Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just A Little PSA

This doesn't really have anything to do with nail polish or beauty at all but I wanted to throw something out there anyway which will perhaps benefit new bloggers more than anyone, but I know of several experienced bloggers who should at the very least take what I have to say into consideration.

If you are at all like me, you are probably at least somewhat protective of your content. As a photographer I tend to be VERY protective of my work and that includes my photos here even though they are usually just snapshots that are definitely not properly composed or anything. That doesn't matter - they are still *my* photos, and are under my copyright.

For those who claim to not know much about copyright (in this day and age that's kind of a ridiculous claim if you ask me) let me fill you in. It is ILLEGAL to take someone else's photo, even if it's only a simple snapshot of makeup or a bottle of nail polish, and use it in any way, shape or form without getting that person's permission to do so. Now, I am aware that with web sites like Photobucket and with Google image search and dishonest people out there, sometimes you might stumble onto a photo you want to use but you can't find/have no way of knowing who the owner of that photo is in order to ask them for their permission. It is always best to take your OWN photos but let's face it sometimes that's impossible to do for whatever reason, that's understandable. If you need to use work that does not belong to you, you have to do your best to find something that you can contact the owner of that photo and ask their permission to use it.

And when you do ask for permission to use their photo(s) (or other forms of work, including writing) you MUST be specific as to how you will use it. Be clear as to WHERE their work will be used (for instance, to use it on your blog, include your blog url) and also state WHY you wish to use their work. Even if it's something so simple as you saw a photo you loved and just want to share - you need to ask the owner of the work and you should tell them where you saw it and loved it and just want to share with your readers. It is important to include a link to the web site where you found the photo if it was anywhere other than the photographer's web site - it may have been posted there without their permission and they deserve to know that!

If you DO get permission to use someone else's work - make note of it along with the post (or whatever form you are sharing in). Don't just slap the picture into your blog post and call it a day. Include a line or two about the owner of the work, and that you are posting it with permission from the original author/photographer, and if possible leave a link back to that person's web site. 

If they decline your request to post their work, respect their wishes. If you still really want to share something just send out a link to take people directly to the person's web site.

If you should ever be unable to find the person who took the photo, the least you can do is include a note that states where you found the image (include a link!) and say that you found it via whatever search engine etc. It never hurts to also include a note stating something along the lines of "If this is your photo please let me know and I will link to your site or remove the photo from this post, whichever you prefer." 

When it comes to posting your own photos to your blog, or anywhere online for that matter.... watermarking is a must anymore. Even knowing copyright laws, unfortunately most people just do not care. They won't ask you for permission to use your photos - they'll just do it. If you care at all about getting proper credit for your photos and the work you put into your blog, watermark your photos. You may have noticed, if you have been reading my blog for a while, that I recently got more heavy handed with my own watermarks. I've had one too many incidents with finding someone else using my photos on their web sites or posting them to their galleries on other web sites (like Makeup Alley and such) as if the photos belong to them. It irritates me like you wouldn't believe. The worst part is that in the most recent incident I actually found out because someone contacted me thinking that I was someone else, that I was the person who had the photos posted to their account on another web site! They found my blog because of the watermarks on my photos, and they thought that my blog belonged to the person with my photos posted to her profile. I made sure to be very clear that I was NOT the person they were looking for and I in fact was not a member of the web site in question at all, let alone the specific member they were looking for. It might seem petty but think about it - do you really want people to think all your hard work on your blog is done by someone else, just because that someone else stole your photos and posted them to their profile on some other web site? I sure as heck don't!

The bottom line here is use your own work when possible, and if you can't you must seek out permission from whomever owns the copyright to the photo(s) you wish to use, and abide by their terms and respect their wishes if they decline. And when you share your own photos, make sure you watermark them, and do NOT just use your initials or username - use your URL for your blog/web site. Make sure the watermark is very clear, easy to read, and in a location where it cannot be cropped out without taking away from the photo! Yeah the scrawly fonts are pretty, but they can be hard to read. Use a simple, clear font like Arial or Times New Roman - you want people to be able to clearly read the watermark. 

And another "bottom line" - I don't care if you know the specifics of copyright or not - that's a lame excuse. Everyone knows the utmost basic of copyright law - if it doesn't belong to you, don't use it without permission from the person who does own it. And despite what some people try to claim is true - sharing a photo online does NOT make it public property that everyone is free to use as they wish. Even when a photo is not watermarked in anyway, unless it clearly states with that photo that you are free to use it as you wish, somebody owns the copyright to it and they probably don't want you stealing it and pretending it's yours! (And all this applies not just to photos but to artwork of all sorts as well as writing. Every syllable on this blog is under my copyright!) To clear up another myth - something is copyright protected the moment it is finished; you do NOT have to file papers or include the copyright symbol (©) anywhere to make it legal. So just because you didn't see a copyright symbol on that picture you decided to post does not mean it isn't copyright protected... got it?**

Sorry to be so ranty but this is an issue that greatly concerns me. As I said earlier in this post, I have had more than one incident where I have found out, in one way or another, that someone has used my photos without my permission. Protect your work to the best of your ability folks, and try to make sure that even if someone steals if, whoever sees it will be able to find their way back to you through watermarks. 

** This applies to copyright in the US - I am not familiar with international copyright laws. Regardless it still comes down to the fact that it is morally and legally wrong to use someone else's work without their permission and/or claim it as your own.

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