Monday, July 23, 2012


When I first started blogging, I was very careful not to post any images that weren't my own photographs. The problem, of course, is that posts are so much more attractive and fun with pictures than without. And, sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words. As time passed, I noticed that other bloggers were simply using images floating around the Internet, so I finally decided I was being overly cautious and began doing the same. If I used an image from an identified photographer, I was careful to give credit where credit was due, and if it was a photographer with a blog, I'd also provide a link. I reasoned I was providing them with free advertising and directing traffic their way; a win/win situation for all concerned, right? Who would complain?

Well, this morning, a friend sent me a link that chilled me to the bone (not an easy feat in New Orleans in July). Roni Loren is just another random, struggling author with a blog, A few months ago, Roni snagged a photo from Google images and used it to illustrate a blog post. A few weeks later she received a cease and desist notice from the photographer. She immediately took down the photo and apologized, but that wasn't enough for the photographer involved. He sued her. She had to get a lawyer, and the entire incident ended up costing her a small fortune. You can read about it here on her blog.

As a result, I've spent the last four hours going through old blog posts and taking down photos. Some posts are so gutted that they no longer make sense--such as, for instance, the posts I did showing the images that inspired a book cover. I will need to go back later and make certain I caught everything, but at the moment I'm too bleary eyed and, frankly, cranky. In some instances I probably deleted my own pictures, but I simply don't have time to check and make certain.

So, in the future I won't be using as many images, which will take some of the fun out of blogging. As a writer, I'm very sensitive to copyright; I would never dream of using an image in something like a book video or a website design, for instance, without securing copyright and paying for it. (The images you see in the header above were all purchased for my website). One might think that use of images in blogging is different, but it isn't. It doesn't. It doesn't make any difference if you're not using the image to make money, or if you found it in some Creative Commons but the person who put it there didn't actually have the right to do so. You can still get sued.

When I first put this post up, I included some rather salty opinions, but on second thought I've deleted them. Suffice it to say that in a sense, I fall on both sides of this argument as I've posted lots of my own photographs, of Louisiana, of Mardi Gras, of Idaho, of wherever. If anyone uses them, it would be nice if they linked back to my blog. But if they don't, no biggy. You see, I feel like when I put them out there on the Internet, I gave up control over them. If I didn't want them copied, I could have put a watermark on them, or simply not posted them. But what I think, and what the law thinks, are two very different issues.


Charles Gramlich said...

AS long as one is not making money off of someone else's photos, I don't generally see the harm in reposting something that has already been posted. That being said, I try not to do it hardly at all. The only ones i use from the public are book covers.

Jessica said...

There are also a couple of stock image sites that have free (and copyright ok) photos. I can't remember the URLs off the top of my head, but they are out there.

Barbara Butler McCoy said... just posted another of several articles about this topic for those who wish for authoritative information. The author is the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association.