When the Cow Hits the Fan

10 03 2009

When is being too protective or too out there too much?

I was recently reading a blog post written by my good friend and fellow activist, Martha Jean Schindler at her blog.

She recently wrote an article about a cow having violently attacked a biker – which show she’s a good writer, because as an animal activist she didn’t jump the biker for biking, she basically said “wow. kinda almost funny. but bad. very bad.” Everyone got the point and took it in due course.

Well, most people did.

Some didn’t.

She used a photo from the article to repost to her site and gave due credit through hyperlink for the news source and picture. Then the madness ensued. Instead of appreciating that they were linked back to, the photographer complained that “proper” citation was not followed. So she talked with him and then replaced the photo, and a new photographer got on to complain about her using the photo the new commenter had taken.

Now there’s an argument on this side-note article and the point of the original story has been lost.

Now, as I understand it… the internet is a big place. And as I pointed out:

  • If I can Google it, you aren’t trying hard enough to protect it.
  • She’s not pulling down any money from this, so who cares?
  • They are getting free attention… the way most people want it given.

Also, as Martha Jean points out:

The CC license draft (a link to it is embedded within this page – http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/5447) says:

“If you distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform the Work or any Derivative Works or Collective Works, You must keep intact all copyright notices for the Work and give credit, <strong>reasonable to the medium or means You are utilizing</strong>, to the: (i) Original Author (his, her or its name or pseudonym if applicable) if supplied; and/or (ii) if the Original Author and/or Licensor designate another party or parties (e.g., a sponsor institution, publishing entity, journal) for attribution in Licensor’s copyright notice or terms of service or by other reasonable means […]”

I interpret this to mean (and could not find a reliable source that directly contradicted this interpretation) that as long as I credit the photographer in a way that is reasonable to the medium I am using, I will not be in violation of the CC license. The medium I am using is the internet – a web of interactive, interconnected pages of information.  In my opinion, the most reasonable way to credit someone on the internet is by linking back to them (think about the innumerable times you’ve seen credit given to someone through a link to their homepage or blog post on the internet – in fact, think about the results of Google’s image search, which lists only the web page hosting the image, not the author of the image).  If I were using this image in a printed document or any other medium that did not allow me to direct viewers directly to you, I would credit you by listing your name, because then that would be the most reasonable form of credit.

I honestly believe that a direct link benefits you and other photographers much more than listing your name or Flickr name.  If someone sees your photo and likes it, he or she can click on it and be directed to your photo, your name, a way to contact you, and links to your other works on Flickr.  I’ve even had some photographers express appreciation for my attempt to share their work with a wider audience in this manner. However, I am also aware that the attribution license says, “[I] must attribute the work in the manner <strong>specified</strong> by the author or licensor.”  That is why I remove and replace the photos as quickly as possible if a photographer lets me know that he or she does not think I am attributing it in the way he or she specified.  I am doing what I believe is best for both parties with the time and tools we have at hand.

I am now in the process of consulting with a lawyer to ensure that my interpretation of the CC license is valid.  If I learn that my interpretation is wrong, I will immediately change my approach.  For now, I am going to continue attributing the images on my site via direct links and replace the images upon learning that a photographer disapproves of this technique.

I hope that no ill will arises from this discussion.  🙂

I see Ms. Schindler as being in the clear. In the future, boys, protect your  creative rights, and don’t complain when a talented individual tries to help you spread your work.