Friday, August 3, 2012

Aspiring Advice: Posting Safe Pictures

It's old news by now I'm sure, but if you haven't heard of Roni Loren's experience about being sued for posting a picture on her blog, do so here. It's a real eye-opener.

The article and the comments made me do a lot of soul searching and archive browsing, because Roni did what I've been doing for almost a couple years: Google pictures that matched my topic and add them to my posts for visual aid. Never once did image theft enter into my mind. Talk about feeling like a criminal ...


I've since browsed through and removed pictures and am in the process of linking screencaps to promotes free advertising. I like promoting all things sci-fi and fantasy, after all.  The same may be said for book covers. Who doesn't want their book cover on as many blogs as possible (please correct me if I'm wrong)?

What happened to Roni is unfortunate, even if the photographer had every right to do what was done, but the question I asked was how come I haven't heard of this sooner? Turns out that Roni is not alone. Several celebrity blogs got in trouble. Even an autistic guy was sued. Now that it's happened to a best seller, it's viral.

Which goes to show that things don't happen unless someone gets hurt or someone is made an example.

The basic gist? Using pictures that do not belong to you is ... risky. It's probably wisest to cease and desist.

Here's my problem - I'm an extremely visual person. Even my writing has been described as "very visual," and I love to have pictures on my blog to illustrate my points. And being a Sci Fi and Fantasy writer? That doesn't make the task easy. I'm not a photographer. I'm not an illustrator, and it's not like I can take my own pictures of dwarfs or starships anytime soon ...

That's when I realized something. Am I picture dependent? How much time am I spending looking for that perfect picture when I could be writing? Since Roni's post, I've written five posts in the same time it takes to write one. Talk about a time suck! This, if nothing else, has brought me new-found insight.

Still - pictures on the blog are nice to have.

So what's a writer to do? Here's a few ideas:

A) Use Public Domain Photos - These are stock photos that are free to use and there are a few websites that offer them, granted you need to source the photo and often link it back to where you got it. Any photos taken by the (US) government is in the public domain, too.

Here's a few worth looking at:

- Public Domain
- BurningWell
- Wikimedia Commons
- National Digital Library

In light of all this, Kristen Lamb started a Flickr group where fellow bloggers can summit their own pics and use each other's photos without fear of reprisal.

Check out WANA Commons here.

B) Take Your Own Pictures - No one can get after you for that. It is your safest bet. Granted, you need a camera, and my Casio Exilim isn't going to cut it. Good camera's aren't cheap. They are, however, cheaper than a lawsuit, so I'd say the investment is worth it.

Time to go camera shopping!

There's cool stuff everywhere. Family and friends may be willing to pose for you, too. It doesn't hurt to ask.  Imagine what you can do with poseable action figures?

 You did NOT just go there ...

C) Be A Writer - If your blog is a writing one, chances are folks have clicked in to read your writing. Sure, pictures and videos are nice, but if they take the place of your writing, how professional does that look?

How's that for a meal for thought?

*     *     *

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. I thought for the longest time that my blog was Über- Cool, but was I letting pictures steal the impact of my words? Maybe. So you should expect some big changes from me, including an almost-complete blog-lift. If any of this has relevance to you, it might be worth your while to look back and see what you've posted.

Were you ever concerned about this kind of thing before now? Where do you go to find risk-free photos?

I'm David, and DON'T download this song ...


  1. I remember the RIAA sued a 7 year old for downloading music and an old lady or something like that. It's pretty ridiculous. This week I posted some pictures from comic books, but hey I BOUGHT those legally, so there. I did also use a picture of my action figures.

    Or you can always do what I also do and make characters in the Sims 2 and post screenshots.

  2. Haven't thought much about it until these last couple of weeks. I'm gonna go through and delete my online photos when I have a chance. My husband is a web designer so he has a Shutterstock account...I'll probably be getting my pictures from there for now on.

  3. Denise at L'Aussie Writing had a HUGE post about this, with dozens of links to free sites and such.
    I removed a few photos, but the rest are of book covers and movie posters (and you know those guys want the free advertising) or badges I've made myself.

  4. Oh man. I'm like you and enjoy looking at pictures. I too read the post and have deleted pictures that didn't belong to me. It's good that Roni shared her experience with everyone.

    Using your own pictures is best, and action figures in your pictures is pretty awesome.

  5. Oh yeah, I went right through my blog with a big ol' broom. The only pictures I'll use from now on are my own or ones in the public domain, esp. those that are so old their copyright has expired. Better to be safe than sorry (and poorer)!

  6. I feel like pictures really enhance my writing so it means a lot to me to be able to use pictures. I've found that a google search for free stock pictures brings up a few good sites with pictures that can be used for blog posts. Thanks for the heads up about Kristen Lambs site, I'm going to check it our right now :)

  7. I also started adding pictures to my Flickr account, marked them for sharing, and tagged them so they can be found. I'll have to check out Kristen's group though. Thanks for linking it.

    I suppose if I can't find a picture that goes with the topic of my post, I can always post a picture of my dog. My dog looks confused a lot, so that's perfect for a lot of posts on writing, revising, querying, and submitting, right?

  8. Try You can find some good quality free stock photos there, and there's some good variety. I think an occasional picture or two can really do a lot to enhance a blog post and make it more readable by breaking up the text. But like anything else, it can be taken too far. I think you do a great job, though.

    I've always found it interesting that writers are worried about people stealing their words, but they'll use others' photos freely. Food bloggers, on the other end of the spectrum, will use others' words/recipes freely, but are worried about people stealing their photos. Kind of an interesting dichotomy. :)

  9. I did the same thing as everyone else - culled as many photos as possible. I think it does take away from the blog posts - photos are a nice way to break up the text - but it's not worth getting sued. And you're right, I probably waste hours and hours searching for photos!!

  10. I love your pictures. They crack me up! Now, you're going to become obsessed with getting that perfect picture to go along with your post.

    I live sci-fi, too. With my new unusual Friday feature, I've been dying to post pictures, but I've refrained.

  11. I use pictures in my blog and since I heard about Roni's troubles I'm careful which I use. Some artwork I've used I've always referred the reader to the artists site.

    I'm a photographer and I do use some of those photos, I also use quite a bit from wiki and stock photos, as well as Free Domain pictures. I don't spend a lot of time searching for photos but I do have a good sized file of photos to use when I need them.

  12. Scary to think this could happen to any of us, and often from ignorance and an innocent naivety. Many thanks for this post, it's a real gem, and even better are the links you've provided.

    Great work - forget the balaclava, makes you look creepy as hell!

    1. PS: if you don't mind I'm going to link this post on my blog for others to read also.

    2. Do it! I must creep out as many as I can! :)

  13. Action figures are good for a lot of things. My hubby once did a 15 min recreation of Star Wars: A New Hope with only his action figures.

  14. I laughed out loud at your first picture. So funny! Lately I've been just taking and using my own pictures. They usually have nothing to do with the post, but hey they're fun to look at. Dogs. Headless statues. Nature. Good. :)

  15. I've always been hesitant about posting photos on my blog (I usually just create my own images) but her blog made me think twice about sites like pinterest. We have to be extra careful with what we do online. Ut's a shame it took someone getting sued to bring this issue to light.

  16. Your first pic is great, I just hope you're OK with the pic of lots of little pics! Lol. You do make a good point about not letting pics overshadow the post, too. I mean, apart from the front cover, we normally rely on the words in our books to be strong enough without images, right? The odd post without pics is fine, I think, but they can still enhance posts well, so I appreciate the links you posted.

  17. I gotta tell you, one of my fave blogs to visit is for a soon-to-be-published author that dresses, poses and stands her various Barbies in different ways and tells some pretty kick-butt stories with them. So action figures? Cha! Go there!

  18. This bums me out too :( Thanks for the links.

  19. I'm not concerned about it. I think the pictures that I use are copyrighted by such huge corporations (movie studies) and whatnot that they'll never come after a small bean like me. If they do, I have no money anyway. I can't even afford a house.

  20. I thought as long as I linked it back to where I found it I was right... But seems not... So I deleted many pictures, and some posts.

  21. Any body can sue. Winning is another matter.

    I have spoken to a lawyer about the issue. The copyright laws are very vague and fare use is rather broad.

  22. I have to go back through all my posts and take down a lot of images. I only use public domain/Creative Commons images or stuff I create myself these days, though, since during the process of creating my website (The Eagle Directory) I had to find images I could use legally. It was an eye-opening experience and I'm transferring it to my blog now.

  23. I use primarily my own pictures, for various reasons. But, for what it's worth, I usually scroll past your images David and read your writing. I find that to be the best part of your posts.

  24. I use my own photos on my blog, but this is always a good reminder. We work with lots of photographers, illustrators, etc. in my PR job, and I know this kind of thing is a big topic for them. Looking forward to the blog-lift!

  25. ooooh, dear, I guess I better do some checking!

  26. I wasn't concerned before now. But I am now. Your three points are good ones. That's what I plan to do :)

  27. It's a good lesson, imho. After all, none of us writers would want our work hijacked by someone for their own ends.

  28. I spoke to Roni at the RWA nationals and the amount of $$ the photographer wanted for the picture was ridiculous.

    I'm a photographer, but since I don't charge for my photos, I don't mind if someone uses them. But I would like credit for my work. Having said that, I'm guilty of doing the same thing as everyone else. I won't be doing that anymore.

  29. I don't think this topic can be posted enough, David. I deleted my Pinterest account after realizing there were just too many photos that I didn't know the origins of. It wasn't worth the chance and as you have reminded me...I am a writer! So I don't need pinterest anyway.

    Great post!

  30. Oh Weird Al :D Yeah, I heard about this whole incident. Scary stuff...

  31. Really important topic. I don't think many people know how dangerous it is to use pictures without written permission from the owner. I tend to use my own pictures, but I'll admit I've taken the risk of grabbing something from a Google search. (cringes)