Copyright Issues for Bloggers

William and Susan Brinson, copyright issues for photography use

photo credit: William Brinson

About a month ago I took an Alt Summit online class on Copyright Issues for Bloggers, taught by Susan and William Brinson, creators of the gorgeous blog named House of Brinson- if you are not familiar with it I invite you to experience their visual feast. In their class they covered two specific scenarios: bloggers who create their own images and bloggers using others images.  Both Brinsons are professionals in the industry- Susan works in advertising and Will is a professional photographer.

“Our main goal when we agreed to teach this class is to help the blogging community understand that using copyrighted work (specifically photography) without permission can have financial consequences.” -Susan Brinson

Their Alt class was so intriguing that I asked for a followup interview so I could share their insights with you.  Here are some Q&A from our interview:

• Susan, will you please explain your background and your husband’s to help put into perspective the questions that will follow? 
I am a design director in the advertising industry and William is a professional photographer, and we have the blog House of Brinson together.
• Will you please explain copyright of photos
I’d recommend all bloggers reading up on copyright ownership in general. Essentially a blog is a digital publication, not different from its cousin a print publication like a magazine. That statement is especially true if a bog has advertising on it. If you didn’t create the image or have written permission to use it, you could be violating copyright law. It’s that simple. There is a lot of conversation about fair use and creative commons, so I’d recommend bloggers truly understanding this topic if you are creating your own images or using others.
• Bloggers need to know: please talk to us about using Pinterest images in blog posts….
The same theory applies to Pinterest, if you don’t own the copyright or have permission to use it, you could be sued. It doesn’t matter where you found the image, Pinterest or any other place.
• Bloggers need to know: using magazine images in blog posts
Some magazines have press approved images, and others don’t. I’d recommend contacting the magazine for permission to use their images. One item that is not taken into consideration is normally a magazine licenses an image from a photographer, and after the time period (say 6 months) has expired, the photographer owns the image. If you have a blog post that is 4 years old and used images from a magazine without permission, the photographer could come after you for copyright infringement. It depends on the original contract with that publication. It is such a scary, gray area with digital publishing, you want to be sure the images you are using are ok to publish.
• Bloggers need to know: using images from a book – how bad is that ?
The same rule applies, if you don’t own the copyright or have written permission to use it, you could be infringing on copyright.
What to do if someone takes your own photos…
It depends on the situation. We have a photo policy for our blog, and this works great for us. Each blogger should determine their own comfort level. We don’t mind if people use our images without asking, if it’s in a way that’s promotional to us. AKA: WOW I love House of Brinson! If our images are used to promote another bloggers ideas, like our image with their recipe, we send a cease and desist notice. If it’s a company or large website with advertising, we send a C&D and sometimes an invoice. All of our blogging costs come out of our pocket, so there is no excuse for a business to profit from our content for free.
This is our personal point of view. The legal point of view is very different, if anyone uses a photo without written permission from the copyright owner, they could be sued. It’s very scary. I hope this is helpful and bloggers continue focusing on creative, original content. That’s what we’re good at! :)
Have the Brinsons gotten your attention? Interested in reading more on this topic? They provided a few links:
Susan and William- thank you so very much for sharing this valuable information. Bloggers need to know these things!!
Readers: follow these awesome people here:
http://www.houseofbrinson.com
Twitter: @houseofbrinson

Comments

  1. This is great and important to know – I noticed a lot of folks put watermarks on their photos, is this similar to copyrighting or do you have to go thru the copyrighting process and fee for each photo before putting a watermark on? I will look at the links provided too!

    • Yes, the Brinsons did a great job making this complicated information understandable. This may not be a popular topic with the masses who are casually using photos on the internet, but I have a sense that people will start taking more decisive action against those who abuse the copyright laws. One high profile blogger was sued by a magazine and forced to remove all mag’s photos from blog. This is serious stuff…

  2. Pamela Copeman says:

    This conversation is a great beginning, it is complex and there is so much more. Thank you Courtney and Susan and William Brinson xo

  3. Excellent post, Courtney! Thank you for that explanation by the Brinson’s on a topic that is always confusing!
    xo

  4. Courtney, this is great info and a bit frightening at the repercussions as well. So many of us use Pinterest and the photos on there. I will be more cautious from now on.

  5. Wow Courtney, thanks for this info. It’s so hard to keep up with the laws, this is a great jumping off point. Need to do more research!

  6. Courtney, thank you for featuring the Brinsons and their wealth of knowledge on this topic – a very informative and important introduction.

  7. I incorporate my signature into my images that I post online and it’s a way for me to prove copyright because image thieves don’t notice it. Like others, I am fairly flexible about others using my work but this morning I discovered a galley had stolen my image, altered it and was selling it as a school background photo. I knew it was my photograph because they didn’t notice my embedded signature.
    http://jafabrit.blogspot.com/2013/05/gallery-steals-my-photograph-to-sell-as.html

    • Wow, so smart of you to incorporate your signature. Good thing you found that – it amazes me how much of that sort of thing goes on. Thanks for including the link…

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