube.  She wasn’t pleased, contacted the band, and filed a takedown notice with YouTube.  CNET’s Stephen Shankland recaps the events to date, then interviews Hartwell.  She notes that she’s had to deal with similar incidents frequently (five in just the last two weeks).

Over in the NYT, David Pogue talks about “the generational divide in copyright morality.”He lists a number of the scenarios he mentions to gauge audience reactions to what kind of media copying is acceptable.  Short story: older people see shades of gray, whereas younger people think that anything goes.

I wonder what these folks would say about appropriating a piece of photography, artwork, or software.  If a college kid did a painting that got used in a GM ad campaign, I’m betting he or she would feel entitled to some compensation.  Now, if that painting got used in an amateur video on YouTube, would that be okay?  What if the video promoted a hate group?  Do these guys think that the creators of intellectual property deserve to have any say over how their work is used & whether they’re compensated?  Without any of their skin in the game, the general answer seems to be no.

[See also: Lawrence Lessig’s talk on “How creativity is being strangled by the law.”  Also, Derek Powazek has posted some sensible thoughts about collaborative media.  Rule 1: Ask First.]

Posted by John Nack at 6:55 PM on December 20, 2007


  • John Dowdell — 8:35 PM on December 20, 2007

    Thanks for covering this issue, John.
    If someone makes some digital bits, I think they have a say in how those bits are subsequently used.
    Different people can reach different decisions on what copying they’d like to allow. This right can’t be usurped by people wanting to use those bits.
    We’ve got to figure out some way to enable such a range of choices….

  • Ken — 6:55 AM on December 21, 2007

    Thank you for this post.
    I am 61 and for the last 8 yerss I create a Christmas DVD Gift (prophetic poetry) and give it to about 13 of my friends (I am sure they never watch it, which shatters my ego)and I “borrow content” from the web to help me produce my “media poetry” .I have some “guilt” about this, knowing I am using some content not of my creation, but don’t sell,profit from the DVD, and if the DVD did land in the hands of a Hollywood producer, it would in the trash before if was opened. So…..I get some relief reading these posts.
    (by the way, I use premiere pro, photoshop CS3, and encore to produce a 12 min DVD)
    Most kindly and Merry Christmas

  • Albert — 11:24 AM on December 21, 2007

    Copyright infringement!
    This is a very fine line to be walking by everyone.
    a 1 second view of an image in a 2 minute video is a fine line.
    That being said, I agree that they should have asked permissions to make sure she would allow them to use that image. So, I’m going to start posting photos of my own all over the big cities of the world and when I see them in a movie, news report, photo shoot, or any other media I’m going to sue because My image was used without my permission.
    We start to see the absurdity of some of this claim.
    However, was the picture put there on purpose or did it just happen to be on a computer screen or on a wall or somewhere that just “Happened” to be in the background of where the band was singing? I can’t tell you myself because I never saw the first version but I can tell you this, if there was intent to specifically use the photo then there should be compensation. If it was just in the background and held no bearing to the video what-so-ever, then I would say Lane is in the wrong.
    Just my two cents.

  • J. Peterson — 1:23 PM on December 21, 2007

    TechCrunch has also covered this, more on the side of the video’s creators and “fair use”.
    The video is wonderful, particularly funny if you’ve ever been through the valley’s start-up mill. The video’s creators (the Richter Scales) didn’t exactly profit from the video (with or without Hartwell’s photo) in spite of its enormous popularity.

  • Jeff Delacruz — 2:49 PM on December 21, 2007

    As a commercial photographer, it would be highly difficult for me to create if every picture i created were open source. How could i continue to create photography if i couldn’t be compensated for it. Copyright is highly important to the life of a creator and must be protected or what would be the point. Just simply creating to create doesn’t pay the bills. Therefore, from my point of view protecting copyright is actually encouraging creativity.
    I wish there was a way to more easily track your images, where they are at and how they are being used.

  • Dror — 11:55 PM on December 21, 2007

    Is this not just a rehash of the Richard Prince/Jim Krantz debate for the online generation?

  • Eric — 12:17 AM on December 22, 2007

    The way our legal system works, a photographer has no choice but to pursue the issue. If they don’t, they lose the ability to protect their work in the future.
    It’s more fundamental than just copying art for personal use. If we were able to prevent any of these people. who think art should be free, from making money at their jobs (whether it be burger flipper, stock broker or brain surgeon), they would not be happy. How is it they can’t see it goes both ways?

  • Manuel — 7:25 AM on December 27, 2007

    This one is also interesting:
    …One moment, Alison Chang, a 15-year-old student from Dallas, is cheerfully goofing around at a local church-sponsored car wash, posing with a friend for a photo. Weeks later, that photo is posted online and catches the eye of an ad agency in Australia, and Alison appears on a billboard in Adelaide as part of a Virgin Mobile advertising campaign…
    [Very interesting. Key line re: the Creative Commons license: “While Mr. Wong may have given away his rights as a photographer, he did not, and could not, give away Alison’s rights.” Thanks for the link. –J.]

  • Chris — 6:38 PM on April 02, 2008

    I agree with Eric, copyright has to be protected (where it makes sense…)! Especially if the illegal copied data is used commercially.
    But if the parody has nothing to do with the photographer or his work and is just used for a parody – then just let it go…
    This would be easier to rate if we could see the video ^^

  • Sedona — 5:39 PM on April 05, 2008

    Having a very large photo gallery on my site issues such as these come up. I have found most are coperative and query for rights.
    Sedona being one of the most photographed areas in USA, you have to except people trying to lift. We try and stay cool about it

  • Jamie Horsley — 7:15 AM on April 08, 2008

    I am always looking for help with my online photo gallery. These blogs are always useful

  • sohni — 5:11 PM on April 10, 2008

    These tips surly have helped i am also very bad with photo gallery but its just getting it right but when done it really looks beautiful to look at and be proud to look at what has bee archived WOW

  • Cody — 5:53 AM on May 03, 2008

    I’m thinking to use a photo gallery about the Smokies on my site. Looks like I can find good tips in here. Appreciated!

  • Andre — 5:38 PM on January 19, 2010

    However, was the picture put there on purpose or did it just happen to be on a computer screen or on a wall

  • Alvin — 5:44 PM on January 19, 2010

    is any one know how to make web picture indexing by google ?

  • Atnony — 5:54 PM on January 19, 2010

    How is it they can’t see it goes both ways?

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