Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Adventure of the Mystery Artist (an unknown Sherlock thriller!)

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Homles, ca. 1930
I recently blogged about how I came to the sinking realisation that my Pinterest activities were actually infringing the copyrights of others. As a result, I'm working on becoming 'UnPinteresting' - or at least using social media sites such as Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest in a slightly more copyright-friendly way. Of course, I'm really hoping it means that I'll eventually get to be best buddies with some of the incredible photographers out there, and they'll then be falling over themselves to give me their photographs for free. But that'd just be the cherry on top.

I have a problem though. All this taking the high road stuff isn't exactly easy. Some of the images I'd pinned to my boards were...incredible. I loved them. Still love them. But they were sometimes a billion-layers-deep repinned/reblogged/reTumblred on the internet. I could just sit there for hours just clicking back and back through the history of one pinned image, desperate to find its source. The worst-case scenario would be hitting a dead-end. A page that was no longer there. Or someone who actually saved the picture from somewhere else, and uploaded it themselves without reference to the source.

Original Artist - where are you?!

That's when I started using Google's very cool image searching capabilities, and got all Sherlock Holmes-y on the problem (see? Mr Rathbone figures in here somehow). Finding the source of these images was actually rather elementary!

Did you know that you can search images on Google by using an image? Yes. I mean, search the internet USING an image. How cool is that? Even better, you don't need to actually upload an image into Google for it to search with. You can search Google images with just the URL (web address) of an image. Genius. (and at any point, if Google wish to provide me with cash sums as commission for selling their services, I'm open to that.) does it work?

Just so we're clear, I'm not here to insult anyone's intelligence, and if you have this whole Google image search thing down pat already, feel free to move on and maybe read some of my other posts (like when I got all down on love, or pondered about brains). But I know that some of us like to have a bit of step-by-step to make life easier.

Here's how it works for me on Pinterest:

STEP 1: Find the image you want to search with and right-click (sorry, Mac folks, you're on your own here) and look on the little menu for the words, 'Copy image URL'. Click on this.

STEP 2: Go to Google and click on the Images search at the top:

STEP 3: Click on the little camera icon in the Google Image Search box

STEP 4: Paste the image URL into the pop-up search box and click 'Search by Image'

STEP 5: The results will show all the places Google can find that same image on the internet. Scan through this list, looking for source websites that look more 'official' than Pinterest or non-professional Tumblr accounts.

I often find that most serious photographers have proper websites, or pro Flickr accounts with a detailed profile. With this particular photo, I quickly spotted this search result on the second page:

Going through to the Flickr account, I could see that it was a Pro account, it had a lot of testimonials, as well as many other photographs of a similar style and subject matter. From what I can tell, this is the account of the original photographer, Irene Anton. And what did I see just under the banner on her profile page?

You read it right. If I'd re-pinned the image, I would have expressly gone against the wishes of the photographer. And, look at that. She's not completely against being contacted for their use! Win/win.

Some closing thoughts.

Okay, so this is hard work. But any research is just that - hard work. If you're in search of beautiful, evocative, story-inspiring images, isn't it always better to dig a little deeper? Scratch past the surface into something more substantial? The way I see it, the benefits outweigh the cost of time.

  1. I now know this photographer's name. 
  2. I can follow them on Flickr without violating their copyright.
  3. I can find all the OTHER photographs they have taken (if you like one, maybe you will like others too!)
  4. That picture that was almost perfect, but not quite? What if it was part of a longer shoot and there are other versions to choose from?
  5. It's honest, and it's fair.
  6. I feel so much better.

So, go out there, search savvy and reap the rewards!

'What one man can invent another can discover.'
- Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Dancing Man

Learn more:

Original image courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collection via Wikimedia Commons. (Alterations made by me).

Saturday, 9 March 2013

About Silly Hats (And how NOT to get sued for using 'free' images)

Some months ago, a blog post by Roni Loren put my brain into a seriously painful twist. She tells her story of a nasty run-in with the reality that is 'fair use' for images on the internet. After using an image found via a Google image search, the photographer later sued her for compensation for using the image without permission. The photographer won. Albeit, her particular tale related to the images she used to illustrate her blog, but the principle applies across our use of images on any internet and social-media platform (Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc etc).

The bottom line is - just because someone doesn't stop you from taking/copying/using an image you find on the internet, it doesn't mean it's free to use. The implications for us non-millionaire writers is rather huge, particularly if you get caught out, as Roni experienced.

I've done a lot of thinking since reading the article, and realised that clearly, I was an offender, and opening myself up to the risk of being sued or at the very least, upsetting an artist/photographer, by using something that wasn't mine. How would I feel if someone ripped off something I'd written and posted it somewhere on the internet without my permission? Not great. It was pretty simple really - I had to find a way to stop.

As you can imagine, no matter how good the intentions, figuring out what exactly to do about it has been a slightly harder task! I didn't want to go with a knee-jerk reaction and destroy all the carefully curated Pinterest boards I was using as visual inspiration. Neither did I want to ignore the advice and carry on regardless. Added to that, watching everyone else continue to re-blog and re-pin with (apparent) impunity and great enjoyment has the ability to make one a little...miserable. I LOVE ALL THE PRETTY PICTURES. I want them ALL. *sigh*

Now, I'm not 100% there with my 'Un-Pinteresting' Project (please do NOT look to me as a fine example just yet), but I've made a start, and wanted to share any tips I've come across if anyone else is starting out or struggling with the same issue. Here are a few of the things I've started doing:

  • PAUSING all Pinterest activity
  • Going through my cannot-let-go-of Pinterest images, and tracing them back to the original artist. Then, following that artist as best I can wherever they keep their work instead of re-posting it.
  • Finding alternative sources of pictures for my blog
  • Reviewing past blog posts and replacing any 'unsafe' pictures with carefully sourced ones

I can't lie. It's been a bit of a drag - some of the fun of Pinterest and Google Image Search has faded slightly. But I feel like I'm on a better, more honest track. One that is more respectful of other artists, and more likely to lead to forming relationships with them that might pay off someday! After all, don't we all need amazing images for our book covers?

But...where can I find great pictures?

Breathe...relax. There are royalty-free and free-of-charge photographs available out there to use. It takes a little more digging, but it's more than possible to find them. 

  • Stock photo websites - many of these sites give away free downloads of the smallest versions of their stock photos as a way of enticing you to pay for downloading large ones. I find that small photos are more than sufficient for blogging with.
IMPORTANT: Always read the small print. 

  • Wiki Commons - "Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to everyone." Based on the same platform as Wikipedia, this database holds all sorts of imagery from institutions, artists and individuals.
IMPORTANT: I found this site slightly more tricky to navigate due to varying levels of copyright status. Just because an image or file is available on the site, it doesn't mean it's free to use. ALWAYS check the copyright tags, and have a good read through the 'Reusing Content' guide.

  • The Commons on Flickr - honestly? This is my new addiction. Forget Pinterest! Peruse, instead, turn-of-the-century mug-shots, magic lantern images of the far East, Civil War portraits, and the moon landing. You won't go back.
IMPORTANT: Always double-check the information on the source institution/collection. They may have specific requests on how and where you provide credit and reference to the images when you use them.

  • Just...ask. Sometimes you just HAVE to have an image. It's perfect. Nothing else will do. Guess what, if you ask nicely, a photographer or artist might just let you use their image - either for a price, or free with a credit. It happens! The little white horse on my profile is just such an image. I loved it. I asked, and she said - yes.

But what about the HATS?!

By now you may be wondering if I will EVER get to the promised silly hats. Fear not, good reader, for here is your reward for wading fearlessly through my long lecture on image use! A small sampling of the curious, hilarious and insane images available through the wonderful Commons on Flickr:

Happy photo hunting!

Hat Photo References:
  1. "Whitman Chocolates, Easter Hat", George Eastman House, 1945.
  2. "Elisha Pope Fearing Gardner", Nantucket Historical Association, [date unknown].
  3. "Nina Farrington"George Eastman House, c. 1900.
  4. "Radio Hat"Nationaal Archief, 1931.
  5. "The Coy-boy Girl"Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library , 1903.
  6. "Portrait of unidentified man wearing unusual hat"George Eastman House, 1855.
  7. "Portrait of General Daniel D. Minier, New York State Militia"George Eastman House, 1855.
  8. "Portrait of Mrs. Gertrude Steindl and baby" State Library of Queensland, Australia, [date unknown].
  9. "Woman wearing dress and blue hat with feathers and pinecones"George Eastman House, 1910.
  10. "Young woman portrait", Bergen Public Library, [date unknown].
  11. "Group portrait of three young men", Fylkesarkivet i Sogn og Fjordane, ca. 1856-1900.
  12. "Two women in national dress (Jones)", Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales, ca. 1875.
  13. "Hat with satin flowers and ostrich feathers"Nationaal Archief, 1969.
  14. "Conrad of Bavaria", The Library of Congress, ca. 1910-15.
  15. "Mrs Hughes, in cuirass bodice suit with shelf bustle and flower pot hat"State Library of New South Wales, ca. 1887.
  16. "McCall's Magazine, Woman in Flowered Hat Holding a Compact"George Eastman House, 1937.

Other photo Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

(PLEASE NOTE: The contents of this blog article do NOT constitute legal advice. If you are ever unsure about the legal implications of using an image, please consult a qualified legal professional.)