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…


I’m Not Katy

I am smiling at some of my friends in the world of e-Commerce and the Twitterverse. For some time now folks have been calling me Katy. But I’m not, my name is Laura. It’s an understandable mistake, and I should clear up the confusion for everyone.

KatyDids Cards (the name of my second eBay shop, domain, and Twitter name) is based on a project I started a year ago. I am working to help my father disburse the estate of my mother, who over the course of almost fifty years of marriage had accumulated a collection of approximately 10,000 pieces of ephemera. The bulk of it is vintage postcards, but there are also Victorian trade cards and greeting cards, tobacciana, menus, scraps (also known as oblaten), the works. If it’s paper, she collected it.

My mother died suddenly two years ago. A few years prior to her death, she and I had talked at length about creating a line of contemporary greeting cards based on the images she owned in her collection, ala the wonderful Green Tiger Press, who are now owned by Laughing Elephant. The vast majority of her images were old enough to be copyright free, and it was something we were definitely going to do “when we got around to it.” But at the time I had small children, and she had many other projects she was working on, so we put it off, too long as it turned out.

When my father began to consider what he would do with mom’s collection of paper, I told him he had several options. He could sell it in bulk at auction, and get pennies on the dollar. Or, I could open a second eBay store, manage it for him, and sell the items individually. He decided on the second course, and KatyDids Cards was born!

Picking a name for the store/business was easy. My mom and I had talked about it previously, and she had chosen the name based on a book she loved as a child.katydid-cleaned3

What I initially thought might just be a part-time gig for me has really taken off. I reached PowerSeller status on eBay a year after opening the store, which was a big mental boost for me. I work my tuchis off on this project, and really want it to work. My father is happy, as he is getting some monthly income from the store, and I am happy, as it’s allowing me to generate some part-time income for me too (although it’s really a full time job!) Mind you, neither of us is getting rich doing this, but I am doing my bit to help him, as he is elderly and handicapped, and would not be able to do the eBay thing on his own (no interest in the Internet at all, more’s the pity.) So it works out well all around.

In some ways though, it’s rather like being a kid working in a candy shop. I adore all the wonderful images in the items, some are just amazing. I do generally purchase some of the things from the estate every month for my own collection, and have to be careful not to buy too many! <grin>

All in all though, it’s a bittersweet affair. I miss my mom, she was a wonderful, highly educated woman who had impeccable taste and an eye for beauty. Many a time we went collecting together, and she could pick the one good piece out of a box of junk with ease. She had an encyclopedic mind for facts and history, and the world is a poorer place since her passing. But I am saving all the scans of the things I list in the store, and someday will put together some sort of compilation CD or perhaps even a book. But for now, I just keep plugging away, and know she is looking down at me with love…

An image from a print the collector owned, found among her things after her death. Now the store logo.

An image from a print the collector owned, found among her things after her death. Now the store logo.