Copy Wrongs…..

I cannot believe I am going to attempt a blog post about copyright law. I need to have my head examined. 🙂

Copyright is a topic of conversation that comes up with seemingly scheduled regularity at one or another of the creative-leaning message boards to which I belong. (The fact that this blog is being posted now is not because of any one thread, anywhere…. so don’t be paranoid…I frequent reading, writing, quilting, photography and multi-media art boards. 🙂)

It matters not an iota apparently, that there are pages and pages of governmentally published, legally complete and sound copyright information at one’s fingertips, because before a few pages go by, the threads almost always resort to virtual shoving matches; with an entertaining variety of supposition, assumption and plain old poor legal advice being offered as ‘truth’ and ‘don’t let the turkeys get you down, do what you think is right.’ (Some of the ‘best’ will eventually invoke Godwin’s Law.)

It is no wonder, after reading these sometimes amusing and highly fictionalized diatribes, that people do not understand copyright law. They probably understand less after finishing a thread than before. Therefore, I am not offering you any legal advice (other than the link above).

But I do want to throw on my ethical sombrero for a moment, and pose these few thoughts. (And let’s remember, people, this is a blog. A semi-humorous rant even. :)  It’s my opinion, offered up to you on a carefully seasoned sarcastic plate. YMMV.)

Often, the reasoning begins with—“I’ve heard (or was told by my college art professor) that if I change 10% –or 20% or 30% or the background color– it is no longer copyrighted.” Or the line of attack borders on quantity, or the amount of money changing hands.  “I certainly can understand why it’s illegal to copy CD’s, after all, that is thousands of dollars…” (I never know whether they mean that the artist is losing or the ‘thief’ is making :) ) They then excuse themselves with the line—“but if I only want to make 4 of this to sell, or copy 15 of that so I can teach a class (where they receive monetary compensation??) it’s not hurting anyone.”

These appear often to be the same upstanding, God-fearing citizens that feel there is nothing wrong with not following the rules of redemption for coupons in a store, other little acts of civil disobedience or dishonesty because they feel entitled,,or for belittling a service provider and telling them to “Have a blessed day” as they storm off.. (But that is another rant entirely. 🙂)

I am a photographer. (And quilter and writer….) I’ve spent a good long while attempting to ‘perfect’ my craft. I am not perfect. Not by a long shot. But every photograph I take, the moment I take it, BELONGS TO ME. (Even if it is a photograph of you–unless you paid me to take your photograph and I agreed to transfer the copyright.)

The fact that I post it on the internet does not mean that anyone is permitted to simply find it, click on it and sell it, print it, design a quilt or paint a painting using it, put it on a T-shirt, or a notepad, use it as a screensaver—well, you get the idea. That is why on my site, all images are Right-click protected. If you find one that isn’t doesn’t mean you are allowed to have it and do any of the above either. It belongs to me. You are welcome, and indeed ENCOURAGED to contact me if you would like to do any of the above, and we can discuss it! 🙂

There are legal limits, however, to what I may do with a photograph that I take. For example, when I go to a quilt show, almost all of their brochures specifically state you may NOT post photos of the show on the internet on a public forum. (With or without attribution.) I don’t have the specific language, but basically they say is “Don’t shoot images of quilts whose makers you don’t know and toss them up on Flickr.”

I take hundreds of quilt images. They are for my own perusal, for my own satisfaction and enjoyment. I take a photo of every placard, so I can reference the artist. I do put them online, on my own photo website, and they are locked and unavailable to the general public. I still state in the comments field that they are NOT my work. If I am so inspired by one that I end up designing and making a quilt based on one of these images, you can bet your patootie that I will be contacting the original artist before I post it online and I will always give him or her attribution.

I took an incredible shot of a hummingbird at the San Diego Zoo. I cannot sell it for profit, because that is the San Diego Zoo policy (Which I agreed to based on my entrance fee) Sure, I could not tell anyone where the shot was taken. If I really needed to sell it, I could contact the zoo and see what I need to do. I do have photos taken at a Botanical garden with an entrance fee available for purchase on my website, but before I posted them, I contacted the location and they stated sales are permitted.

I do not frequent Wal-Mart (A whole other thread, 🙂) But, I am aware that if I take my photos in to them to print, chances are, they will not do so, because my work is of a quality (depending on subject matter) that smells to them of professional. And they are to err on the side of copyright law. Much to the chagrin of folks who attempt repeatedly to make copies of studio images. While I can’t condone much about Wally, I am glad to know that they take this seriously.

I sometimes write Fan Fiction. Which basically means using another author’s characters. At the top of every chapter I type a disclaimer. ‘These are so and so’s characters, they don’t belong to me, I am making no money, yada yada.’

In quilting there is a long history of sharing and a wealth of public domain quilt blocks available, and this can sometime make the entire copyright situation confusing. However, physically copying someone’s instructions for construction of a quilt is a no-no. The act of combining this block with that block and a creating a totally new interpretation, etc. can ….well, wait. I said I was not offering legal advice, didn’t I? (I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV) Whether a lot of the other information that the author expresses in the fine print is legally binding is debatable (hence the pages of threads, etc) but still—

There is a simple understanding and basic rule of thumb to follow, and it is not a law at all. It is simply called the Golden Rule. Be nice. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Found in pretty much every civilization and in every religion on the face of this earth.

How would YOU feel? Isn’t that something we ask our four-year old when we try to teach them that taking the blocks someone else is playing with isn’t nice? The grown-up version may be more along the lines of “How would YOU feel if you spent all of that (time and effort and money and education) coming up with ABC, only to find that someone else is trying to make $money$ from it, without even saying you had inspired them?

FILE UNDER: SARCASM, HUMOR, with a dash of ‘Do I see myself?’ 

©2010 Trish Casey-Green  (Which I don’t need to state. The act of my fixing these words in a tangible form automatically copyrights them to me. You may link this entire post only (not a part out of context) and you may not do so without indicating I am the author of these words. By the way, titles can not be copyrighted. So, a million pardons to anyone else who has used the title before. (I imagine myself to be clever, but I am probably not THAT unique.)  Oh, and if you want to know how to affix that neat little © ? Hold the ALT key and on your numeric keypad and type 0169.

9 thoughts on “Copy Wrongs…..

  1. And just because I can’t figure out how to right click protect, and just because the PSE watermark doesn’t seem to be working DOESN’T mean it’s ok to take the photos from my blog….and I did find someone who not only used photos from my blog but took one of my photos as their profile shot…quite an eye opener.

    Many smaller shows do not have the prohibition on taking photos . I do review work from shows and do my best to contact the maker/owner as well as cite them and link back to their websites if I can find them. ( I find it vastly annoying when I find a professional who has a website who doesn’t answer their emails.)

    Those same commentators on that other art place you talk about still go zinging out into the copyright world saying I shouldn’t even do that.

    The truth of the matter is that it IS OK to do that given the information. The bottom line is if you don’t want your work to have photos taken of it or seen, even with the proper attribution, don’t show your work. Anywhere.

    If I find a photo that I can’t take, and want to use it for inspiration for a piece of my own work I contact the owner. I recently did this with two photos taken through a microcope. Usually, they are very kind in allowing me to interpret their work in cloth.

    I totally agree with your post. There seems to be a strange concept that just because it is on the internet means that it is free for the taking.


    • Thanks, Lisa, for your response. I agree with you. I don’t want to get into arguments about it with people, but I do have to wonder how it is they can profess one thing and do another all the time….

      I really don’t understand how it is so hard to simply say, that my work is inspired by such and such …I am working on a quilt now.

      I actually bought a pattern and THOUGHT I may make it just as it was. Not a chance. The instructions were so heavy and ill-advised that I have just decided to wing it…When I post a photo, I will give the designer and title…and a caveat that the instructions border on incomprehensible…


  2. Eh. I don’t worry about it too much anymore. I started sleeping with an Intellectual Property atty a few years ago, and while I have nothing anyone would ever want, I suppose I could sic him on the idiot who ‘borrowed’ from me.

    But as I said, I don’t have a creative bone in my body and people puke at what I write. Since I am the first person to NEVER get a review for my FF, that means a lot!


    • Mud, I can’t BELIEVE that….never? Not ONe?? I will have to send a public review, then!! I am SURE you received many on the boards~~~You’re unique solution to worry (sleeping with the tall dude) is a great answer, but probably not something all of us are going to be able to pull off!!LOL


  3. What always gets me about those CR discussions are the ways folks find to parse the written law to allow them to copy someone else’s work. Even if it is technically legal–in the public domain, or with permission given–it is still SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK! Real artists do their own work, IMO. Then they have no reason to worry about getting around the law.


    • Yes, Terry. Artists do do their own work. But we all live in and work in something other than a vacuum and are knowingly or unwittingly influenced by the world around us…
      Giving credit where credit is due (even to say, I was influenced by this amazing photo of a hummingbird I saw on this chicks site)….How HARD is that?? It basically is a CYA by admitting to any and all that you are not claiming ownership of the original idea…and it just seems like the right thing to do!
      Thanks for posting!


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