Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

Thou Shalt Not Steal!

Look! A photo I did not take! Let's give credit where it is due: Photo taken by Kelly O'Connor @ sittingstill.smugmug.com and used with permission. See how easy that was?

So today is the day!  The day when pitchers and catchers are expected to report to Fort Myers (which, loosely translated, means they have to let the team know they’re in town since they don’t get down to business, really, until Tuesday).  We’ve waited for this day since October and it is here.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be happy about yet another milestone on the way to Opening Day!

I thought it a good time to bring up one of my greatest pet peeves.  It’s gone beyond being a peeve and it as become a genuine concern.  I’ve beaten folks over the head with my rants on this before and here I go again…stealing off the Internet.

A couple of months ago, my friend Kelly O’Connor discovered that a contributor to Wikipedia had gone through her photos, used one for just about each Red Sox player and posted them on Wikipedia without crediting Kelly as the photographer.  That would have been bad enough, but this same person gave herself the photographer’s credit and gave permission for anyone to use the photos anywhere they wanted.  I think you have to be some kind of major league ass to do something like that.  But she was an anonymous major league ass.  She was a nobody who made herself feel better by taking credit for someone else’s work.  It was a lousy thing to do. It was also difficult to blame an actual person since we never found out who this person really was.  Fortunately for Kelly, Wikipedia eventually responded to her, deleted the photos and banned the user (when, really, what Kelly was looking for was her fair credit and a retraction of giving away the rights.  Something that was too late anyway since other sites had seen the photos and used them thinking they had the legal right to do so).

When I first started blogging I lifted photos all the time.  Initially, it didn’t occur to me that something I saw online needed to be credited back.  My ignorance stuns me now, but it was there.  If I used a photo where the photographer was specifically pointed out, I’d write somewhere in the post where I got it from.  But I was just as likely to Google a player’s name, find a photo already with no credit and use it again.  At the time, I didn’t even realized people were reading the blog.  As soon as I started to be aware of my audience, I started to realize that I shouldn’t be taking something and passing it off as mine (I never took credit for any photo that wasn’t mine but by using a photo and not crediting someone you are, basically, doing just that).  So now it feels like life’s work to educate those online about not stealing someone’s photographs.

Last night, Kelly showed me the Flickr page of another talented sports photographer.  Her handle is slidingsideways and she shoots both the Red Sox and the Bruins.  Hockey fans, especially, should check out her work because it’s pretty damned good.  So good, in fact, that folks over at NESN have been lifting some of her photos and not giving her credit.

NESN? Seriously?  NESN doesn’t have an official photographer who covers the sports that NESN airs nightly? NESN can’t afford to have a subscription to Getty Images?  NESN has to go trolling for photos on Flickr?  Not much surprises me any more, but this certainly did.  (Since being made aware that the photographer was not happy with their use of her photos without any credit, one article now has a different photo and another has a credit at the end of the piece.  Yes, NESN chose to pull a photo rather than just caption it with the photographer’s name.)

When I was at WEEI.com, I never found out where they got the photos they used but I do know that I never used Getty Images officially (hell, I had to bring up the subject of photos and giving credit to Rob Bradford during our first meeting).  I used Kelly’s photos and Kelly signed an agreement with them to give them permission for me to use them.  Something we had to push for in order to protect Kelly’s interests.  She didn’t get paid for them but she got credit.  Recently, I was invited to contribute to another website. I wrote a handful of pieces for them but ultimately decided I didn’t have the time to spend there and appreciatively bailed out.  This site is new and is trying to make money to become a contender and I respect that, but they too make it a habit of getting their pictures from Flickr without giving any credit.  It’s a practice I’m completely uncomfortable with and everyone else should be as well.

Most people who post their photos online are thrilled when someone expresses an interest in using their photos.  Everyone wants their work appreciated.  And most of the photographers I know don’t even expect payment for someone to use their work…they just want the proper credit (and a heads up…it helps if you ask for permission to use the photo…it’s the professional thing to do).  If you credit a photographer (but giving a link to where you found their work!) you’re helping them gain an audience.  It doesn’t cost you anything and since you’re using their photos it helps you both.

WHY IS THIS SO DIFFICULT FOR EVEN MAINSTREAM SITES TO UNDERSTAND?

Today marks a day that we start to see photos flooding out of Fort Myers.  I love looking at the photos of the guys getting back to work…the professional and the amateur photos.  So if you have a blog, or just like to post photos on your Twitter or Facebook feed, please remember to give the photographer proper credit.  It’s the least we can do for the people sharing their work with us.

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February 13, 2011 - Posted by | 2011, Featured | , ,

11 Comments »

  1. An extra source of frustration with what happened to slidingsideways is that her photos as posted to Flickr had her website marked in the corner but were cropped so that it didn’t show. That’s more than an inadvertent failure to credit the photographer, in my opinion.

    Thanks for giving this some more publicity!

    Comment by KellyO | February 13, 2011 | Reply

  2. A-freakin-men. Takes two seconds to throw in a credit and, hell, it makes your site look more professional, instead of it being super obvious that you’re just trolling Google Images for photos.

    This happens all the time to my photos, but it’s even worse (imo) when it happens to stuff I’ve drawn. Ugh.

    Comment by Sam | February 13, 2011 | Reply

  3. ……By Matt McGee on Feb 14 2008 ………….A lot of great photographers are scared to put their photos online because its so easy for other people to steal their work. Im hardly a great photographer and I dont want people stealing my photos either!

    Comment by Krista L. Dale | February 13, 2011 | Reply

  4. Thank you so much, Cyn! And Kelly. And everyone else who spoke up for me and other amateur photographers. Credit: not rocket surgery.

    Comment by slidingsideways | February 13, 2011 | Reply

  5. Okay, on my obscure little blog that no one reads, on the rare occasions that I post pictures I *do* credit the photographer, and if I don’t have their name, I credit the website where I got it. However, if you feel it’s necessary to get permission from the individual photographer, please help me out — how do I even go about doing that? And how quickly do they respond? Sometimes the idea to post a picture is “of the moment” and if I were to wait on permission the moment would be lost and there would be no point in even making the post, if that makes any sense. Thanks in advance for pointing me in the direction of the proper contact info.

    Comment by ecl1958 | February 15, 2011 | Reply

    • I think if it’s possible you should try to get permission but I also know that it isn’t always easy to do. Most photographs that I use where I haven’t received explicit permission to use them, I at least provide a link back to where I got them from while crediting that site and/or photographer (and I credit where they came from in a caption under the photo so it is clear which photo the credit is going to). Smaller, obscure websites probably have a better chance of getting permission from the photographer or the photographer not being too bothered by the use of their photo if permission isn’t sought. In the past, I’ve been contacted by photographers I didn’t contact initially who only wanted to make sure I was providing a link and credit to them with the photo.

      Sites like NESN have the resources to use their own photos and/or credit photographers over the course of their creating a story. Lately it is becoming an issue of mainstream, popular websites stealing photographs without giving any kind of credit. In NESN’s case, they actually just completely pulled one photo instead of putting up a credit and in another case they tagged the end of the article with a quick credit. More than just the average person who decides to start a personal blog THESE people should know better. Just the fact that you go out of your way to at least credit the website you found the photos on shows more care about the subject than the “professionals” seem to give.

      Comment by Cyn | February 15, 2011 | Reply

  6. Speaking only for myself: my Creative Commons license is my permission. An email on top of that is nice but not required and I’m never upset to stumble across my photos as long as they’re credited. Kelly and others, what say you?

    Comment by slidingsideways | February 15, 2011 | Reply

    • Given I have one on my own site, it’s ridiculous that I forget about the Creative Commons license! Thank you for the reminder!

      Comment by Cyn | February 15, 2011 | Reply

  7. Forgive my ignorance, but what is a Creative Commons license? Does that mean pictures can automatically be used as long as they’re credited, especially in the absence of a photographer’s e-mail address?

    Also, how should links be done? Does a cut and paste of URL suffice? Or do I need to dig out my HTML cheat sheet and find where I wrote down how to make the links show up in the actual text, for example, like “discovered” in the third paragraph of this entry? (I mean seriously, this is how basic my blog is…I don’t know how to do that stuff without painstaking perusal of a cheat sheet…it’s no fun being techno-challenged!)

    Comment by ecl1958 | February 15, 2011 | Reply

  8. ecl, Creative Commons licenses are a type of copyright. There are several different kinds of CC licenses, and each one outlines how the image can be used. For instance, one license says anyone can share the image so long as it’s credited, but the image cannot be altered. Another license says that anyone can alter the image (like photoshop it into another), so long as the new resulting image is released with the same license (so still more people can play with it if they want). They’re all here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/

    I think most people would prefer that the link be the photographer’s name. So if you’re using one of Kelly’s photos, the text would say “photo by Kelly O’Connor” and the words “Kelly O’Connor” would be a link to her website (specifically to the photo you’re using, if possible). You would do that just like it’s outlined here: http://www.echoecho.com/htmllinks01.htm

    Comment by Sam | February 16, 2011 | Reply

  9. Thanks much, Sam!

    Comment by ecl1958 | February 16, 2011 | Reply


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