Think Before You Right-Click

Maybe I’m just a grump. But lately I’ve been seeing a disturbing trend for people to go online and  just take things from others and think they can use it for free. Everything from photos, to pictures, to articles.

Like the “Magazine Publisher” (who shall remain nameless), who decided she would lift an article of mine, with illustrations, and use it in her digital “magazine” without so much as a by-your-leave. When I discovered it, I calmly wrote her and asked her to give me attribution. I didn’t ask for money (although I often write for pay and/or advertising revenues), I didn’t get pushy, I just informed her that it was my work and if she was going to use it, I would appreciate a byline.

I never heard back from her (although we travel in a very small circle), and she removed my work from her website almost immediately thereafter. Frankly, I found her lack of reply unsettling, and as I had told her, had she but asked, I would have given her my work to use for free, as long as I got a byline. Rude.

Then there was the website which right-clicked on one of my photos and used it on another, similar site. When I contacted the owner of the site (again, someone I know personally), he pooh-poohed my concern, and told me he was permitted to use my photos. Mind you, this is a man who works in the print publishing industry, and who certainly should have known better. I replied back that I was a professional photographer (among the many hats I wear), and I retain copyright to my images, and would he please, in future, ask before taking them.

He replied again in an even more condescending tone that he was a Blah Blah at the Blah Blah publication, and he knew all about these things, and he didn’t have to ask. Now, my husband is a much bigger BB at a much bigger BB, and I used to work at a BB, and my family used to own BBs! So it’s not like I’m talking out of my, well, ear (to be polite.) I replied one final time that I wanted my image removed and that in future they were not to use my work without permission. He finally took it down, but never apologized and never replied. Really rude.

And today I had an email from a woman who wanted to purchase one of my items from my eBay store that had ended (items last for up to 30 days then have to be relisted.) She gave me a big song and dance about how she looooooved the image, but she and her husband were both out of work, and were in the process of moving, but to please let her know when I re-listed it. I did some research on her ID (not as hard as you might think) and discovered she writes a blog in which she posts images from the items she buys and gives them to people for free.

On the surface, that’s all well and good, and actually appears quite generous. But many of my items are reproductions of vintage images, on which I have worked long and hard to improve (color correction, retouching of scratches, dust, and other damage, and so on.) And just because you purchase one of my cards, doesn’t mean you’re buying the copyright to my work. Not for less than triple digits, sorry, no. As well, this woman seems to be selling the images she uses as fabric blocks, which is another thing I do. So I politely declined her request and put her on my blocked list. Clueless.

I can certainly appreciate the freedom that the Internet gives us, and the incredible access to information that it allows. But just because something is on the Internet, doesn’t mean it is free for the taking. And as someone who works long and hard on her images, dammit, the least someone could do is ask before taking them! Now, I do watermark much of what I post now, and use a service that allows me to track my images across most of the ‘Net. But there are still things that slip through, and it’s a risk I, and every other artist takes, when we post things online. But it doesn’t make it right, and I am certainly not happy when I discover it.

So the next time you’re tempted to just right-click an image and use it for something, please check to ensure that the thing you’re about to take doesn’t belong to someone, and if it does, either ask them if you can use it, or just don’t take it. Because access doesn’t mean permission.

End of rant, stepping down from soapbox now…


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