Want to steal my images?

And now for something completely different:

A small note on copyright of images.

I don't use other people's photos as much as I did when I first started blogging, partly because I take a lot more photos now myself and partly because there's an increased discussion about it online.

 However, here's where I stand on it: While I think that artists deserve to get paid for their art, I find the idea of demanding to tightly control the rights to something you put on media like the internet, rather petty. No, I take that back. I think it's bullshit.

One of the original excitements of both internet and blogging was the availability and share-ability of images. Before the internet, few people had easy access to view a multitude of images, but after its advent things like your favorite artist's photos, pictures of your most loved band, Scandinavian folk art, Moroccan gates are available to everyone. This is a totally awesome thing. Information, as the oldest internets saying goes, wants to be free.

Similarly, in the beginning of blogging and "selfies" for someone else to share your image was something covetable and exciting. One, in fact, trawled popular sites in the hopes of seeing just that. It was a way to connect to other like-minded bloggers. It enhanced your "brand", though no one of course thought of it that way then. It is only the advent of blogging as a livelihood (another post entirely) and the onslaught of commercial produced and distributed imagery with its watermarks and approved uses that we've started to question whether it's okay for people to borrow pictures online willy-nilly.

Personally, I think it is. For one thing, if I post an iconic picture of Sally Mann's she has already gotten paid for it, multiple-fold. If I post it in context and put her name on it, I'm actually promoting her art. Ditto, for images that non-professional, or lesser-known photographers post online. The idea that one would only share images they produced, or have bought, or otherwise secured copyright to, is a very old media way to think of new media.

In fact, the mere act of putting something online and therefor coveting its easy, practically free publicity possibilities puts you in the position of having people use your image without your permission.I'm sorry, but personally, I don't think you can have your internet-cake and eat it too. If you don't want your images to travel online, then don't put them there.

There's obviously the issue of someone using an image in a context the artist/ original poster did not intend, or would not approve of. This is a matter of conscience and should be figured out case-by-case. Its particularly pertinent to images of children, or other people who may not have control over the images of them that you post. However, I think that this is fairly rare compared to the multitudes of benign, or harmless, shares.

The other obvious issue is commercial gain. If you make money from the image, you should pay for the use of the images, unless of course your use of the image generates revenue potential, or promotional benefits to the artist/ original poster. This again should be assessed case-by-case.

It should go without saying that I don't advocate thieving or plagiarism. Don't take other people's words and use them as your own. Don't take other people's photos and claim they're yours, or use them to your personal advantage. In other words, don't be a dick. But also, don't let's all pretend that the internet is some neat department store of goods we all brand and watermark and expect to be used only as we prescribe.

Naturally, it is lovely to ask permission and to credit images. It is also equally lovely to use images from the commons. But again, if these lovely things do not come to pass in the fast-paced world of the interwebs, to me that is not cause to to not use these images.

So, after this diatribe you may be wondering "What about your photos? I bet you'd feel differently if I used your photo for my website image, my wedding invite, my collage? Can I pin it on interest, put it on tumblr, share it on facecrack?"

Yes, you can. So long as you're not making money from my work (If for some weird reason you plan to do this, make me an offer. I need money as much as the next broke-ass person.), or using it for some godawful purpose that I don't even want to know about (remind me to tell you guys sometime about our adventures with people who get off on chicks in sweaters) I don't care. I'm not a professional photographer, I'm just a gal with a camera who lives somewhere scenic and shares her images online. Glad I could be of service to you.

Also, I'm a grown-up, I have no illusions about how the internet works. In case you still do, I want you to repeat after me:

Information. Wants. To. Be. Free.

Here endeth the lesson. Also the rant.


  1. Exactly. Someone's saying what no one else has (to my knowledge) And nope, I don't take your pictures but I am glad I have recently found your blog ;) I especially loved your camping preparedness post and your blunt directives on pooping etiquette. Once again, someone saying what no one else has. You seem to have a knack for that.

  2. I pretty much feel the same way. I just want a shout out in return. That really is optimal. Thank you for pretty much putting my feelings into words about this subject. Just found your blog and I love it.