Saturday, August 4, 2012

Copyright Infringement

(A picture that got more than 130 like / reblogged comments on Tumblr.
Sadly, our watermark had been cropped out on purpose.)

Yesterday, I still had no idea which one of my ideas for blog posts I would use next. But then, Erica published a post on a subject which was on my list as well. When I tried to formulate a comment for her blog, I almost wrote a complete post. So, today's topic is copyright infringement.

Over time, several of Ludwig's and my pictures have been used by fellow bloggers, which made me very happy and always went along with the reposting blogger providing a link to our original post. But it was only some weeks ago that I became aware that some of our pictures had been reblogged on places I hadn't previously heard about. So, I started a test, using a new feature of Google Image Search. With said feature, one can search for pictures using the link to the image one wants to look for. Google Image Search doesn't find every copy, but it works quite well. It not only finds copies that are a 100 per cent match, but also cut-outs and slightly altered versions of the picture one is looking for.

Most of the hits I had were on Tumblr blogs. I usually don't look at those because pure picture blogs don't do much for me. But in light of my new findings I became curious, and so I screened several Tumblr blogs for our and other familiar pictures. Quite frankly, the result was a bit frustrating. And I am not talking about the fact that the content of some of the sites where our pictures had been reblogged and some of the comments on the pictures made me cringe a bit.

(Severe pictures are reposted often - what a surprise!)

What I am talking about is that most of the time, no credit was given to the original photographer or blogger. There were some very nice exceptions from that rule, which made me smile and definitely deserve to be mentioned here! Some other Tumblr bloggers at least left the watermarks in the pictures when pictures were watermarked. But, sadly, I also found many Tumblr blogs where watermarks of the original sources had obviously been removed from pictures I knew well. I went, hey, that's from Russians Slaves / Her First Punishment, hey, that's Amelia Jane Rutherford, this picture is from Wild Party 2 by Lupus... And so on.

Honestly, I don't get that. I can understand that people might be careful about linking to the original source when they are posting the occasional vanilla picture on a kinky blog. It stands to reason that many people would not like it when their photos turn up on adult-themed blogs. On the rare occasions when I use pictures from the vanilla web, I don't use any pictures showing people's faces, and 95 percent of the pictures I use are from Wikipedia and therefore published under a free licence (I don't explicitly mention the names of the photographers in that case because I don't know whether they want their names to be associated with a kinky blog).

But for the majority of the Tumblr pictures I am talking about here, this problem doesn't even occur. Most spanking bloggers and spanking film producers won't get mad or throw lawsuits around when bloggers are using their pictures. On the contrary, they are happy about the word-of-mouth, and their only requirement for letting others use their pictures is that proper credit is given. If someone likes a photo well enough to post it, typing a link can't be too much of an effort, right? Cropping out watermarks certainly doesn't seem too much of an effort for some people!

(Another example for the popularity of severe marks.)

The funny (or sad) thing is that there seems to be a code of honour between Tumblr bloggers – they reblog pictures and give credit to the Tumblr blogger who was the first one to post a certain picture instead of opening a new thread. But there doesn't seem to be any understanding that it would be nice to show those who have created the photos in the first place (and often invested a lot of time in doing so) the same kind of respect. The problem is, even those Tumblr bloggers who don't crop out watermarks and who are generally open to posting links to the original source when asked to do so seem to assume that it is the job of those who have taken pictures to find out where their photos have been used without their permission and to send requests about links being provided. In other words, the original creator of the picture is supposed to do all the work.

I guess one could say that I definitely waste too much time on this. But, you know, I sometimes invest hours in taking and editing certain pictures. Often these pictures go along with a story that means a lot to me. In addition to that, it's me in those pictures and they are often very personal. Consequently, it makes me very upset when people who obviously like to look at those pictures don't even have the courtesy to post a simple link. The first thing I did was to replace our old pictures which didn't have watermarks with watermarked ones.

(I nearly froze off my toes for that one.)

Being the INTJ type that I am, I have also developed a consistent strategy of how to deal with situations in which our pictures are being reposted elsewhere. Rainer, who recently wanted to use one of our pictures on his forum, was very kind and asked us for our permission first. In that context, I set up the following rules for the use of our pictures: Generally, Ludwig and I are completely okay with our pictures being used on other spanking blogs and forums. There are four preconditions, though: 1. no use on commercial sites or for commercial events, 2. in case the pictures are used in a context that hasn't got anything to do with our original post, it must be clear that we are not connected with the site content, 3. credit must be given (leaving the watermark in the picture is enough as a basic requirement, if a source is explicitly mentioned, like on Tumblr blogs, it must be the original source) and 4. online use only, no printed media. Maybe I'm going to add a paragraph about copyright infringement to our sidebar in the near future.

Consequently, my strategy for Tumblr blogs is the following one: When I find one of our old pictures, which didn't have a watermark in the first place, on a Tumblr site, I ask the Tumblr blogger who started the thread to provide a link. My request has always been granted so far, which shows that the majority of Tumblr bloggers surely doesn't have any intention to upset anyone. But the problem is that the link doesn't show up in the reblogs (at least not in those that were made earlier). And, as Erica also explained in her post, one can't add a comment to the thread. At least not so easily (you can only like or reblog a picture). So, I got myself a Tumblr blog which I use exclusively in order to reblog our pictures and add a comment with a link to our original post. This link then shows up in the comment thread. I also reblog pictures that are watermarked and add a link to the original post as well. As a result, I now from time to time see people popping over either from my Tumblr site or from another Tumblr blog whose owner I have asked to provide a link to our blog.

(Another picture where the watermark had been cropped out.)

What makes me really angry, though, is when a Tumblr blogger has obviously cropped out an existing watermark. If I find one of our pictures where the watermark has been removed on purpose, it makes me so upset that I inform the blog owner about the copyright infringement and tell them to delete the picture. So far, my request has always been accepted. But, unfortunately, that doesn't solve the problem! Because it is only the original post that is deleted, not the picture itself. Which means that one would have to tell all those who reblogged the picture to delete it as well. There is an easier way, though. One can send an e-mail to the Tumblr support and they delete the picture. So far, they have helped me twice and they were always fast and very kind.

On a funny note: My image search also revealed that a small online magazine which mostly writes about celebrities but also about topics like Star Trek, comics and kink had published an article about our blog. Unfortunately for us, they singled out our worst fun clip to write about – Dachshunds in Space (grrr)! But overall it is a nice little article and a rather kink-friendly one, given that we are talking about a – more or less – mainstream magazine. Well, and given that the magazine is described as a "source for unique entertainment and celebrity news", I assume this means that Ludwig and I are officially celebrities now! Okay, or maybe it just means that our blog offers some unique entertainment. I think I can live with that explanation, too.


Stan/E. said...

Dear Kaelah, you know that I sometimes used some of your lovely pics in the past, always linked. And that I never forget the ©... I must confess that sometimes too, i remove marks on the picture (an esthetic reason only) but I have to write then the name of the site. The problem in that case is that the changed picture can be used everywhere by everyone and so, people discovering cannot have the original adress.

well, those Tumblr are nice for pics, of course, but that's all... there are without text and that's too bad because what people write is part of my pleasure.

Ludwig said...

The subject of copyright in the digital age, where everything can be copied infinitely and with perfect quality at the touch of a button, is obviously a very complex one. We're going to see the debates about it continue for a long time.

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of copyright law, big business politics and so on, I think everyone who looks at the issue from a wider perspective can agree that the world wide web is creating an ever-growing free-for-all mentality and a sense of entitlement that are, at the very least, problematic. Many people seem to have lost all respect or even understanding for what it means to be the creator of a work or the originator of an idea, and that, in my view, is not healthy for a society.

It's especially frustrating when people are being blatantly hypocritical. Filesharing "pirates" think nothing about infringing a commercial video producer's copyright and illegally sharing all their videos, but when another pirate uses their links without giving credit, many of them get all huffy and mad. "Hey, those were my links!" Nothing like a good double standard, is there?

Kaelah and I don't make any money from our blog, our pictures or our videos. Even when we do the occasional "professional" shoot for a site like Dreams of Spanking, we decline to be paid. We do what we do because we enjoy it, not for any material gain. We publish various pictures and videos for free, some of which take considerable time and effort to make, and we are happy when people repost our work. But we expect others reposting our work to do us the common courtesy of giving credit to the source.

When you like a picture or a video enough to repost it, that is the least you can do.

Simon said...

I enjoy looking at some Tumblr sites but I do find that some of the comments can be offensive,extremely misogynistic and cause me to worry about the compilers state of mind. With regard to copying of pictures etc I agree with Ludwig that it is a problem that is only going to get worse. However I can't help feeling hypocritical about the issue as I enjoy looking at the pictures and not having to pay for them. That's part of the problem in that we have all come to expect seeing, hearing and reading stuff for free despite knowing that someone has had to produce it presumably at some cost however small. In the end I can't see an easy solution.

Our Bottoms Burn said...

I started putting a watermark right over the area of interest. That's slows them up.

Spankedhortic II said...

I would be two faced if I totally condemned Tumblr blogs, as I have one myself. It is one I use for work and has saved me the bother of having to haul round a bag full of SD cards, for picture references. So they do have their positive uses.

The general "Everybody else is doing this, so why should I bother" attitude that I see from many Tumblr bloggers is very disturbing though. Is there nothing that Tumblr can do to encourage their users to credit other peoples efforts, I wonder?

I do get a bit worried sometimes that Tumblr is an internet fad that will kill of a lot of real blogs.

On my main blog, my policy is to credit and link the blog or site where I got any pictures from, whenever possible, even if I know this is not the original source. With the philosophy that it is the responsibility of the other blogger or source to credit and link their source.


Ana said...

I don't do pictures and don't enjoy Tumblr much, but I can empathize with people taking stuff without credit. One of the worst things that has happened to me, though, is someone taking something I published online (through a credible source that used my words appropriately) and then using it as a flagship for his racist propaganda...obviously twisting and totally misunderstanding/misappropriating my words. I can just imagine how frustrating it is to find people pilfering your work, especially for profit.

Donpascual said...

You might be very polite and ask whether you may use pictures and explain in length what you are planning to do - and don't get an answer at all.

That happened to me.

Ludwig said...

@ Donpascual: Well, that is unfortunate. However, Kaelah and I, for instance, don't even insist that others ask for permission before reposting our free pictures or videos. We are happy about others reposting our work as long as it is for non-commercial purposes and credit is given to us by providing a link to the blog and leaving the watermark intact. As long as these conditions are met, people don't even need to explicitly ask us for permission.

The thing that is really annoying is when other people repost one's freely shared work without even giving credit to the source. That was the main point Kaelah was making in her post.

Ana said...

I have to agree with Kaelah and Ludwig and say that, while it is courteous, there is no obligation to respond to requests to use material. In fact, in the past I have put out a blanket statement saying that all requests should be assumed to be rejected *unless* I responded. It can take a great deal of time to reply to everyone who asks.

Kaelah said...

@ Stan/E.:
I never had any problem with you using our pictures! Quite the contrary, I am always happy when you pick up on one of our posts. I would prefer the pictures without watermarks, too. But unfortunately, that seems to cause even more copyright infringement. As far as I know, none of the pictures that were used without a watermark on Tumblr had been taken from your site. The Tumblr bloggers cropped out the watermarks themselves in order to make it more difficult for viewers to find out where they had taken the pictures from and whether they committed any copyright infringement by using them.

@ Simon:
There definitely isn't any easy solution when it comes to the general problem. In case of the kinky pictures it would be quite easy, though. The video producers and I think most kinky bloggers as well don't have any problem with their pictures being reposted, as long as the watermarks aren't cropped out.

@ OurBottomsBurn:
Yes, I remember that you wrote about the problem of copyright infringement a while ago! I assume that placing a watermark right over the area of interest is a good way of preventing copyright infringement. The problem is that I often invest lots of time in taking and editing pictures, and I don't want to make them look less nice by placing a watermark right in the middle of the picture. That's why I have decided to place the watermark on the top or the bottom of the pictures. But of course that comes with the risk of people cropping it off.

@ Prefectdt:
I think that Tumblr is well aware of the problem but not really interested in encouraging their users to be careful about copyright infringement. They react very fast when they are told about copyright infringements, so that no one can accuse them of not doing anything about it. But I assume that most Tumblr bloggers only use Tumblr because reposting pictures is so easy and they don't have to think about things like copyrights.

And those who are aware of possible problems often seem to come to the conclusion that covering up copyright infringements by cropping out watermarks is the best way of dealing with them. I just came across a series of pictures which I assumed could be from Paingate / Whipped Women. A little section of the picture had always been copied and pasted over another section of the picture (where the watermark had been). I searched for one of the pictures and indeed found out that it was from Paingate. Another example that made me sad and angry because it was so obvious that the watermark hadn't been cropped out for aesthetic reasons but covered in order to make it more difficult to see where the pictures came from.

@ Ana:
Wow, that is indeed the worst case scenario! If any of my pictures or statements were used in the context of such a kind of propaganda, that would be horrible. Was there anything you could do about it?

@ Donpascual:
It's sad that this happened to you! But, as Ludwig already said, people don't even have to ask us whether they can use our stuff, as long as they don't change the meaning of our posts, don't make any profit with the things that we have published for free and give proper credit. I have to admit that I can also understand people whose copyright policy says that they don't want any of their stuff used by others. After all, it is their stuff and they invested a lot of time into it. It would be nice to inform others about such a policy, though, so that they don't take the time to ask and then wait for an answer which they never get.

Donpascual said...

@ Kaelah and Ludwig,

I have to take back my accusation. In fact, it took the people I wrote to a while to answer, therefore my post. But in the end, they welcomed our intention to use pictures and trailers for our own site and, at the same time, for advertising a wonderful spanking site to a large group of spankos.

Kaelah said...

@ Donpascual:
Good to hear that it worked out after all! As you know, it often also takes me quite a while to reply to e-mails. After all, this is just a (albeit time-consuming) hobby and I have lots of other obligations as well.