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
- 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?
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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 ...