The internet a new form of media with new rules?

Wow the internet is really the new media, and as such does it comes with a whole new set of rules?
I recently got slapped on the wrist, not once but twice, for the usage of some images. Let me recount the tale.

When can you use an image or information found on the internet and when can you not?
In my recent blog post, I had used some images I found on the internet to elaborate my discussion on sketching ability and quality of sketches. I basically wanted to show everyone examples that proved you could be a great sketcher but may not be the best designer.
However in the process the owner of the sketch was not happy (he found out because I quoted the source), and was perhaps unhappy about the comments. This is probably because by my comments were interpreted to be slightly negative. I think things would have turned out differently if I my comments were more positive in nature.
Worst still, someone else added fuel to the fire and implied that it was only polite to ask permission first and advice the author to sue me for not getting his permission before I wrote the post and posted the picture. Do note the work was not passed off as anyone else’s but the authors.
So as a result, to nip the issue in the bud, I took the picture down…
The next day another person emailed me and told me I should have asked permission from him to use a mood photograph in my second sketching tips post. He said “all his rights were reserved” and therefore I should ask have permission first. He said to me his picture was not a creative commons license and that I should not use it freely.
Again in the matter of days I took down my second picture.
Is this not getting a little extreme? I know that the internet is not public domain, and the authors have their copyrights. Therefore I had always thought quoting on the internet is done similar as when you write for print media for say a research paper. You would just quote the source via the academic way. (Which I did!)
Furthermore in your research paper you would then proceed agree or disagree (prove or disprove) conclusions by your quoted source?
You mean to tell me then, if an author found out and was not happy, he could take action and sue? Sounds absurd! Or perhaps I’m just too simplistic in my views, but do people not have a right to their opinion? Rightly or wrongly?
Furthermore from analysing my second incident, does this mean photos, instead of text, have a different quoting or usage laws abiding to it? Or can I go as far to say that perhaps the new internet media (written or photos or video) all have a new set of laws, that are different from the laws of quoting traditional work abiding it?
I think as the internet is now becoming the new source of information, there must be some kind of standard of quoting and discussion format I can use?
Anybody can advice? I’m confused but willing to listen and learn because this could mean big trouble for website aggregators or meta-blogs.
Edit: The author of the photograph has graciously allowed the image to be posted. Thanks clickykbd and do check out his photos.

11 Comments
  • Laura Fisher

    December 13, 2006 at 1:59 am Reply

    When you quote someone’s writing in a blog posting, it’s ok to use a portion of the text, not the whole piece. This is pretty standard practice these days – an excerpt with a link back to the original source is usually considered fair use. Quote the whole thing and you’re likely to get asked to take it down, or at the very least, you’ll be violating the spirit of fair use, even if you don’t get caught.
    When you use someone’s image, you can’t really excerpt it. You use the entire image or work. And I think that’s where the problem arises – you aren’t just giving a taste of a work and linking to the original, you’re appropriating the entire original piece and placing it in a context of your choosing, not the creator’s. Now, some people may not mind, but it does seem like asking permission first is the prudent path.
    If you need illustrations or pictures for your posts, you can find lots of them on Flickr with Creative Commons licenses which you can use freely (usually with attribution). Also, places like iStockphoto have really cheap photos and illustrations you can use (esp. at the ‘web size’ resolution). Or just ask the creator – my guess is most will say yes.

  • AEN

    December 13, 2006 at 2:01 am Reply

    That’s just dumb. Maybe someone who is familiar with laws on this area could advise us.
    It’s actually very very common practice to quote images and text or any form of content from online sources, copyrighted or not, all rights reserved or creative commons, to get your point across. For me, as long as credit is given and no profit is directly derived, it should be completely alright. Considering that you monetize your blog, it isn’t wrong to say the profit from the page could be attributed to the quoted content. But still I find it really dumb. If that’s the case, then google who has billions of content indexed would be paying lots of people then!
    Like you said, it would have been a different case if the feedback have been positive. He might even thank you instead.
    If he’s unhappy about people giving negative comments, then he can only blame it on his quality of work, or he could just take it with a pinch of salt. Hey man, it’s the internet!
    But since it’s his work, it’s his say. He don’t like extra traffic so be it. Let someone else have it.

  • Jasper

    December 13, 2006 at 11:42 am Reply

    I think you shouldn’t have taken down the pictures! I’m sure he had no copyright on them! You don’t just have copyright by writing © xyz name and thats it…
    If you want copyright you need to register you work, and that costs money!
    However i think the person is still a student which means that the work could protected by the university. I not so sure about that, a friend of mine told me that once.
    Anyway as long as you state the source and no profit is gained, you can write as much as you want about it.

  • Jasper

    December 13, 2006 at 11:46 am Reply

    http://www.copyrightregistrationservice.com/
    check out frequently ask questions…

  • csven

    December 13, 2006 at 12:26 pm Reply

    I’ll weigh in on this one. First off, for context, most people who visit this site might not be aware that I’m very anti-piracy (for entirely personal, non-corporate, selfish reasons) and tend to get into spats with folks like Cory Doctorow and that crowd as well as with those inside the design community who don’t understand how this may someday bite us in the arse; so my comments should be read understanding where I’m coming from.
    First off, copyright has limitations. Depending on exactly what it was you were doing (subject to interpretation), the issue of “Fair Use” comes into play. Now Fair Use is *not* what most Free Culture types often advertise. Fair Use is *not* about copying and “sharing” (e.g. duplicating and distributing) mp3 files with your friends. Fair Use involves such things as using a copyrighted work for educational purposes – within limits. Additionally, one could show an image to critique it as, for example, a review of a new gallery show. However, beyond clearly benign activities, Fair Use breaks down relatively quickly.
    If a photograph is taken and intended to be sold and used, it can be critiqued, but *using* it for one of its potentially marketable applications would, in my opinion, cross the Fair Use line into unauthorized use. The problem here is that you were apparently using the image for educational purposes. Arguably, that’s Fair Use. But here’s the catch: you have advertising on this site. So while I’d feel comfortable using a copyrighted image on my advertising-free blog as part of an educational entry (with, of course, full credit to the originator), your advertising puts you in questionable territory. As a result, in my opinion it’s best that you *not* use a copyrighted image under those circumstances. Even educational institutions pay for content. There are creative commons licensed images out there if you can’t supply your own.
    As for a sketch, once again, you have to deal with the fact that with advertising on your blog, you are potentially making money through the use of someone else’s content. Now while it may be free advertising for them (the standard reasoning for illegal music uploads/torrents), no one should hide behind that excuse. It may very well be in the originator’s best interests to have their image posted here and everywhere, but no one else can make that decision for them. Even Lawrence Lessig, champion of the Free Culture crowd, has said that we need to respect the creator’s wishes regarding distribution.
    Consequently, while I understand that you meant no harm, I think the advertising you have here takes away any claim you might have to Fair Use. The question you need to ask yourself is: am I willing to give up the advertising to be able to legitimately claim Fair Use.

  • Jasper

    December 13, 2006 at 1:15 pm Reply

    Ok what i said before is wrong according to this acticle
    10 Big Myths about copyright explained
    http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html

  • AEN

    December 13, 2006 at 2:55 pm Reply

    I second csven.

  • Design Translator

    December 13, 2006 at 3:36 pm Reply

    Hi friends,
    Thanks for all the wonderful comments and also for taking the time to write them down AND check back to reply!
    @Laura, thanks for the suggestions on using the images as a whole and the use of images at istockphoto.
    @Aen, thanks for your insights as someone in the business of web design.
    @Jasper, I shall crown you the link king! Thanks for all the links to copyright issues. I’m interested in making this weibsite work and the links are great!
    @csven, last but definetly not least, again you continue to contribute the best and most in-depth comments on my blog, and its much apprecieated coming from someone as experienced in the industry as yourself. Your explaination is very clear and I can see where i have crossed the line, abet un-knowingly.
    So friends, with all you well placed comments and great advice, I have learnt many new things today, and will make sure I will avoid such issues in the future.
    All the best to everyone!

  • AEN

    January 5, 2007 at 9:40 am Reply

    Did some research into the Singapore’s Copyright Act. We have a “Fair Dealing” clause that is fairly similar to the US’s “Fair Use” Section.
    From the Singapore Copyright Act http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/ (Search under Copyright Act “Fair Dealing”)
    Fair dealing for purpose of criticism or review
    36. A fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, or with an adaptation of a literary, dramatic or musical work, shall not constitute an infringement of the copyright in the work if it is for the purpose of criticism or review, whether of that work or of another work, and a sufficient acknowledgment of the work is made.

  • Design Translator

    January 5, 2007 at 6:05 pm Reply

    Hi Aen,
    Thanks for the link and the information. I thought if there is some critical discourse as per research style, we could use such images. Anyways its good to know from an official capacity.

  • Lee

    August 9, 2008 at 11:14 am Reply

    Really you were asking for trouble when you thought that taking a whole piece of artwork/photograph was in some way comparable to a QUOTE. You can not quote a picture.
    ??
    There’s no point arguing about it. If someone has esentially told you that you broke the law, you have to stop doing what they said was illegal, (and/) or go to see a lawyer and ask them.
    DO NOT rely on OPINIONS on the internet, people who cannot be held accountable if they give you wrong advice and ‘facts’
    These people will not be around if you get into (more) trouble with the complainer.
    It’s also one thing looking at a piece of text describing the law, thinking you understand it. It’s another thing to be told by an expert in plain terms what it means rather than filtered through an optimistic “I should be able to do that, I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong” brain that is going to suffer confirmation bias.
    Take Jasper for example. Their advice could not BE more wrong. Copyright has little to do with that little symbol. You get automatic copyright for your work as soon as it is created.

Post a Comment