The Battle over Copyright & Online Photos and Content

Dear Can of Worms……  prepare to be opened.

I have a lot of opinions when it comes to pictures of mine being used without my permission.  When your family photo suddenly shows up in a store front in Prague, that can happen.  We all know a business snatching a picture offline to use for commercial purposes is copyright infringement.

When I first wrote about our story – I received comment after comment reminding me that I had put my pictures ‘ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB, DANIELLE‘ – and that, apparently means they are public domain. You may remember that Cook’s Source Editor, Judith Griggs used the same phrasing after choosing, without permission, to publish an article written by food blogger, Monica Gaudio.

The truth is my content and Monica’s and everyone else’s is not free for the taking.  We are lucky that there are laws that protect our work and our content. Unfortunately, as was the case for both Monica and I, the people who ‘broke’ the laws – didn’t believe they were doing anything wrong.

About 9 months after the photo appeared in Prague – and the company took it down, claiming they had no idea we ‘were a real family’….  we got a call about the website you see here to the right.  Recognize the photo? Yep. EXACT SAME PICTURE USED IN PRAGUE. Naturally, I took a screen shot right away.  This company is right here in the U.S.  Since our story was fairly well publicized, (oh and since it is against copyright) I was a touch surprised.  Before I could write about it, my husband called the company.  The woman he spoke with assured him that he was WRONG….  that they (the company), in fact, have a VERY experienced legal team who’s job it is to vet pictures like this and they WERE authorized to use it.


My husband then listed a few of the media outlets that had covered the story.  *pause*  She apologized and promised the president of the company would call him back that afternoon.

We didn’t get a call.

But the picture was down within the hour.

Here’s the thing….

Last night, I found out another one of my pictures was being used on another website.

But this situation is different – though they didn’t ask permission, this website linked to me.  So, it got me thinking…. (and asking)

Are you ok with people using photos from your sites as long as they link back to you? (and I don’t mean through Creative Commons on Flickr when you authorize use for links)

I asked on Facebook and the greatest percentage said “YES, AS LONG AS THERE IS A LINK BACK.”

Now, it could be that I’m a little sensitive – not just because of the whole Prague thing, but also about this particular picture.  It is intensely personal.  This photo is from a post I did about the origin of this site.  This picture, my totaled car, represents a shift in my life – a moment that a) I could have died and b) one that put me on my current life path. So seeing it used in a generic post makes me uncomfortable.

So, you are wondering….  ‘Why, Danielle, are you writing about this and NOT emailing the blog owner to take it down?”

Because -I’m not mad, I’m not stomping my feet.  I don’t like to be a poor sport. And because so many people I respect (YOU) say you are ok with unauthorized use as long as there is a link back. So, I’m truly introspective about the whole thing…. Here is what I would really like to know from you:

1) Are you ok with people using your content as long as they link back to you  (without permission)?

2) And if you are….  (since copyright laws do protect against the use of content without permission) are we setting a precedent that allows people to skirt the laws in the name of traffic to our sites?

I intentionally did not link to this latest website as I am NOT, in any way, trying to slam them specifically, but rather to start a conversation.