So I was watching GMA this evening (broadcast on 8/7/14) and saw the segment about the macaque selfie that was shared by David Slater. Apparently immediately the general public deemed this photo as 'public domain' since the monkey took the photo and since monkeys can not hold a copyright. Well now 'the owner of the camera' is suing to claim that the copyright is his.
I want to say, I think the copyright is his. Yes, he didn't technically pushed the button, but he took the camera out to the monkey, he set up the situation, he created the environment, the 'creation of the situation' was his doing. Just as I think zoos who set their elephants or dolphins to paint own those images, and just as I think Colehaus Cats owns the copyright for Quint's work. Think of the monkey, the elephant, the dolphin or the cat like a camera, or a brush.. a tool to create the art.. you would never expect a camera to own a copyright.. but it did do all the work.
All of this got me thinking about copyright..I use Robyn's photo above because she is one of the most copyright infringed people I know.
I am sure that most of you that are reading this are bloggers. From time to time I'm sure you want to use a photo that you have not been able to take yourself. It seems like a no brainer to go to google.com and type in a description of the image you want to use and find one and use it, but doing so is copyright infringement. Those images are owned by someone, and most of those people are not willing to let you simply use their photos with out either compensation for the use, be that financial or a link back. I work for a stock image agency, and you would not believe the number of times our images are stolen and put up on websites. When we find them, and we have hired a company to do so, we send them a cease and desist letter and an invoice for ten times what the original feel would have been for the use. Most of the time that is $1000. Not being aware it was a copyrighted image is not a defense for the theft. We have been told many different reasons why we shouldn't be asking for $1000 from 'that image isn't worth it' (maybe not, but our time and the man power to find you is) to 'but we don't make any money from it' (doesn't matter. If you steal a car and stick it in a garage, you still stole it)
So what is a blogger to do if you can not take the photo yourself? There are places you can that will let you legally use their images, more often than not for a simple link back and proper attribution. Creative Commons is the term for people who allow you to use their images, you can find some at Flickr, PhotoPin or Wylio. I am sure there are many more and if you know of any, I'd love it if you shared them in the comments.
If you see an image you love, try tracking down the person who took it and ask if you might use it. More often than not people will be honored you asked and will let you for simply a link back. Sometimes they will want to sell you a license, and you will have to decide just how much you like the image. Sometimes they will say no... but since they took the image (or drew it, or created it, etc) that is their right. You would not take something from someone's home with out their permission, please, do not take it from their blog.