Tuesday 29 November 2011

Legal Eagle

Sharp eyed readers (or those with too much time on their hands) may have noticed that I've added an Image Copyright Page at the top of this Blog. I've resisted exercising copyright on my pictures until now, mainly because I still believe in the free and open transmission of information on the web. I'm a bit of a hippy in that respect. However three recent incidents (two good, one bad) have got me thinking about copyright and consequently I have decided to act.

The first incident was the recent discovery that one of my pictures from a museum event a few years ago had been used for commercial purposes without my permission. Had I been asked I would gladly have revoked my copyright and given the picture away, but as it stands I feel as if my picture was stolen. I've no idea if the user (who will remain unnamed before anyone asks) made much money off the pictures used, but that for me isn't the issue. It just would have been nice to be asked.

On a more positive note I've had a several requests to use my images over the last couple of years. The Firepower Museum in Woolwich asked to use one of my photo's in their promotional material and I was more than happy to let them use the image. Similarly I was recently contact by a reenactor with the 44th East Essex Regiment of Foot who saw my pictures from an event at Wat Tyler Park. He wanted to use some of my pictures in their annual fundraising calender. I gladly gave them permission and yesterday I received a copy of the calender in the post (four of my pictures were used and I'm chuffed to bits).

I should state that I don't consider my pictures to be all that great and I certainly have no allusions to making a living out of my photography. I'm not protecting my copyright because I have delusions of grandeur! I'm all in favour of sharing pictures and ideas on the internet and am happy for fellow Bloggers and gamers to use my pictures for non commercial purposes (and even then I'll usually waiver copyright in return for attribution and a link-back).

So I've now added a Creative Commons License to the Blog which covers all my images. It provides basic protection from exploitation of my work while still providing freedom of usage across the web. From my point of view that's a win win scenario, and I need one of those after the weekend I've had!


  1. Too right!!! Credit where credits due!!!

  2. Absolutely... how do you find out that your pictures have been used by someone else though???

  3. This site ( http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html )is also a great resource of getting a list of facts on the subject.

    "In Summary

    These days, almost all things are copyrighted the moment they are written, and no copyright notice is required.

    Copyright is still violated whether you charged money or not, only damages are affected by that.

    Postings to the net are not granted to the public domain, and don't grant you any permission to do further copying except perhaps the sort of copying the poster might have expected in the ordinary flow of the net.

    Fair use is a complex doctrine meant to allow certain valuable social purposes. Ask yourself why you are republishing what you are posting and why you couldn't have just rewritten it in your own words.

    Copyright is not lost because you don't defend it; that's a concept from trademark law. The ownership of names is also from trademark law, so don't say somebody has a name copyrighted.

    Fan fiction and other work derived from copyrighted works is a copyright violation.

    Copyright law is mostly civil law where the special rights of criminal defendants you hear so much about don't apply. Watch out, however, as new laws are moving copyright violation into the criminal realm.

    Don't rationalize that you are helping the copyright holder; often it's not that hard to ask permission.

    Posting E-mail is technically a violation, but revealing facts from E-mail you got isn't, and for almost all typical E-mail, nobody could wring any damages from you for posting it. The law doesn't do much to protect works with no commercial value."

    I myself had received a few emails over the year with questions about using a picture or sharing something, so far I have been fortunate (or ignorant of) not having my blog content abused. These are issues that dedicated bloggers should be made aware off however, so good that you brought it up.

  4. Hi Lee,

    Thank you for this interesting post. I've recently been reading up on copyright rules relating to some of my short stories.

    Your post has made me think (in a good way) thank you.


  5. A very intereting post. I did once come across someone using one of my pics of a painted gollum figure I did to sell their unpainted model on trademe here in NZ (our version of ebay).

  6. I tend to use images from Google for decorative purposes, where possible I leave credits on the photo, or link back to the site they were obtained from, if I can identify it as the one they originated from, not always easy.

    I haven't monetised any of my blogs, so I don't receive anything for someone else's work. If someone complained about me using their work, I'd take it off, no argument.

    I use a Creative Commons Licence on my blogs. If someone is desperate enough to use anything I have created, or wish to modify it, for the purposes of fun and enjoyment through it. I'm fine with that.

    Where I would draw the line is when someone uses my ideas and thoughts to benefit themselves commercially... which is pretty much the same deal as your photos.

    There have been several instances recently of a guy taking other people's work off Deviant Art, printing it up and selling it as their own work.

    We aren't talking pennies either, but literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. One guy even plagiarised someone else's book to tell 'his' secrets of success to the world.

    Putting up a CCL on your blog costs nothing, but lets others know where they stand, if they choose to read it of course.

  7. Steve -In my case it was dumb luck, I stumbled upon one of my pictures while surfing the web. Otherwise you're likely not to know something has been misused. Using the Creative Commons Liscense just clarifies the situation and stops the casual use of material under the blanket excuse "I didn't know".

    Thanks for the positive response guys. I was worried it would put people off.

    Having looked into this whole issue has made me think about my own use of downloaded material. I don't think I've breached copyright but in future I will check more carefully before using stuff. The general rule of thumb should be if in doubt check first.

  8. Excellent post, Lee. I like the idea of the Creative Commons Licence. Gonna have a look at that. Thanks!

  9. Just to put on my lawyer hat for a moment, you don't 'surrender' your copyright when you allow someone to use your intellectual property, unless explicitly so. Rather, you license the use specified. Be careful with the language as you really don't want to surrender the rights over your work to some pseudo capitalist outfit through a slip of the tongue (fingers).

    And, good on ya.

  10. Adelaide - This was why the Creative Commons License appealed to me.

    Copyright exists regardless of whether you defend it or notify it. By using the CCL I'm making it clear that I'm happy to share and distribute my work under certain conditions. I'm also making it clear that I can waive those conditions, providing I'm asked first.

    This seems like a common sense approach as well as being just plain good manners.

  11. Great post Lee. Congrats on getting your photos on the calander.

  12. I agree totally and damn interesting to read about this!

  13. Good, informative post, and comments. We are all artists in our own way and credit due is not only required by law, but also by common courtesy.


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