Monday, August 26, 2013

Photographic Folly

I’m sure many of you will be aware that I usually have a photograph to accompany my blog postings. I like to think that it adds a little more eye-candy to the post. These photos usually come from my own photographic library (currently approaching 10,000 images, and always growing). On those times when I don’t use my own image, I usually use a piece of clip art, or perhaps the cover of a book. In other words, I do this to ensure that I don’t infringe anyone’s copyright. (Technically, using book covers does infringe copyright, however, most publishers don’t kick up a fuss because they like the publicity.)

The reason I mention this, is because, if you have time, I would seriously recommend you read the following blog posting by romantic author Roni Loren: This shows how an ordinary person, who did not set out to harm anyone, found herself on the wrong side of the law, when using some photographs found on the Internet to illustrate her blog.

It’s something I find many writing students do - especially when tackling assignments on travel writing. They write their articles and then search the Internet for some suitable images. As a writer, you would be mortified if someone stole your words, but, because photographs are everywhere on the Internet, many people think it’s okay to help themselves to anything that they can find. What’s on the Internet is free to use, right? No. I own the copyright in this blog posting, and I also own the copyright in the photo accompanying this post. (Yes, even though it is a photo of me, I took it, because I set the camera up on a timer. And also, remember, it is the person taking the photo who ‘creates’ the photo, not the person who owns the camera.)

I’ve mentioned before how photographs can increase your chances of selling your words. Indeed, that’s what my next book is about (I’m reading the final proofs as I write this), so I understand why writers look for images. But the safest way to do this is to take your own photos, or to get permission to use photographs (for writers the best source is directly from PR and Media departments who have photographs for this precise purpose - to be used in publications to publicise the destination/product.)

So next time you need images to illustrate your article, or book, remember that copyright applies to every creative form, just as much as it does to words. Don’t make the mistake that Roni Loren did, because it could lead to financial claims, or months of heart ache from threatened legal action.

Good luck.