xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: If you didn't make it then you don't own it

Friday, July 26, 2013

If you didn't make it then you don't own it

I have a bunch of Facebook friends who make memes about autism awareness and then share them. What happens to them (a lot) is that other pages find them and then, basically, steal them. When my friends complain, most of the time what happens is that the page owner just ignores them, so they're forced to make a complaint to Facebook about theft of intellectual property. Most of the time the picture gets removed by Facebook, but oftentimes what may happen is that the page owner will balk at the idea of being accused of theft. They will then post to their wall about it, and from reading what they write, and from what their commenters write, it's clear to me (and my friends) that most people on Facebook have no idea how copyright laws work, particularly when it comes to digital images and online media. They complain because "it's all about autism awareness," and that "bickering about images" is just petty and wastes our time. Actual quote: "I guess you don't believe in adovcacy if you won't let me use your pictures."

What these folks don't understand, though, in addition to copyright law, is that my friends spend their time and energy making these images and they don't want their work to be stolen!! It's like if you copied a Van Gogh, signed your own name to it, and then when you got sued you said "I'm just trying to spread the word about sunflowers, isn't that our mutual goal?" There's a difference between advocacy and theft, and if your goal is advocacy, you need to understand the law.

Here's the thing: all images that are posted online are subject to the laws of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. This act protect artists and content owners in the same way that standard federal copyright laws do. Facebook, Google, Pinterest, you and me... we're all bound by these laws whether we like it or not.

I'm going to explain the right and wrong way to share images on Facebook, but I'm writing this because there's an important message here, one in which I'm guilty of, as well: if you didn't personally make the image, regardless of where you find it, you're not allowed to use it. That means on Facebook, but in particular, as far as this post is concerned, on your blog. But I'll get to that in a minute. First, a Facebook lesson:

So I'm browsing The Book and I see an image that I like. Cool! Let's share it!!

So, how do I show this to my Facebook friends? It's a simple task to do it legally: you hit that "share" button:

then you'll see this:

hit that "share photo" button and BOOM. You've done it the right way.

Then how do you do it illegally? Well, that will happen when you download the image and then re-upload it to Facebook. Some people will go so far as to alter the image to remove the identifiable information from the author. In that case it's pretty obvious that this person is a thief, but it's possible you could just be doing it wrong and you don't know, which is why I'm writing this tutorial.

Here's what you don't want to do when you see this picture:

and then...

Why? Well, according to Facebook's terms of service, by uploading an image to your profile or page or group, you are giving Facebook "a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license." That means that Facebook has the right to show your image, but only the owner of the intellectual property has the ability to give Facebook these rights. By uploading an image like I've shown in these pictures here, you are making the claim that this image is your intellectual property. This is all part of the really long User Agreement thingy that everybody just scrolls through and never reads.  That's why you can hit the "share" button with no problems, because once the image is uploaded, it belongs to Facebook and they control the share button.

Is that confusing? In a nutshell, "upload" means "I own this." And if you didn't make it, then you don't own it.  And if you do most of your Facebooking from your iPhone, you will already know that the only way to "share" photos is to download and upload; you don't get the option to just share. If this is the case, then just move along, because even on your iPhone upload means "I own this" and you don't own it. Don't be illegal just because it's what's more convenient for you. It's also more convenient to drive too fast if you're late but that doesn't mean you're going to get out of that ticket: you broke the law, and you know it. Wait until you get to a computer or just don't share it at all. If you really care about advocacy then you should respect the rights of the advocates who spend their time and energy making advocacy images.

Okay, so, let's get to the part about the blogging, which is the part that affects ME. And it's all about me, you know; I've got my priorities.

I recently read an article (h/t HH6) about using pictures from Google images, which we all do, and I was very very surprised to read the following:
Current Fair Use image copyright laws say that you’re financially liable for posting copyrighted images, even if:

• You did it by accident
• You immediately take down the picture after receiving a DMCA takedown notice
• The picture is resized
• If the picture is licensed to your Web developer (Getty Images requires that you get your own license, thank you very much)
• You link back to the photo source and cite the photographer’s name
• Your site isn’t commercial and you make no money from your blogs
• You have a disclaimer on the site
• The pic is embedded instead of saved on your server
• You found it on the Internet
HOLY CRAP. So... if I get a cease and desist notice about the kitten I used back in May of 2011, even if I take it down immediately, I have still broken the law and still could get sued. In this case, they were sued for $8,000 !!!!  And they ended up paying, because downloading and uploading from google images is the same as doing it on Facebook. If you upload anything, you are making the claim that the image belong to you. And... like I said... if you didn't make it, it doesn't belong to you. Even if you erased the artist's logo and added in your own. (That actually makes you an asshole, in addition to being a thief).

Well, I sure as hell don't have $8,000 so I'm going through my blog today and taking down all the pictures I've illegally taken from Google images. It will take a while, but... I need my money.

**Note: the images that you see in these screenshot have been used with permission of the awesome hot chick at Four Sea Stars.

**Note2: I'm not a lawyer. Don't take my advice, do your own research or consult an attorney. But more important than that, just don't be an asshole. You don't need to be a lawyer to give that piece of advice.

**Note3: Here's a great royalty-free photo site that I've been using to replace pictures of cats on my blog: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/