Six pages into notes on photo attribution, I realized I had a lot on my mind. This was never going to be explained in one concise post, but I found myself with a number of things to talk about – from legal issues to practical ones, sites to bookmark and articles to recommend. Hence this installment of If Emily Posted is called PART ONE.

FACT: Anything image you take and place on the internet is yours under legal copyright. Even on Facebook or Instagram, whom you given the OK to do what they will with your images (you know you give them that permission by signing up, right?) – but you still own the copyright.

FACT: As a writer, photographer and editor, I know what Fair Use is and how and where it applies. It’s part of my job. It is important you know what it means and you use it correctly. The same goes for Creative Commons licenses. (Even if you think you understand these things, review them. Or ask me about them.)

FACT: I’m a photographer. If I saw an image of mine on your blog, that would be copyright infringement. Even if you credit and link to me. (I’m not suing anyone, just making a point.) Unless you have expressed written permission, using someone else’s images could get you into trouble.

I’m not telling you to get a lawyer, but I want you to know what belongs to you and what doesn’t. This isn’t just for bloggers. On flickr and Facebook and beyond, people are making these mistakes. (I’m not even going to address sites like tumblr at this point.) We all make mistakes. I make mistakes. But once we know we’ve made them, we need to fix them.

OPINION: Although there are exceptions to this rule, you’re not giving someone exposure by using their image on your site. Not necessarily. Take a look at your blog stats and the number of clicks that an image gets in comparison with your traffic. Who’s getting the exposure, honestly? (As I said, there are exceptions.)

I would say that approximately 98% of my visual content is original, minus YouTubes I embed. And any image I do use that isn’t mine I check to be sure falls under a Creative Commons law that allows me to do so or I contact the source for permission.

Because it’s the right thing to do. The professional thing to do.

I believe that whether or not you have a revenue-generating site, you have to be treat it with respect. I write this having some friends and colleagues who are fabulous people, but I watch them doing seriously unethical stuff. And I think most of it they’re unaware because without rules sometimes people don’t realize they’re breaking any. Or they simply think it’s not such a big deal.

You know the people that scoff at blogging? That think it’s silly? If blogging is to be taken seriously, take blogging seriously.

I know, it’s more work to make your own stuff, but people visit your site because they want to see your style. Your POV.

A few times, I haven’t posted pieces because I couldn’t come up with an image to place with it. That’s the print-media brain at work. You can’t get away with such things in print work. Let’s apply similar thinking online.

Friday I’m posting my advice on building a stock image library of your own using a smartphone or a point and shoot (nothing fancy) and some great apps and programs that make it easy. I swear it’s super easy and doesn’t require much time.

While I’m already putting it together, I’d love your feedback before I finish. Do you use an iPhone? A point and shoot or DSLR? Do you have a Mac or PC? I’d love to give as many resources as possible so everyone can realize that a couple hours a month (not a day or a week, a month) can give you a ton of original images to work with. xo a.

P.S. Most blogs I read I come upon by recommendation or they belong to someone I know. For all my love of design, I only recently began reading Grace Bonney’s Design*Sponge. I’d read a few posts here and there, and follow on twitter, but I only just learned that she talks blog etiquette. This makes me ridiculously happy. I highly recommend this post.


9 thoughts on “If Emily Posted: Photo Attribution – Part One

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      When you say mood boards do you mean the things people create on sites like Polyvore or Pinterest, tumblr and other visual bookmarking sites? Feel free to email me – I’m talking about Pinterest next week!

  1. Shari@Rain into Rainbows

    Ugh, I was afraid of that. So all these Pinterest parties & posts really shouldn’t be happening? And speaking of Pinterest, isn’t that in itself using something without the original author/photographer’s permission?

    My blog is a memoir of sorts, certainly not for profit, and yet I worry endlessly about these things.

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      Pinterest is a visual bookmark. They’re not doing anything that infringes on copyright. I love Pinterest! Now, some stuff people pin is questionable, but that’s not the fault of the pinner or Pinterest. Anything on Pinterest links back the original source (sites like tumblr, not so much). From using Pinterest as their link in a post to what they put in the description box, some aren’t using Pinterest correctly. Once again, rules were never made so people don’t know what they should and shouldn’t do.

  2. Claire @ Half-Hearted Housewife

    I have a DSLR but honestly, now that we have three kids, I never use it. I use my iPhone almost exclusively because I always have it with me, ready to capture a moment. My shots aren’t as great as other’s, but they’re mine… so that’s something, right?
    I never know about sharing youtube videos and the like, especially when they are PSAs. I’m assuming the creators would want as many people as possible to view it, but am I allowed to share it on my blog? I know this isn’t exactly what you’re covering, but that’s something I’ve always wondered about.

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      I think the iPhone is a tool every blogger can use. I had Blackberrys for years and a year with an iPhone I’ve found myself using it in so many USEFUL ways that the BB never could. The photo editing apps are pretty incredible – I suppose one could do all of that with the iPod touch, too.

  3. Pingback: Think And Link Before You Share | Baby Rabies

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