I haven’t been posting here and I might not again until the end of the year. In addition to my job, I am taking classes for my career, so that’s eating up my free time. That said, I am not going to abandon this site, as I have many plans for future posts.
You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting pictures of my original designs over the past year. I haven’t had as much time to make jewelry, but the main reason is that I fear that someone will copy my designs. I really don’t want my images ending up on a bookmarking site (like Pinterest or We Heart It) because they can spread like crazy afterward and end up in the wrong hands. Some say it’s free advertising, and I might take advantage of that someday if I actually launch my business, but not now. People often use those sites as an image bank and, instead of crediting the original source, they put Pinterest as the image credit. Unfortunately, results from Pinterest often appear in image search results before the original source.
Over a year ago, I started writing a lengthy post about copyright in relation to craft tutorials, but that’s currently on hold. However, something happened recently that prompted me to revisit the topic.
A few weeks ago I discovered that someone used one of my images on her website without my permission. She uploaded a smaller version to her site, and linked to mine. Although in the back of my mind I knew it would happen sooner or later, I was shocked to see my photo on another site. I am not happy about that because I do not want my images appearing on other websites. As the copyright holder, that’s entirely in my right.
Wait, isn’t everything that’s available for free on the Internet in the public domain?
Not necessarily. Given the duration of copyrights, there are actually very few recently created works that are in the public domain. See this chart for more information on copyright expiration. Just because something has been shared over and over again online and you don’t know where it first came from, does not mean it is in the public domain.
Most online content is in fact copyrighted, even if there isn’t a notice. Starting from January 1, 1978, all original creative works are under copyright protection as soon as they’re fixed in a tangible form. After the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988, a copyright notice is not necessary for works created after March 1, 1989 to be protected by copyright, although it would certainly help in a copyright infringement case because the infringer cannot claim to be unaware that the material was copyrighted. Although registering a copyright is optional for your work to be copyrighted, it is required if you wish to take legal action.
Maybe I hadn’t made it obvious enough. I didn’t want to look possessive by placing a giant watermark on my images. I only put “quirkyintrovert” on them so people can find the source if it does end up on another site. After all, it’s not going to stop people who are really intent on stealing from doing so.
I only had a copyright notice on my About page, so I added another one in a sidebar widget. It contains a link to a more detailed copyright notice, because it appears that many people don’t understand the meaning of “all rights reserved.” Unfortunately, it won’t be readily visible on a mobile device, so I might just have to go through and add a notice to all my posts.
She gave you credit, so what’s the problem?
Giving credit only means you didn’t plagiarize. I’ve been guilty of it too, when I didn’t know better. After I did know better, I began to only post links to sites with photos that inspired me, rather than posting the photo on my site. I’ve also removed images that weren’t mine from my old posts, and only linked to them instead. I started with the ones I could remember, and am working through the rest.
There are plenty of bloggers who state you’re welcome to use one photo without asking, as long as you link to their site and give them credit. In fact, there are many images on the Web that have a Creative Commons license. However, if there is no mention of those, it’s safer to assume you will need permission. The copyright holder could sue you without any warning, and if you’re found guilty of copyright infringement, you will have to pay them, even after you’ve taken their image down. (Read about this blogger’s experience here.) Even if you’re an educator, you might still need permission depending on how you’ll present the materials to your students. Here’s a handy interactive tool on permission exemptions for instructors.
Most importantly, (and this has nothing to do with the law), please be respectful of the ownership that creators have over their work. These people put time and effort into creating something, and additional time and effort to share it on the Web. It’s so easy to download a photo and distribute it without thinking about where it came from. The attitude of “anything on the Internet is free for me to use” needs to change. Just because you can see an image and easily download it, doesn’t mean it’s right for you to take it.
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After this happened, I’m less inclined to share my original creative work publicly online. Maybe not until I have started my business and registered my copyrights.
Were you aware of these things about copyright law? Have you ever had your work used without your permission? What did you do about it?