Contrary to what internet headlines say, Pinterest is not the root of all evil. Pinterestgate is simply the tipping point for an issue that’s been brewing for years. We’ve watched as content has been “shared” across websites and social media platforms without much concern about who things belongs to. We simply haven’t looked out for one another, or perhaps we never thought tools would become available to make sharing things so easy and with so many at once. I don’t know.
Simple misinformation, or lack of info, can lead people to make poor decisions. With the click of “I Agree” on a barely read TOS and without a manual, people are handed social media tools. Now THAT is the root of this all.
I’m concerned when people write in blog and website comment boxes and emails that because they’re online, things should be free and fun and require no responsibility or education in order to access them. By responsibility, I mean decency. By education, I mean respect. More kindness when I see someone ask their content be removed from Pinterest and the pinner responds…with an absolute lack of it.
Decency. Respect. Kindness.
These are not the ego-maniacal desires of an “elitist” or “credit whore.” Yet when I see people speak of a wish for some control over how content is used beyond their own website, blog or portfolio, there is a whole lot of snarky name calling and the assertion that what is online is bringing them exposure, so stop asking for something in return.
Let’s dispel that myth once and for all. Let’s stop with this business about unhappy artists venting online because they’re jealous that they’re not famous. I’m sure there are unhappy people of all types online, but that is not what this is about. If you’d like, I will gladly take a lunchtime poll and get back to you as to how many people I know would be happy to have their work shared online as long as it were properly credited.
RULE 1: Someone who creates original content is entitled to decide that where work can be published. Entitled is not a bad word.
Every screenplay I write is registered with the Writer’s Guild. But people – agents, producers, friends, strangers – take my writing out into the world. Every photo contract I write includes a copyright acknowledgment form. But my photos are printed and copies go to whomever my clients choose. That is the risk of a creative life. The wonderful risk. You make things. You expose your ideas to the world. But, online or off, you retain the copyright for a very important reason.
Sara Hawkins, an attorney who shares incredible information on matters both economical and legal at her site Saving for Someday, gave this succinct response to someone misinformed about copyright and online exposure:
“Copyright is a funny thing because it really has nothing to do with ‘getting your name out there’ and more about letting the copyright owner decide who can do what with their work.”*
This is why copyright matters. Thank you, Sara.
Your work represents you. Therefore, you have every right to have concerns over who shows it and where. Let’s educate those who assume © simply means $. Speaking of money, here’s another problem.
You wouldn’t take magazines, rip out pages, scan them and post them on a website. To do that would be illegal – with or without credit. To virtually rip out pages off a blog or website is the same thing. You’re sharing content that isn’t yours. And unlike magazine content, the online recipes and fashion inspiration and decorating ideas and graphic design templates, all those great things are usually FREE.
RULE 2: Don’t abuse the freedoms of FREE. Just because you can access so much for free online doesn’t make it yours. But, if you ask permission, there’s a good chance you’ll be given the OK. If not, respect those who say no.
RULE 3: If you are unsure if you are copying something that might possibly, maybe, kind of, potentially require permission, either ask or don’t use it.
Thanks for all of the emails and comments – I am so glad this conversation has begun. Keep the questions coming! xo a.
*Thanks to my friend Eden who last year gave me permission to use, “Don’t copy, right?” on my sites. I saw it on her blog and thought it was clever. I’m not sure I had to ask permission, but I did. See RULE 3 above. Also, thank you to Sara for the quote. Again, since I wasn’t sure if I should use it without asking… see that RULE 3 thing.