Friday, May 17, 2013

Copyright Revisited

I have posted about copyright infringement in the past, and I have several times had people infringe on my copyright.  Usually it has been done innocently, by someone who did not realize they could not copy a story or photo of mine and use it for their own purposes.  Once caught (I check for such things fairly regularly), they usually either remove the material or give credit and a source, as per my request to them.  Occasionally, however, it gets nasty - such as when I found one of my photos in a stranger's self-published book, with no mention of my name or my blog. The book was full of plagiarized images, poems and stories - nearly all without any credit given. And she was selling several such books. Feel good books that left me feeling sick.

Understanding copyright isn't that complicated, and anyone who ever writes anything for others to read - on facebook, twitter, a blog, a newspaper, or even a school assignment, for example - needs to know something about it.

You don't need to contact me for permission if all you are doing is giving a link to the page, like this:
Hey facebook friends, check out this  post Jean Ballard wrote about copyright: 
But if you are actually copying and pasting my photos or my story, even if you are cropping the photos or changing the story, you need to get permission.  I have had wonderful requests from some of my blog readers who wanted to use an excerpt from a story or one of my images. And I am pretty generous with giving permission - I'll usually say "Sure, just put my name and blog address following the material."  But if you don't ask, and/or don't get that permission, and I find out about it, expect to have me "in your face(book)".  LOL

This week, the same person who stole my photo posted a dog story on her facebook page, and typed her own name at the end of the story.  I happened to recognize the story - in fact, I have the book in which it was initially published.  And I knew the person who posted it did not write it.  So, in addition to placing a polite comment under the story pointing out this anomaly and providing the correct information,  I contacted the real author to let her know.

By the time the real author checked the page, the person had deleted my comment and attached the correct name and source to the story.  Okay - that partly corrects the problem.  But she had printed the story in full without asking the author (who makes her income from selling her stories) for permission.  Why would someone buy the author's book if they can read it for free, in its entirety, on someone's facebook page?  A page which, if the stats are to be believed, is "liked" by nearly 300,000 people, each of whom can share it with others? When the real author reached out on her own facebook page for advice on how to handle such issues, the one who stole her story became nasty.  Really nasty.  Just as she had with me. And with several others before me.

A quick scroll down the Nasty Person's facebook page revealed another dog story with no credit given - another familiar one, by yet another author.  These are not oversights - I learned of the theft of my photo from others who had seen their images and words stolen by the same person and we had ALL informed her of copyright laws.  She is clearly choosing to ignore the law, she deletes our comments, and she continues to profit from the creativity of others.  It infuriates me.

But I see it all the time - people download my photos every week, and occasionally whole blog entries.  My site tracker provides me with this information.  The site tracker only tells me their IP number, the city they live in, and what material they downloaded.  But if I search the web using one of the various websites available such as Google Image Reverse or Copyscape  and find the material used elsewhere without credit, I follow up.

It pains me to see how many people post things on facebook, blogs and other internet spaces or in print materials without giving credit.  Art is WORK, and it comes from our hearts, our minds, our bodies - whether it is photography, writing, painting, sketching, sculpting, or any other kind of creative endeavor.  To use it without the artist's permission and without due credit is to steal their labour and their soul.

My earlier post, at the beginning of this entry,  gives some guidelines for Copyright in Canada.  And there are other good resources out there.  Here's two I like:

This one explains in everyday words how to know what you can or can't copy and share on facebook :

And this one suggests some things you can do to protect your own work.  While specific to American copyright law, it contains some generic tips that apply to any country:

And now, please share.  I'm putting a link to this blog entry on my facebook page to facilitate spreading the word.  If you don't like  facebook (okay, I don't like it either but I concede that it has its uses), you can click on the title of this post, wait a sec,  and then copy the URL - that way, even if I've posted a dozen more entries, the person to whom you send the link will get this particular page rather than the start of the blog itself. And since all you did was send them the link, you aren't violating copyright.

Let's respect the artists among us.


Dom said...

Nothing makes my blood boil like copyright infringement... ESPECIALLY if there's a profit involved.

Jan Peck said...

Thank you for letting me know about the theft of my story on Facebook, And also thank you for writing such a great article about plagiarism. I like that you have a "watch dog" out on this person. I'm assuming "she" is in the USA and am looking into how I might be able to best stop her.

Anonymous said...

It's a tough one to enforce copyright on the Internet. Imagine my surprise when I found a photo of a dog that I had posted on my blog was being used on Craigslist to advertise a dog that was being "re-homed" (i.e. sold, which contravenes Craiglst's policy and the ad was subsequently taken down). The dog being "re-homed" and the photo had no relationship to one another, other than being the same breed. It's definitely a bit of a free-for-all!

Thank you for bringing it to our attention and spreading the word. It makes it harder for the copyright culprits to claim they were unaware that they were breaking the law.

Deb S.

georgia little pea said...

You really know your rights. I actually try not to see the links that pop up when I google LDOLL. They make me nervous. Could be innocent but...

Can't "the authorities" put that woman on some sort of black list? What is her name? So shameless and unethical to steal material and make money from it.

Sheryl said...

It always kind of worries me when I "share" things on Facebook. How do I know if the person who posted it originally has the right to use it?

Jean said...

GLP, many of us have notified Facebook, and the publishers or her books (and we just found out the offender not only put all of Jan's story on facebook but that she also included it, without credit, in one of the books she sells just like my photograph). Sadly, they seem to do little - unless someone takes her to court, at their own expense, nothing much happens. But we are working on it this time - the story she stole was originally published in a VERY well known series from publishers with a lot more clout than just you or me. And the first page of their book explicitly states that the material cannot be used elsewhere without written permission of the publisher!

Sheryl, the rule of thumb is to share only the LINK, not to copy and paste the article or image itself.
What I usually do if I see an image or written words that I want to use in a blog or in other stuff I write, but where the place I see them (facebook page, blog, forwarded by email from someone) doesn't state the source is this: I copy a unique line or two of the material, put it into google, and then check the results to see if any of them provide the writer's name.
If I can't find who wrote it, I might put it as "Author Unknown" if that is how reputable sources cite it, or simply not use it at all.

Sheryl said...

Yes, I usually just click on the Share button and share it to my own FB page. Hopefully, that's okay. The original poster's info goes along with it.

Jean said...

Sheryl, for many things that is just fine. The only suggestion I have is that if you are 'sharing' a poem, a photograph, a story and the author isn't named, you take a moment to see if you can find it. Then you can say something like "I'm sharing this lovely poem, which a search tells me is written by so-and-so." Then include your link.
Even passing along a story that someone passed along to you without giving credit is still considered copyright infringement. Think of it this way: it's like trafficking in stolen goods! It doesn't matter if you are the thief or the fence, you're still involved in an illegal activity. LOL