21 October 2009

Ownership and copyright

My last post (Kayak carry handles) has prompted an indignation (*1).
The owner of the website, where an image I borrowed for comparison, has been alerted (*2) that I have "stolen" an image.

As reader of this blog you might have noticed that all the images that I post that belong to me bear a watermark with my name on it.
In the past, I used to publish electronically images without the watermark.
A few years ago somebody appropriated some images of mine and used them in a presentation claiming them as his own.
I was not impressed.
Since then I decided to watermark my images.
I used to submit some of my images to a sea kayak Club and my newly watermarked images sparked a fierce debate: the webmaster would not accept images that were watermarked.
Not really sure what the motive was at the time for not accepting watermarked images (was somebody intending to use them indiscriminately?) but that prompted me to get involved on the committee of that Club and have a democratic decision by the whole committee to approve or not watermarked images.
It appeared that ignorance of Copyright Laws was a possible factor in making those rash early decisions against watermarking.

As keen photographer, on my outings and trips I take a lot of images.
Being a lousy writer it is my personal satisfaction to be able to document the spirit of the journey in images.
Occasionally some of my images are sought for commercial use and I sell those images.
Often I also send the watermarked images to the companions on my trips however I stress the point that those images of mine are for their personal use only and not for publication or resell.
It was interesting when one of my paddling buddies was mocking me about my perceived “anal” behavior about watermarking.
One day perusing the websites of a kayak manufacturer I stumbled across one of my images.

my image (highlighted) as it appeared on manufacturers website
After a quick check of my invoices I could not find the transaction for that image for that client.
Long story short: the manufacturer was sent my image via my paddling buddy, the same one that mocked me about the watermarking.
What the manufacturer however did was that he conveniently cropped my watermarked name from the image.
I invoiced the manufacturer for my standard fee for outright use of that image and eventually got paid for my published image.
Some of the friends of my paddling buddy got infuriated by my actions: how could I charge “my friend” for the use of a “holiday snap”?
The image was used commercially (to make money) on a website of a kayak manufacturer. The image was altered and my name was deleted so royalties could be avoided.
Steve-o (c)

notice the full size image with my watermark...
There was no mistake made there: it was intentionally sent to the manufacturer for commercial use.

So when I published an image that was not mine on my last blog post hell broke loose.
That’s right: I published an image that was not mine, nor had permission to publish it on my blog.
Was I mad? After I pressed the copyright issue for one of my images? Doesn’t the law apply for myself as well?
Yes and no.
While copyright laws protect the ownership of original material in the Copyright Act 1968, section 41 there are some exclusions.
An image can be used for review or criticism without infringing copyright laws.
What some people fail to understand is that there is a marked difference between a misappropriation of an image used for commercial purposes (and altering it to exclude the copyright owners details) and the use of an image used in a review case where full details are given on the source of the image.
I am sure that some might think that I unjustly dealt with my case (use of my image) and now am abusing my right on the same issue but I made sure I would not infringe copyright laws (after all I am aware that “they” are eagerly awaiting for me to slip up :-) )

While some consider that just because an image is published on the web it becomes public domain (trust me I have heard that line of defense before) there are many levels of copyright protection.
Some authors publish under the Creative Commons license where their images can be reproduced for non commercial purposes as long as credits are awarded, some reserve no rights while others retain all rights.
If there is no specification an image automatically upon creation becomes copyrighted material. There is no need for registration or specific wording.
The watermark is a reminder and identification from the author, but not legally required.

I hope that with my little rant on Copyright Laws some misconceptions have been cleared and some myths debunked.

*1: Take the photo off your blog. You have not contacted me about using theimage. As you can see on my website this image belongs to another personthat has given me permission to use it on my website, NOTYOURS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*2: Gary Tischer wrote: "Damiano is pinching pictures .... and spining bull at the same time"


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I've run into these same issues. I typically don't give out my images to friends anymore, unless I know and trust that they won't use the images elsewhere. But, it seems that even posting something online will eventually get taken and posted elsewhere--the worst problem I had was a picture I took of a deer killed by a pack of wolves was used by an anti-wolf website without my permission.

    I'm glad that you've written this post and hope to see more people in the outdoor sports speaking out about the issue.


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