Tag Archives: credit where credit is due

At BlogHer, I spoke about the power of Pinterest in leading in referral traffic over Twitter, Google, StumbleUpon, Bing and Yahoo. I spoke about how we can create images with the intent of building community and driving traffic to the site ethically and responsibly. What I didn’t have time to discuss were steps one can take to be sure the original content they’re sharing is protected by creating watermarks.

In this age of content theft, a watermark can be a blogger’s best friend. While it doesn’t prevent theft, it can help an image gone astray be returned to its rightful owner. It can also act as a kind reminder to those who might otherwise use what is not theirs without thinking twice. Watermarking your images doesn’t require graphic design know how. From desktop to smartphone, here’s a guide to making your mark.

WHY WATERMARK?

FACT: Just because an image is on Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram does not mean anyone can take it and use it as they please. An image may only be used according to the Terms of Service on each site. Read the TOS.

As attorney and blogger Sara Hawkins explains, in regard to Pinterest, “Many images are pinned knowingly and offered up by the copyright holder. But there are also many images on Pinterest that the copyright holder has no idea is on there.”

By watermarking the content you place online, you make a statement. An important one about taking pride in your work and valuing your content. If your watermark includes your blog name, it can bring readers to your site even if the image is found on a site where you didn’t provide permission. From your site to Instagram, here are some easy ways to put the finishing touches on your images.

ON YOUR DESKTOP
Traditionally, Photoshop has been the route by which many watermark their work. Using an image or text, one can create a transparent PNG file as an overlay on graphics and photos. Another option is to save that PNG file as a brush and simply “stamp” your work. Here is a tutorial via Adobe for creating a watermark in Photoshop Elements.

Lightroom offers the option of exporting your edited photos with your watermark embedded. Adobe offers a tutorial here that walks you through the process.

If PNGs, brushes and layers aren’t your cup of tea, not to fear. You have some great options online that require zero Photoshop ability, and, as of late, I’ve found myself using them over Photoshop to quickly watermark an image with great results.

ON THE WEB
You can create watermarks with ease using free sites like PicMonkey or Pixlr. I happen to love PicMonkey’s interface and the ease with which you can use their tools and be creative. They offer a wide range of fonts (though I suggest keeping it clean and easy to read). Beyond text-based watermarks, you can also opt to use your own your logo or graphic watermark.

Once you’ve edited your image using PicMonkey, click on the icon for “Overlays.” On the top left you have the choice of “Your Own.” Click and upload a PNG file from your computer, and add it to the image. (If you’re not Photoshop familiar, or had someone design your site logo, you might ask about having a PNG made to coordinate with your blog design that you can use with apps, like PicMonkey.)

ON THE GO

I am really impressed with the ease of some watermarking apps for the iPhone and iPad. In fact, you might not be able to tell those I make in Photoshop from those I create on my phone while in line at the post office or in a waiting room before a meeting.

I’ve tried various apps, but have found a few that I particularly like because they each offer something unique with high quality results. I began using Phonto to add bits of text to photos for my blog or Instagram, and later as a watermarking tool. I like the versatility and the option to import fonts (though their collection of 200+ is wonderful).

Also worth checking out is the app A+ Signature, as it allows the option of text based and handwritten mark-ups.

I think iWatermark is the easiest of the apps on the market and can reach a large audience as it is also available for Droid devices, and they have desktop versions for Mac and PC users (the Mac version can be integrated to work with iPhoto). My experience has been on the iPhone, and I love that by simply emailing myself the PNG of my watermark, I can add it to images as I do in Photoshop…and faster.

While A+ Signature and iWatermark make it easy to share your images to Twitter and Facebook, Phonto also has the option of posting to Instagram, which is a wonderful way to integrate watermarks into what you share.

Instagrams have always been publicly viewable unless one makes their account private, but Facebook’s new integration places the public Instagrams people “like” on their Timeline, giving Instagrams an even larger audience. The option to watermark them is a nice one, and Phonto makes it easy.

Whether you choose to watermark your images, or not, is entirely up to you. Respect for copyright online has a long way to go.

FACT: The notion that because you share your creative content on the web makes it public domain is untrue.

Watermark not because you’re overprotective, but because you’re proud of your contributions to this community.

Every picture tells a story, and these stories belong to us. Copyright gives us the ability, the RIGHT, to decide when and where our work is COPIED. As more and more people find their work used without their knowledge, the issue of making your mark becomes an important consideration.

The market for software and apps is large. Any favorites we all should know about? And if you have watermarking questions, please feel free to ask!

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Accountability. Responsibility. Integrity. Why yes, this is a bit like the ABC After School Special edition of If Emily Posted.

FACT: Copyright online is copyright offline. Content creators own their work unless stated otherwise. It is their call as to who, what, when, where, why and how their work is reproduced.

Forgive the screeching vinyl of this broken record, but I urge everyone to write it on their heart, or a Sharpie on their hand, or a post it on their desktop: Giving credit isn’t getting permission.

NOT A FACT: If you put it on the internet you should expect people to take it.

If there weren’t laws that said something to the contrary, I’d say that this was simply my opinion. But it’s not. It’s the law. You should not expect things to be taken. The world can’t function that way.

Here’s my concern. I watch as bloggers work hard to create clever, engaging, informative content. I also watch as marketers and social media gurus teach people how to build their audience, reminding them that they need to be placing content on all platforms, all the time. Posting and pinning and updating with new visuals that create conversations on their Facebook Pages or gather Pinterest followers, and ultimately, lead to click throughs to their sites.

Who are people willing to hurt to get those clicks? Who are you willing to hurt by sharing content you don’t have the right to use?

We need a Slow Internet Movement. We need to slow down the speed at which we are sharing. If we aren’t considering who we might be hurting for the sake of a few clicks, this blogosphere is going to fold in on itself. We need new content and new ideas in order to grow. And yes, those take a bit of time to create.

I was talking to Charlie and Andy, the duo over at How To Be A Dad. They’ve been dealing with a lot of IP theft this week. They work hard to create their content. High quality, witty and smart stuff. And you may have seen it, even if you’ve never heard of their site. Because you could like a TV show like GUYS WITH KIDS, who posted one of Charlie and Andy’s pieces on their Facebook Page sans attribution. (They have since added a link, but that’s beside the point really. See that whole credit isn’t permission business.) Or you’ve been to NickMom.com, where both they and Type-A Mom, Kelby Carr, have been dealing with what I can only describe as content integrity issues.  In the case of Charlie and Andy, NickMom.com has a cartoon that is incredibly similar to one of their own. With Kelby, they’re using her very widely known brand in a parody. Amy writes more about it, here. (I’ve reached out to NickMom.com for their side. I’ve yet to hear back, but will let you know.)

As Charlie says, “We rely on sharing and attribution to build our audience and social following. It’s the only way that we have a chance in hell to possibly eek out a living doing what we love. Sites like failblog, funnyjunk and others slap their own logo on the bottom of a photo or infographic, often covering up an author’s signature. That’s tantamount to taking a painting and slapping a sticker on the the artist’s name. Why shouldn’t an author or creative get credit?”

When I wrote about Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Good. Period., it meant that searching an image for an original source should be a given before placing it on a social sharing site. It takes seconds to do. When creating content, all sites, but especially those connected to brands, need to do their homework. Charlie and Andy would have been happy to work with NickMom.com. They have the same audience. It would have been a great business move for both of them. NickMom.com is seeing now that it is far better to engage rather than enrage your audience.

RULE: If you aren’t creating original content, you must ask permission before using someone else’s.

I saw this on Charlie and Andy’s Facebook Page.

Look at how many LIKES this post got. This cyber village has its own neighborhood watch. I can’t tell you how many the people have told me they learned about the misuse of their content not via Google Alerts or searching but because someone else told them.

This community can only succeed when we stand together and call out this behavior. People work hard to create their content. And unless we put the brakes on here, people will not stop stealing. Because the business model is now one that says you can only succeed if you keep feeding the beast, and yet, it’s one impossible to satisfy. No one is capable of moving at the speed of social media. This model is broken.

Imitation as flattery no longer applies in the 21st century. Imitation has become a desperate attempt to keep up. And at what cost?

We need to slow down.