Saturday, May 06, 2006

Blogs and Intellectual Property

I received an email from a reader the other day pointing out that I had used a graphic from his website (a chart comparing monthly birth rates in the US and Canada with those of hockey players) without permission. He nicely reminded me that he had requested that use of all material on his site must be cited.

This put me in a bit of a quandry, not about his specific request, but borrowing photos and other data with crediting the source in general.

Certainly this individual had a valid point - the graph was the result of his research, and I know I'd feel the same way too if someone uploaded some of my academic or professional writing without acknowledgement.

On the other hand, if we credit every last fucking picture, inspiration, idea or meme we borrow to lighten up our otherwise dreary writings, every blog will end up looking like a term paper and read like one too. So where do we draw the line?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a FAQ on intellectual property as it could be applied to blogs. I find this raises more questions than it answers, especially whether or not you are transforming someone else's property or if you are exercising fair play in your usage of their materials.

So I am left to exercise my own judgement in this matter. The underlying concept I am applying is simply one of etiquette: if I use something from a site, I will credit it if it forms a central focus of my post. But if it is incidental, and only serves to reinforce my post or give it a bit of visual sexiness, it will be uploaded without citation. Jeez, if you really want to know the source all you have to do is click on the graphic it and it will lead you back to the originating website.

I will also give acknowledgment if I like you and feel like directing readers in your direction. I will never create the impression that I have created something if I have not. I always leave my email address for those readers wishing to contact me about my use of their materials.

But a blog is a personal journal, and I share it with you without expectation of pecuniary gain - only glory. So my advice is, if you don't want someone to use your materials in a blog, don't post them in the first place.

I'm sure you all have thought of this, so what're your views on the subject?

12 Comments:

Blogger Tea and Books, etc said...

I always cite where the source info comes from, but not in a long-winded way.

Generally, I'll say where I got it (Courtesy of Nanuk, Suz, etc; New York Times, USA Today, etc), supply the links (to the home page plus the specific link), then post the content I'm interested in.

With blogs, I generally supply the links; with articles, I do supply the whole thing because links tend to change or disappear, then the information isn't as readily available. For example, with NYT and some other papers, their info is free for 7 days from posting but thereafter a fee is charged. If you're strapped for time, you can't always read everything in 1 go, but take quick breaks now and then.

So far, no one's complained that I'm aware of, but if they have a problem, I figure they can post a comment and I'll evaluate it then.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Fuff said...

Exactly. I don't think anyone should have a problem with that unless you're passing the material off as your own. If they're that worried, they can protect it to some extent anyway, as I'm sure you already know.
I've never been bothered when people nick things from my bloog. Even Tea and Books, who swiped a picture of my bunny AND openly threatened to steal him.

5:18 PM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

Fer the Christ sake, you aren't selling it or making any money on it so to copyright hell with the bastidge. Is he peddling it on T-Shirts or something?? I'll bet the dude still lives in his moms basement.

7:05 PM  
Blogger fairscape said...

N

If I had enough of a brain to figure out how to clip and paste some one's stuff into my blog I think I might try to footnote just because these things are important to some people and I wouldn't want to make anyone feel bad by not doing it. That said, you could take the entire contents of all my blogs and let your kid copy them out as her term paper. as her own, and I would be happy just to have my words out their being heard. Of course you would probably wind up getting a call trom the school psychologist...

By the way, how is the water situation? Hubby and I have quit bathing in a show of support for your problem. It has been around 80 degrees here for the last couple days and we were just wondering, if, perhaps it might be OK for you by now, so that we could start bathing again. No pressure. but even our garbage men have started to avoid us.

10:39 PM  
Blogger Annie Drogynous said...

"...if you really want to know the source all you have to do is click on the graphic it and it will lead you back to the originating website."

I was gonna' say exactly that and while this is only my opinion, I think that's enough of giving credit to someone else. I, too, understand his point but you don't put such information on the Internet if you don't want someone using your material.

11:24 PM  
Blogger mummified said...

Your position seems fair to me. I think the dynamic nature of this medium means that some flexibility should apply. No point in being uptight.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Eternally Curious said...

Of for cripe's sake - some people have way too much time on their hands! I side with TPK and the others here who believe that the Internet is, essentially, a free zone. And besides, as Fuff said, if they're really that worried about it, there are all sorts of ways for them to protect their own work. Seems only right, doesn't it? They are the ones worried about it, so protection should be their responsibility, not ours.

Fairscape: While the support you and your husband are offering Nanuk and his family is admirable, I think I can safely speak for all of us (and your garbabe men) when I say "Please do start showering again - even if Nanuk's sitch hasn't changed!" I think even Nanuk might agree with this? What say you, Nanuk? :))

8:57 AM  
Blogger marty said...

I only use material from dead people. They ae least likely to complain.

12:27 PM  
Blogger The Phosgene Kid said...

Yeah, material from dead people or those about to kick it if they keep bitching about people using their stuff..

6:39 PM  
Blogger merlinprincesse said...

Mmmm... Nice question and different answers. If I take something visual ( a pic or a drawing) from a blog, I always put a note like "guest artist" or "guest photograph". And I KNOW people have stolen some of my pics and even some of my texts. But I don't give a damn! Doesn't mean I find it right but I don't care. I put it on a public blog sooooo....

8:42 PM  
Blogger SC said...

Sounds like the guy was being a bit petty, or else has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Did he realise a click on his work takes you to his site? He could have chosen to take it as a compliment!

I'm glad this subject is becoming an issue though. Copyright is a form of ownership, and property is theft. Oops, I mean, it's a complex and thorny issue, isn't it? Seriously, as others have said, common sense should prevail. How much did you materially profit from it? How much did he materially lose? Next to zero.

9:24 PM  
Blogger SC said...

Sounds like the guy was being a bit petty, or else has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Did he realise a click on his work takes you to his site? He could have chosen to take it as a compliment!

I'm glad this subject is becoming an issue though. Copyright is a form of ownership, and property is theft. Oops, I mean, it's a complex and thorny issue, isn't it? Seriously, as others have said, common sense should prevail. How much did you materially profit from it? How much did he materially lose? Next to zero.

9:24 PM  

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