The progression of the internet has been both a blessing and a curse to artists. On the plus side, we are able to reach a much larger audience with our work, and do more marketing on our own than the old days. The negative is that sharing our work online – through websites, blogs, and social media – makes us vulnerable to image theft. One of my artist friends, Michelle Grant, likes to say, “You can die of exposure,” and when it comes to the internet, it’s very nearly true!
Image theft has become a huge problem for artists and photographers. Just in case you don’t know, grabbing someone else’s photos (by right-clicking or doing a screen capture, that sort of thing) and sharing it with your friends is more than wrong – it’s illegal. We artists are usually nice people, but this sort of thing makes us rabid. We hate appearing as ogres. It’s really not in our nature. We’d rather be creating new work than chasing after infringers. We try to be gentle about educating people, but it’s frustrating, when so many are oblivious. The thing is, it’s hurtful to us. It threatens our livelihood. It robs us of the control of our rights.
In one recent situation, an individual on Facebook has gathered an album of photographs from all over the internet. He claims he is just sharing them with his friends – which, or course, still doesn’t make it right. He hasn’t received permission from any of the professional photographers whose work he’s posted. Some of the images have obvious copyright watermarks on them. He may think this is innocent, but just as he grabbed these images, one, or many, of his friends may now do the same. We know how viral the internet is. In no time at all, an image can be used in various contexts, none of which have been authorized by the actual creator.
I know a number of horse show photographers who are considering no longer shooting events, because so many people now just steal images from their websites – blatantly watermarked as a copyrighted proof. It makes me sad when I see this. Perhaps they don’t realize that in most cases, show photographers don’t get paid for being at a show – they rely on the sale of prints to pay for their time. Or maybe people don’t think we need show photographers anymore, seeing as everyone and their three-month old kid has a digital SLR these days.
The thing is, it only takes a moment to send an email and ask permission. We like to hear from people who like our art. Take the time to start up a dialogue – you never know what might come of it. Depending on the situation, the artist or photographer may be happy to have you share their work. Or consider sharing the image in context – the entre blog post, or website, so that others can not only see the image that you have enjoyed, but more of the artist’s work.
We don’t want to stop showing our work online. We don’t want to have to plaster our images with lengthy copyright declarations, like my example above, so that you can’t even see the artwork (and by the way, all the information in that diatribe is true). We need everyone’s help to educate on copyright law so that there is greater understanding. So pass it on. Artists everywhere will thank you!
Please feel free to share this blog post!!
Just a note about the title of this post. If you’re of a certain age, you’ll know the song “Video Killed the Radio Star.” A couple of weeks ago, I heard a new song, by the Limousines, called “The Internet Killed the Video Star.” I had to laugh. And just FYI – titles cannot be copyrighted! It’s too bad the Jockey Club doesn’t realize that – if they did, our boy Leo would be named “Sharp Dressed Man” right now! Sigh…