Where the internet is concerned, people have a “help yourself” attitude. When I first started my site, I will confess that I was ignorant of the nuances of what was, and what wasn’t, off limits. Common sense and my 10th-grade English class should have taught me all I needed to know, but the internet is HUGE and it is easy to be lazy.
And then something happens, someone slaps your wrist and you are either horrified to find that you’re “that person” or you think that statistically speaking, you are good to go for awhile before you get caught again. I fell into the first category and used a few pictures that weren’t mine without accurately crediting the original source (a feat which is sometimes incredibly difficult to do) and I quoted others without referencing the original article in a footnote. I don’t do either of these things anymore and haven’t in a really long time. Because of my own transgressions, I am normally pretty chill when someone lifts my work or clips my articles and publishes them on their own site. Instead of calling in an airstrike, I typically shoot off an email and ask the individual to credit the source with a link back to the original. I don’t like it when people copy entire articles so I might escalate those a bit faster but normally, it’s just an image or a portion of an article and we can all remain friends after the fact.
Occasionally, things get out of hand and there’s almost no recovery possible … I’ll give you an example. A few months ago I was scrolling through the Architizer Facebook page and found an article that piqued my curiosity … 29 Reasons You Should Date an Architect. I wrote a similarly themed post years ago (Dating an Architect) so I wanted to know if any of my reasons aligned with their reasons.
Here is a screen grab from the Architizer feed showing the article, you can see that the article is only 10 hours old at this point and has already been shared to over 1,400 times and elicited over 3,600 reactions. That’s a lot of eyeballs, my friend.
So I clicked the link and I was transported to …
The actual article. Sandwiched between reasons 24 and 25 (of Why You Should Date an Architect) I see one of my sketches from a few years ago and the image source is credited as “The Keep Calm-O-Matic”.
What the hell? So I click on THAT link and I am transported to …
A commercial website that sells all sorts of stuff … and in this case, that stuff has my sketch on it. So now, this is a different sort of issue. People, someone, is profiting from my work and that is no small issue for me. So I decided to do an image search on Google and type in “keep calm and love architecture” just to see what will happen …
A jillion million images get kicked back to me, but if you’ll notice, the very first image is my sketch!!!
As part of my internet sleuthing, I searched the for my sketch and asked Google to look for similar images …
Oh my … this image is everywhere.
I went back to the Keep Calm-O-Matic website, the site that is making a little coin off my efforts, to see if there is anything that talks about image rights and ownership. Surprise, there is!
Pretty lame cover-your-butt language, it seems to me that all they are saying is what we should already know. If it isn’t yours, don’t take it (a lesson we all should have learned pre-kindergarten)
This was the first time I published this sketch – part of my Instagram feed on September 5, 2013 – and I will confess that I never thought for 1 second that this sketch would get picked up and distributed to thousands of sites around the planet. Part of me thinks that this sort of information movement is pretty cool … things sort of shift for me when the information is used for someone else’s financial gain. I did the work and put it out there for free so why should someone else get to make a buck off of the effort?
There’s really only one way to try and deal with this sort of thing. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which you can read all about on the wiki page (here). Google has a DCMA dashboard that you can access that will allow you to submit the links to websites that have infringed on your material (find it here). The process for submitting the links so that they are removed is pretty straightforward. You submit evidence that the information is yours and then submit the link to the site you are saying took your work without permission. Easy.
Except it isn’t.
The only problem with this method is that you have to track down all the individual perp’s and submit individual links in each instance. Not that big of a deal when it’s only one site or individual that you are dealing with. In the case of my sketch, it was thousands. So many in fact that I gave up after my second hour of submitting links.
To rub a little salt in the wound, the original source (here) has dealt with the matter and removed the image, but just below is a section titled “Other Designs with this Poster Slogan” and guess what you will find?
That’s right … more of the same hijacked sketch. Ugh. I don’t know how to put this genie back into the bottle and I certainly don’t have the time to go through every single instance that I can find online. The crazy thing about this is that I would venture a guess that 99.99% of the people associated with grabbing this image for their own use have no idea the original sketch came from me. They simply saw an image they liked and things moved on from there. Let’s pretend that they tried to do the right thing and did an image search to try and find the original … good luck with that.
I can assure you that I didn’t see this coming when I started this blog in 2010, and as I mentioned, in the beginning, I was guilty of taking a picture that wasn’t mine. It was actually a picture of a chicken (from the post Chicken Coops … Really?) and I tried to find the original source material and was unsuccessful – the image I wanted to use was on dozens of sites. After the post was up for a few days, I received a handful of emails from people who all claimed ownership of the chicken picture I boosted. Clearly, they were allllllll the owner of said chicken photo. My solution was to remove the image entirely and to avoid using images from other sites.
Oh well, Keep Calm and Keep On Keepin’ On,