Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Here’s a little story about Breaking Copyright Laws

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blogger copyright

Readers, I’ve always loved you.  Your comments make me laugh, your feedback is always helpful and now you’re even protecting me from content theft.  You see, I was contacted by a very sweet reader not too long ago saying that she was pretty sure an image from my most popular post was being used on someone’s online boutique shop.  Not only was it being used there, but also on their corresponding Facebook page!!

I checked it out and sure enough, there was this image…

It’s definitely low resolution and probably copied and pasted from Pinterest.

Now, this tutorial is very very popular and I know it has been pinned thousands of times on Pinterest.  However, I never thought that this would lead to someone using my image to promote a business.  My image was being used to sell items on someone else’s “boutique” website.  Now, doesn’t that seem strange to post pictures of items for sale that you didn’t even make?  And I’m not selling them either, so how exactly do you plan on selling necklaces that my friends and neighbors now wear?  Just wondering.  <end rant>

My first step was to contact the website and tell them to remove my image immediately.  I informed them that this was breaking copyright law.  The person running the website wrote me back and in a very snippy tone, informed ME that she was an attorney.  She said that the images she used were not copyright protected since they did not have watermarking and there wasn’t a copyright statement on my blog.  There was a whole lot more, but I don’t want to get into it.  Basically, she had the nerve to get defensive with me about using my images without my permission.  Grrrrr.

Then I thought…could she be right?  Did I incorrectly believe all of this time that my blog was protected under copyright law?  That my words, my tutorials and my images were my own and no one else to use?

Well, my husband, also an attorney,  and I spent a great deal of time researching copyright law and how it pertains to bloggers.  At first, I was infuriated with my stupidity.  But then here is what we found:

  • Today, almost all things are copyrighted the moment they are written or images are uploaded to your blog
  • These written words and images are protected by copyright law with or WITHOUT a copyright notice on your blog
  • You can register for a copyright, but it is not necessary.  You are still copyright protected without registration. 
  • Ideas, names and slogans can not be copyrighted
  • Fair Use : a very fuzzy and debatable area of copyright law.  Basically, you can use someone else’s material without permission if you want to provide criticism, make a comment, report it as news or for teaching and research purposes.  However, fair use is controversial and therefore your best bet is to ALWAYS ask permission.
  • Blogger to Blogger courtesy:  Always link back to someone that inspires you.  I’m constantly inspired by other bloggers on Pinterest.  Then, I create something similar and link back to them.  I think it’s the best form of flattery in the blogging world. 

Important links:

U.S. Copyright Law

U.S. Copyright Law FAQ’s

My research also produced some sad stories from other DIY bloggers.  This one from  Addicted 2 Decorating is, as she puts it, infuriating!  You should also check out House of Hepworths experience too.  She has some great ideas for protecting your blog.

So, after this experience and research, I have decided to add a copyright notice to my blog and a terms of use blurb.  Although, under the law, these things are not necessary, they possibly deter those that want to steal your images and words.  Also, I have added more watermarking to my images as well.  That way they will give some credit back to me if/when they are pinned on Pinterest. 

I hope this post helps bring some much needed copyright information to all of you and doesn’t come off as some mean rant.  Until this happened to me, I certainly didn’t know any of the details.  I just wrongly assumed that I was protected and that most people respect the work of others.  Blogging is certainly a fun outlet for me and not a job.  However, I do spend a good amount of time on each post and editing images and therefore when someone tries to use my work without permission, I get beyond frustrated. 

Feel free to comment on any issues you have had with copyright law.  I would love to become more knowledgeable about the law and how it effects bloggers. 

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  1. So sorry this happened to you! And I can't believe she had the nerve to get snippy with you! Crazy.

    One thing I have been reading conflicting info about lately is if blogspot blogs content is actually owned by blogger/google.

  2. That's horrible.:( Some people are just rude and not very smart!

  3. Unbelievable! You would think the person would have contacted you to let you know that they are selling them and would take their own picture (of the items they made). Is there an easy way to add your blog name to pictures that you have on your blog?

  4. Seems there is a lot of misinformation about copyright and the use of online images. Thanks for sharing your experiences. My blog on copyright www.copyrightlaws.com has received the most comments on a single post, Legally Using Images - now over 200 comments. So, people are reading and asking questions about copyright and online images!

  5. That's terrible! I'm a new librarian and have been trying to learn more about copyright. I didn't think it was legal to use images like that to sell stuff (libraries and school use fair use but it's more in the sense of educating and informing & it is very complicated). This is definitely stealing.Maybe the laws haven't quite up with the times since new technologies are always emerging. :( You could maybe use paint or photoshop or something to add your name.

  6. It's kind of funny that I came across this - that picture is on my pinterest board because I love the idea of making magnets/necklaces. Plus, I scrapbook so these would make great embellishments.

    Anyway, I've been wanting to get back into blogging and thought that actually making some of my pins would be a great way to do it. But I also want to make sure that I give credit where credit is due so I've been checking all of my pins - Is there actually a link or is it just a picture? Is the link going to the person that actually came up with the idea or did they get inspired by someone else? And, most important, do I like the person's blog to come up with fun ideas that I'd like to try myself? So I clicked on your home page from another pin and saw this.

    Anyway, long story short (too late), that really ticks me off. It is one thing to make an item but to use someone else's picture? That's not right.

  7. I have it on my Pinterest board as well, because I think you are brilliant. But how on earth can anyone with half a whiff of integrity think it's ok to profit from YOUR work? Crazy!!!

  8. Just wanted to say what a great post I thought this was, after blogging for a few years now, I'm just now learning about some of the more important background details of the blogging world & so this was just great post to stumble across. Thanks for the info! - Chantelle

  9. Thank you for the copyright info. I too have that on my pinterest & am also guilty of sharing other people photos that I liked but I would either comment on it or link back to it. Sometimes I would forget to link back to original site, but I never used other photos to sell a product. I think its great to be inspired from others because it can lead to a building block to more ideas. I love your website and if & when I 'share' any of your photos or others I will definitely link back to your site. Thanks again.


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