Steal this Post*

*In the spirit of full disclosure, I borrowed the title from Abbie Hoffman’s 1971 book, Steal This Book.

old books

All the thoughts and ideas on my blog are my own, and they’re explained in my own words. I’m pretty sure people would frown on the idea of me plagiarizing someone else’s words. At the very least, if I want to share someone’s ideas, I’ll put their words in quotation marks and attribute the quote to them. A link to their website or blog would be a nice tip of the hat.

So it’s with honest concern that I’m going to approach the idea of “borrowing” (and I use the word loosely) images. I don’t mean for this to be a soapbox rant; I like my blog to have a positive tone.

I made a decision when I started blogging, to use only images I’ve taken and own. The only exception I’ve made is when I’m reviewing a CD or product or writing about someone well-known. I’m not thrilled about the compromise; in cases like these, I include an image of the album art and a link to a site where you can buy the music or I’ll add a manufacturer’s image of a product and link to the company’s website. For people, I include a photo only if I can find a rights-free image of them on a site like Wikipedia.

I’m an artist and I dabble in photography. I find it challenging and fun to take the right image for each post. Doing so will make my blog unique, and its uniqueness is what I think my readers want. I can also put myself in other photographers’ shoes and think about how this “borrowing” affects them.

Sometimes, I see iconic or well-known images on blogs without listing photographers’ credits. I don’t think that is fair to the artists who worked hard to create those images. Many times, artists who would otherwise sell their work are having their images taken from under their noses. Worse, it’s probably illegal. I’m not a lawyer, but “copyright infringement” is a term that springs to mind.

Other times, I’ve seen a page from a magazine scanned and uploaded to a blog. It’s great that someone can say, “See this page? I like all the things on it.” It’s easy to fill a blog with pretty pictures taken by someone else. But it’s not original—it’s a visual list of what someone finds appealing. At a minimum, attributing the credit and linking to the magazine seems to be in order. The magazine should probably be asked if they mind sharing the images.

If you want to use professional-quality photos on your blog, there are a lot of websites that make images available—some for free. Just do a web search for “stock photography” and you’ll find a bunch of sites.

One other site that I recently discovered (but have yet to use) is Polyvore. It’s a site where you can select images of your favorite clothing and accessories and combine them onto a page so you can make your own collage. The results look like a magazine spread made by you!

There’s a good interview on Pretty Shiny Sparkly that covers a lot of information on fair use and copyright infringement and includes links to other helpful sites too. Grit and Glamour has a great post about copyright and image use.

How do you deal with images on your site? Has anyone ever used your work without crediting you?

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Filed under Art, Fashion, General, Music

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