20 September 2010

Copyright infringment, again

Recently I have come across the blog of Canadian Ckayaker.
In one of his posts I recognized one of my images.

Unable to find an authorization/bill of sale in my records for that image I contacted the owner of that blog, Michael Bradley of Hatley (Quebec), to find out where he sourced my image.
Michael's reply to me was vague and he could not "recall" the source of the image.
That particular image is displayed on my flickr account.
Michael has conveniently cropped my name and copyright watermark from the bottom of the image, just as somebody else did in a previous case
Further perusal of Ckayaker's blog reveals that Michael seems to be using a lot of images that don't look to be his and I tend to doubt that he has permission to use them.
It puzzles me that somebody who is a teacher, and is happy to have an article of his published by Sea Kayaker magazine, appears to be ignorant of copyright laws.
Maybe Michael thinks that "because it on the net" it's OK to appropriate and in his case modify the image to prevent identifying the rightful owner.
The comment "if you don't want to have your images pinched, don't put them on the net" typically comes from provincially minded individuals that often are jealous of other's achievements.
Those individuals are unable to produce photographic work that is worth pinching.
If a photographer is happy to share his/her work with others usually their images are licensed under the Creative Commons license.
Those images are often free of copyright as long as they are attributed and are not used for commercial applications.
So, next time you want to use somebody else image, contact the owner.
The law only allows the use of images without permission in very specific instances.
PS this post marks a milestone: according to webmetrics, Gnarlydog News has passed the 100.000 hits mark


  1. It happens Gnarly. I am suing a company that chose to use 13 of my images on multiple websites over multiple years. The negotiations have been ongoing for 2 years. We go to court in January :-)

  2. GnarlyDog,

    Would you have had an issue with the use of your picture on someone's blog if the copyright information was not cropped? Would you want someone to contact you for permission to do that or you think that unaltered images from the web can be used for non-commercial purposes such as a blogs. I realize that the issue gets a bit hairy since many blogs nowadays make money off advertisements but in principle, does one need to obtain permission for use of an image from a public domain when the image is used as an illustration on a personal website?

    Just curious?

  3. Haris,
    that's a very good question since I see so much content on so many blogs that is pirated.
    The Copyright Law does provide exceptions for the use of somebody else’s material when presented for comparison, review or criticism.
    The details for such exceptions are very specific though.
    I don’t think Michael’s case falls into that category.
    Attribution to the images (or source) is mandatory. Cropping the image to exclude the author is obviously dirty.
    Furthermore, there is a comprehensive library of images on the net where authors are willing to share their material without prior permission: is grouped under the Creative Commons license.
    However, attribution and non-commercial use is usually the limitation.
    Some libraries will allow embedding of images (creating a hotlink to the site where the image is displayed). Just like Youtube videos that can be embedded into somebody else’s blog.
    I have no problems when somebody embeds from my Youtube and Flickr sites.
    While others have used my material before links to my site(s) have been provided.
    For anything else, ask first; my contacts are displayed.

  4. I'm with gnarlydog. Use without permission of copyrighted material even for non-commercial reasons is illegal, and I'm against it. If someone contacts me for use of an image (I'm a photographer) for a non-commercial blog, I'll often allow it.

    "does one need to obtain permission for use of an image from a public domain"

    The term "public domain" is often misunderstood. It's often seen as once something is published somewhere, like on the Internet, it becomes public domain. That's a misunderstanding.

    In a legal context, an image that is copyrighted cannot be in the public domain. The two terms are mutually exclusive. A public domain image is one that has either fallen out of copyright (the creator's lifespan plus 70 years subject to renewal by the creator's family or estate) or one that the copyright holder has specifically placed into the public domain. Once in the public domain it can be used by anyone without having to do anything. But keep in mind that it's only in the public domain when specifically placed there by the creator or 70 years after he dies.

    The reason that Creative Commons exists is that copyright holders don't want to place their property into the public domain but they want to let others use it without having to make a licensing agreement. Essentially, creative commons is a licensing agreement.

    The moral of the story: Ask before you use even for private non-commercial uses. All images are copyrighted, even if there isn't a symbol, unless the creator says it isn't. Same for any writing on the Internet.

  5. Should the people being photographed be asked before its used on the NET especially with kids involved? Just interested in the topic and its my kids

  6. This one tears me apart. I see Gnarly's point and have had photo anxiety myself. In fact, I never put my best stuff anywhere electronic. My understanding is that google owns all our images and do as they please with them. I guess we all clicked on "accept" somewhere back at the beginning.

    On the other hand, I have followed Michael's blog for some time and have even e mailed him on occaision. I have found him to be solid and have to wonder if there might not be a more benign explanation for all this.

  7. I gotta agree with Silbs on all points. I've had a number of folks email and ask to use photos and, if non commercial, I always say yes. Which often starts a dialogue, makes new friends, etc. Commercial is another story and I don't have an answer for that one. Piracy is indeed rampant in all ways, shapes, and forms. The child photo thing is a much more 'gnarly'(sorry!) issue.

  8. Laurie, the issue of people being depicted in images without permission-asked-first has been raised before.
    There is no law preventing a person taking images of the general public and then publish them.
    Imagine if every photograph that contains a person would need his/her permission (release) before publishing.
    It only applies to images of people that are famous and/or make a living out of their personal image (actors).
    In other words: I can not take pictures of the Prez, Angelina Jolie or the Queen and associate those images with products.
    It would come across as those individuals “endorsing” the product.
    In the case of children, obviously pedophiliac looking images are a no-go.
    If there is somebody down the beach taking pictures of little children and showing “a bit too much interest” objections could be raised.
    In my image things appear to be a bit different.
    You were present when I took those images of your children and no objection was raised at the time.
    I sent you a copy of that image in an email prior to publishing it on flickr.
    You seemed to be OK with it then.
    You also raised no questions when you saw it appear a while ago on Ckayaker blog prior me raising the issue (there is link on NKA website)

  9. That's not exactly true.

    Any photo with a person appearing in it that's used for a commercial reason and that person is identifiable probably needs a release. For editorial(newspaper, magazine, blogs) photography, you typically don't need a model release even if you sell your photo for an editorial use--that's why there's a profitable paparazzi following the famous.

    Things get odd when there's an expectation of privacy. In public places, like a public beach, there's not an expectation of privacy, so you can photograph children, adults or stars most likely without legal ramification. In a school yard, a private beach, etc. there may be an expectation of privacy. So, it's not cool.

    Just a note, my two comments are in general and not specifically related to the use on Ckayaker and I'm not a lawyer.

  10. I agree with the comment in Bryan's first post -"The moral of the story: Ask before you use even for private non-commercial uses. All images are copyrighted, even if there isn't a symbol, unless the creator says it isn't. Same for any writing on the Internet."
    I think this is a good discussion to be having given the amount of people now sharing their lives, stories & images on the internet. As Silbs mentions, people may assume that because you can google search an image or an article it is ok to use it, but that is not always the case and it pays the blogger/author to check with the owner for permission to use an image or text and attribute ownership as requested. I have personally found most people are OK with this if you ask them first.
    I once attended an adventure slideshow about a destination I hoped to visit. Unlike any other presentation I have ever been to, most of the images used by the presenter were not actually theirs. The presenter had not asked permission or acknowledged the photographers in any way. Worst of all, one of the photographers whose work was being used was in the audience!
    While I am not excusing people who use others images and text, I believe most of these (non-commercial) occurences happen due to a general ignorance of copyright laws. However, if we choose to publish public blogs, stories etc, then it is the authors responsibility to make sure they do the right thing.

  11. I was just interested in the topic and dont have a problem with the photo..quite the opposite ..my kids got a kick out of it

  12. A dissenting view here.

    First, what is and what is not OK to do should not be based on a legal argument! Laws come in when we disagree on what is ethical, moral or proper conduct. More often, it is about proper distribution of profits. There are plenty of things that are not illegal that I find unacceptable and, on the contrary, there are many things that are illegal that should not be.

    So I ask myself: would I like to live in the world where everyone uses other people's images off the web without explicit permission as long as they don't claim that the images are theirs and as long as they share any profit from those images? And I answer unequivocal "Yes." If specific authorship credit is given with every such image the issue becomes even less controversial but I am not even sure that this step is strictly necessary.

    Personally, I find it a waste of time (for both parties) when people ask if they can use my images for things like their Facebook profile pictures and such. If they like my images enough to use them, I am flattered.

    I know we can't trust everyone around us to be ethical and we may disagree what is fair. However, just because injustice is out there and even if it is common, does not make it necessary to restrict our own freedom by regimenting the simple things in life.

  13. Haris,
    I respect your view but somehow I don’t totally agree.
    Sure, there is plenty of material on the web that people post for others to see and maybe pass on.
    Most individuals don’t care and if they do, they are flattered.
    I am beyond flattered.
    Maybe you don’t know that I used to be a professional photographer but that is not the reason I “guard” my photographs so anally.
    Just to put it in perspective let’s have this analogy.
    From your profile I learn that you are a researcher.
    I don’t know what you discover or invent, but let’s assume that you have some very neat projects that you shared with the public on the net.
    You just let others know of your project, you didn’t tell them: here, use it and copy it.
    One day you see somebody else using your project for him/herself and claiming it to be his/hers.
    You get my drift?...
    Oh, unless you are a philanthropist and your projects are for the greater good of society.
    And on the notion of laws: I believe that in a democratic society laws are drafted on the majority of the public opinion.
    But like you, I don’t always agree with all the laws.
    I just pay the consequences if I break them and get caught

  14. Funny you bring it up--I am a healthcare researcher and all we discover we publish in academic journals with an explicit message: "... use it and copy it." That's the way it works--it needs to be replicated and USED!

    Nobody usually gives you credit when they use the treatments you established as helpful. However, if someone claims that as their own idea, it's called plagiarism--unethical but not illegal.

    You do the same thing, kind of. I don't suppose you'd have a problem if someone follows one of your many recipes published here and makes, say, an electric pump for their kayak ... without taping your name on the concoction :) Problem creeps up when they take a magnetic switch you invented and try to SELL it as their own!

    For the record, I would never submit that claiming something as your own when it is not (explicitly or by implication) is acceptable! You make it quite clear that your images are important to you. Chopping off the name off the bottom is just not OK.

  15. and here is a good example of pure ignorance:


    Make sure you read the closing statement

  16. I agree about citations and referencing sources, though whenI first started blogging I had to learn this, and likely didn't do as good a job as I could have. I did just post on my blog some info and pictures I tood from you, I hope I have made the appropriate citations, if not, please let me know.

  17. Michael's response to my post on his blog: http://ckayaker.blogspot.com/2010/10/photo-dump.html

  18. I agree with Silbs & DaveO. I totally agree with the basic premise that people shouldn't treat the internet like a giveaway bin.

    But I've known Michael for a while, even had the pleasure of meeting him in person for a couple of times & I do think that this was probably just a much more innocent mistake than you're making it out to be.

    And btw, if I were in Michael's shoes & had a total stranger coming after me the way you are after him, even if I DID remember where I got a picture I used more than a year and a half ago, I wouldn't cooperate with you any further than just getting the shot off my site.

    Might privately let the source know what they got me into but that would be it.

    As far as the internet - if I had an image I wanted to keep under perfect control, I would NOT put it on the internet. If I wanted to post pictures with the intent to sell, not shared, (and mine do get borrowed), I would back up my sharing option choices on my photo hosting site by taking a cue from most commercial photography sites & using a watermark large enough to render the photo unusable as posted (great example - yachtshotsbvi.com). That's not being jealous, just realistic.

    Bringing the netiquette of photo use to people's attention isn't a bad idea either, if that's a project a person wanted to take on - but a lighter approach might be more effective. Flies, honey, vinegar, etc.

    BTW, I'm really trying to participate in this discussion both because Michael is a friend, and because being a photo-happy boat blogger by avocation and a worker in a field where rights are everything by profession, I'm genuinely interested in such matters.

    That's all!

  19. update: CKayaker has removed the post with my images and it seems that he no longer posts unauthorized photographs on his blog. Kudos


Thank you for taking the time to comment.
Because of spam received from unwanted manufacturers/retailers all comments are now moderated. Allow a few days for your comment to appear when the operators of GnarlyDog News are on safari.