For bloggers the available Getty imagery I was talking about in yesterday’s post doesn’t always suit the purpose. We often need very specific images to illustrate our respective posts. If I am writing one of my *ooof*s, for instance, I want to include the image I am analysing, but not a completely unrelated
even if equally yummy photo of the man who graces all the images I discuss. Getty seems to allow embedding mainly on the press photographs in its image bank. But if we are talking about a specific photo shoot that is not covered by Getty’s (predominantly) news photography, we are back with the old conundrum: the problematic nature of using copyrighted images for illustration on-blog.
Even though the topic springs up periodically, and most of the bloggers I know are very aware of the potential pitfalls of copyright issues, there is a lot of confusion about the various rules within. As a blogging photographer – or a photographing blogger? – I am constantly thinking of copyright regulations, both in terms of making a post visually attractive as well as looking at it from the photographer’s POV who
wants needs to sell images. So my conclusions refer to the use of lens-based creative work. My personal view on the use of *my* images concludes the post. For easier overview I have labelled my interpretations with the corresponding question. Law is not my profession, and therefore please keep this in mind:
The Big Disclaimer: The following is an explanation of copyright as *I* understand it. This is not legal advice, it is a personal POV.
What are copyrighted images?
Any creative work automatically is copyrighted. We most commonly understand that to apply to original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, i.e. novels, stories, poems, plays, scripts, songs, paintings, sculpture or photographs. But it also applies to film, sound recordings, broadcasts, computer software and even performances. Copyright is attached to any creative work from the moment of its creation. It does not matter whether it is published or not – the moment a photographer releases the shutter on her camera and creates an image, that photo is automatically protected by copyright. And there is not even an obligation for them to mark their work with a little © (although that is a practice that is strongly recommended).
What does that mean for the creator?
This means the created photo belongs to the photographer and she has the right to prevent others from using her work without permission. “Use of work” includes copying, publishing, distributing and adapting the images. Because it is through these restrictions that the photographer can assert her rights and actually earn her living with her creative work.
There is also a moral dimension to copyright: This includes the right of the creator to be credited as such, as well as the right to not be falsely attributed, and – importantly – the right to prevent alterations of the creative work.
However, there are exceptions to copyright. The keywords here are “fair use” and “fair dealing”. They describe the use of copyrighted material for the purpose of research, private study and education, and the use for criticism and review or current news reporting. In both cases the photo has to be attributed with creator and title.
What are the implications for bloggers?
If bloggers want to comply with copyright rules they need to ask themselves whether they are using the images within the realm of fair dealing. IMO that tends to be the case with bloggers: We tend to use images for illustration purposes when reviewing RA’s work, for instance I review RA’s work in The Crucible and I will include an image from a photo shoot that shows him as Proctor. Or I might analyse an image from a photo shoot and include the image that I am reviewing. As fan blogs bz and large are non-commercial, this looks like fair use of an image to me.
Are there workarounds for the copyright conundrum?
Of sorts. A copyrighted photo can be used if it has been “insubstantially copied”. For copyright to be broken, a substantial part of the photo in question must have been copied. Insubstantial use of a copyrighted image, however, would be the creation of a derivative work, or using only a small part of an image, for instance a crop of a Proctor photo that shows only RA’s
beard eye. Transformative/derivative work contains only bits of copyrighted images and does not look like the original work any more (a RAPS would be such a transformative work).
What about screen caps then?
IMO screen caps are not transformative or derivative work. If they show the substantial part of the original work, they are a mere copy but have not been transformed into a new derivative work.
How do photographers look at the issue of distribution of copyrighted material?
Well, that is of course highly individual, and we have seen different approaches even within the relatively small area of RA photography. Some photographers are happy to share their imagery for blogging purposes, some are explicitly forbidding editing and sharing, while the great majority have not pronounced any opinion on it at all. But here is my personal POV as a photographer who has created an image that has seen wide distribution and use on various Social Media platforms from Tumblr via Facebook and Twitter to WordPress and Pinterest. (I’ve even seen it on smartphone cases and coasters :-D)
- Credited distribution/sharing: yes. I don’t really mind distribution of my work as it increases my reach.
- Unattributed distribution or (public) use: ok-ish, but I am not fond of people *not* crediting me. It doesn’t cost anything to send me an e-mail and ask. It is also a matter of courtesy.
- Alteration/manipulation/editing: no. At least not without prior permission. Because that is where it gets personal. As the creator *I* have decided on the final version of *my* creative work. And that is what I want my name to be associated with.
- Commercial use: big NO-NO! I am happy to share and let others enjoy my creative work, and I will probably also allow it to be used for derivative works if I am asked nicely, but if someone uses my creative work to make money, then I want to be asked and I want a share in it.
Once more let me point out that this is *not water-tight legal advice* but *my* personal understanding of the situation and *my* approach as a photographer. That is not to say that I haven’t unknowingly broken the rules myself. I try to be fair about other people’s creative work in that I credit and link to them, mostly avoid alteration of images, and respect their wishes if known to me. I do not have any problem with fellow fans who enjoy and master manipulating and editing images, and I very often admire their work. (It features heavily in every week’s Armitage Weekly Round-Up.) In fact I find it one of the most entertaining facets of fan activities, and it delights and amazes me to know that many a career was fostered on initial creative expression as a fan. I just don’t engage in it myself – without any judgment inferred. So keep calm and carry on being creative!