Everything You Wanted to Know about Blog Images (But Were Afraid to Ask)
You know what I love? When one friend introduces you to their friend because they know you two have a lot in common. That’s how I met Alex from Alexandra Wrote. My friend (and past guest poster) Fadra sent us an email connecting each other. I just love her style, her photos and her fantastic knowledge! I’m excited to have Alex here today!
I began If Emily Posted, a guide to social media netiquette, because as more of my work moved from print to online, I found myself with lots of questions. My mantra has always been that rules are made to be broken, but online I found that there weren’t enough rules to begin with. It’s hard for people to know what to do or how to do it when so much is undefined. I’m a working writer, editor and photographer, and IEP is based on my experience. It’s about ethics not legalese. It’s what I learned in school, on the job, what I consult lawyers and experts on, and what I learn from talking to colleagues and friends. I started IEP for myself, a blogger trying to bring some order to this tangled web, but realized we can only succeed if we work together.
I believe that if we want to be taken seriously as bloggers, we must take blogging seriously. It begins with fundamentals that every blogger must have in their toolkit, some rules that aren’t to be broken, like how to properly source and credit images.
Whether you have a revenue-generating site or a small blog with little traffic, the same rules apply: anything you post that is non-original content needs to be treated with respect and must always be linked to the original source. Here’s a breakdown of the basics.
FACT: Copyright is like a birthright. The moment someone creates a photo – paid or unpaid, pro or someone just playing with Instagram – it is protected under copyright law. It’s the same online or in print.
Some people think that this sign © is equal to this one $. The most valuable part of that little © is that it gives the creator control over how and where their work is used.
Many people simply want the right to decide how their work is used online and are more than happy to share when asked. That’s what I say in the The Fine Print on my sites. I’m all for sharing, but please ask first.
Because it’s the right thing to do. The professional thing to do.
On Fair Use
FACT: Fair use is terribly misunderstood in the blogosphere. As a result, many people misuse it.
The basic idea behind fair use is that using parts of a work that is copyrighted may be legal if you’re using it for criticism, parody or as commentary. But there are the four factors that determine if something falls under fair use. These include how much of the original work is reproduced and whether what is copied will in any way be devalued as a result of your using it. Honestly, I see very few examples where photos used on blogs can meet fair use criteria. Please read about fair use to form your own opinions, but I don’t recommend you use it to justify using an image that belongs to someone else.
On Creative Commons
FACT: Crediting an image is not the same as having permission to use it.
That said, it’s important to figure out what you do and don’t have permission to use.
Creative Commons licenses make copyrighted material easier to share online. They eliminate the need to contact the creator for permission, but it also means the creator gives up a lot of control. There are six types of licenses, plus one for works in the public domain. This link explains the six types of Creative Commons licenses thoroughly (I’d bookmark this somewhere so you can always find it).
When you see a CC icon on a site, you can click through to find out exactly how you’re allowed to use their content. CC’s are pretty straightforward and easy to understand. When in doubt, email the creator.
There are search engines to find images that fall under Creative Commons, but in the fine print they all tell you to double-check any image and be sure of the permissions. The responsibility will always fall on you. That’s why it’s important to check your sources.
Just today I emailed a blogger asking if her content was permitted for pinning on Pinterest. She wrote right back and gave me the OK. I am constantly emailing bloggers to get the OK to share their work in various ways.
FACT: You can always contact a blogger and ask for permission to use their work. Some will say yes. Some will say no, and that’s OK, too. We have to respect how people choose to share online.
This is critical. We have to respect how creators choose to share their Intellectual Property (IP).
Some people are of the opinion that if you put anything online you should expect to have it taken. I disagree. Totally disagree.
A photographer/artist/blogger has every right to post their images online and choose where else they can be viewed. It;’s no different than the family photos many people post online. No one should be able to take your family photos off of your blog and then sell them as stock photos or have them printed as cards. Just because they’re online, they don’t belong to the world. Those photos are your property. You choose where they can be published. We need to apply the same respect to all intellectual property.
Above all, it’s about being kind and respectful of one another in this community. I’m part of an organization called LINKwithlove, where we believe in the power of these words by Maya Angelou:
“When you know better, you do better.”
We can make the blogosphere better, I know we can.
If you’d like more information on copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons, as well as information on Creative Commons Search Engines, please visit the IEP Resource Pages on my site. And please feel free to email me with questions anytime!
Alex Asher Sears (@alexandrawrote) loves telling stories – as a screenwriter, journalist, editor, and photographer. She began writing via dial-up in 1999, creating content for AOL’s Digital City. A decade later, she was Managing Editor of CinemaEditor magazine. Leaving the magazine to pursue new writing opportunities on and offline, she began blogging at Alexandra Wrote, home of If Emily Posted, a style guide for social media netiquette. Official photographer of BlogHer ’11, Alex’s photos have been published by Simon & Schuster, Hot Moms Club, Babble, and People magazine. She returns for BlogHer ’12 as a speaker on social media.
Alex writes about film, family, fashion, Frenchies, food allergies – and those are just the f-words.