Saturday, April 14, 2012

Protecting Your Work Online- Not A Simple Task!

I read a lot of articles online. Some good, some bad and sometimes I come across articles with illustrations. Today I read an article and the illustration looked really familiar. I couldn't remember the illustrator but I remembered where I saw it. 

There was no mention of the illustrator on this article but a link that went back to Pinterest. Hmmmm... interesting. I poked around further. Again, this was not a pinterest page from the creator but by someone who pinned it. At the top was a blog and... voila... there was the illustrators page. 

The author of this article used the image without her knowledge. I'm seeing this all too often lately. I gently mentioned to the author that the illustrator needs to be contacted prior to using their image. Seriously, I'm not the illustration police of the Internet. I just happened to fall onto this and it gave me a weird vibe so my curiosity went with it. 

Luckily, the illustrator contacted the author and removed the image and reimbursed her for the usage. That was very a professional and very respectful thing to do. High kudos to her!

Sadly, many of us have our work used daily without our knowledge. We don't always get that kind of response when we approach folks who use our images without asking. I know that I would want to be contacted if my work was used without my knowledge. Most definitely!

The author was not trying to be harmful to the illustrator. She wanted an image for her article. She honestly had no idea that she was doing something wrong. She was unaware that grabbing an illustration online was the incorrect thing to do. 

Which brings up a good point-Isn't this supposed to be common knowledge? If everyone is posting on pinterest then I can post it on my blog, article or website right? Wrong! 

To many folks who are not in this industry are confused about image use online. Pinterest is making that process even more confusing for those not in the creative industry. But of course, we were all supposed to read the terms and conditions right? Sadly, only a small percentage do. 

What to do? Well, there is no simple answer. Many love Pinterest. I myself, love looking at the craft ideas with my two daughters. Some of the pins are very inspiring and creative. Oh, and the recipes...don't get me started. This is the huge appeal for many. 

I don't mean to be all negative here but the idea of protecting your work online is a misnomer I'm afraid. The concept of digital property is open to many interpretations and many do not care that you own it, spent hours creating it or that you are putting it online to find work. If you place your images on a publicly accessible website there comes a large chance that your images will be adored by many and taken by some. It's a sad fact but the only other approach is to not post at all. I'm not guaranteeing anything but you can try the following approaches:

1. Placing a friendly disclaimer on your work such as:

  • © Your Name/ www.Your Please ask before using illustration other than the purpose of Repinning on Pinterest. Thank you. 
  • Copyright © 2012 Your Name. All Rights Reserved
  • © Your Name- Please don't use my work without permission. Ask first!

2. Another approach is to place information on the illustration file itself. This can be done in photoshop-file info. There are many sections here to add information depending on what version of photoshop you have. Be as thorough as you need. You can even add your website, email and phone number. 

3. Make a blank file over the original illustration. This takes time and be confusing to pull off however there are 2 sites that can help with this concept. The idea is this: when you click on the image, it will come up as a blank.gif.

4. Splice the image. Once again, this is time consuming. The concept: the illustration is sliced but presented as a whole. The downside of this will be many image files to create one final image. 

5. Use the caption field to add information. Not everyone will open the image in Photoshop-sometimes only clients will do this. Again, in the caption field add what you feel is necessary before you post the image. 

6. With standard HTML, make an illustration into a link that will be re-directed back to your website. If you are web savvy this could be another approach. If not, there web developers and sites that can help you with this. 

7. Lastly, you can go with a watermark although this is not always a popular approach. Many use this on their websites, Facebook and their blogs. Out of the 7 choices, this is always the most unpopular because it distracts from the image unless done in a very crafty and creative way. Adding a watermark needs to be done properly because of these cons:

  • the illustration can still be downloaded.
  • a screen shot can be taken of the image.
  • the illustration can still be cropped.

All of this can sound like a big online buzz-kill I know. Warning labels and image tinkering can be annoying. It can be time consuming to put warning labels all over your images for your member sites. Remember this: Protecting your work online starts with you. Your added effort can make it clear to many that you own it-it will not protect the image from being stolen unfortunately. Like I mentioned in my book-a little education can go a long way but you are still taking a chance if you post! 

Again, I cannot guarantee that these will work for everyone. Post and beware. Always keep a record of where you post your work and when. Always read the fine print and terms and conditions. Sign your work. Copyright your work. Stand up for what is yours!