Get permission. Don’t violate copyright.

Thanks to Jason Boog at GalleyCat for mentioning a brilliant new service called Imgembed, which is designed to streamline the process by which bloggers legally obtain images to illustrate their posts.

Copyright law is complex, but so are lots of laws. Bewilderment and impatience aren’t excuses for ignoring other people’s legal rights.

Not long ago, at a writers’ workshop I attended, the friendly and easygoing instructor advised the class members that there was no real need to worry about incorporating copyright-protected material without permission, because the chance of pirated matter being discovered by a rights holder was so minuscule that it ought to be a matter of pride if it happened. It would mean the project under discussion had succeeded in attracting notice beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Better to ask forgiveness than permission, in other words.

It was difficult to keep my mouth shut, and some of you will be surprised that I did. After all, rights trading is my business. But it’s not cool to contradict the teacher, so I swallowed my objections. I’m not proud, just pragmatic.

Within a few months, the workshop instructor learned from a much better authority. A portion of his own work was taken and rebranded without his authorization, and he realized that it wouldn’t be worth the expense to litigate for copyright infringement. From the standpoint of a victim, he was outraged.

Funny how wrong people can be when they believe their own convenience supersedes other people’s rights.

It was a good reminder for me as well. I don’t need to teach people anything. They’re going to learn.

Bloggers using WordPress.com click on a button labeled “Publish” to make each of their posts publicly visible. But it doesn’t take a warning on a button to prove that bloggers are de facto publishers, with all of the legal responsibilities that publishing entails. All it takes is a little common sense.

Publishers must have the rights in, or the permission to publish, what they’re publishing. Every time. Not merely when it’s convenient. I’m happy to see companies like Imgembed addressing the problem of inconvenience, because at $20 or $25 per post, blogging for pay is a losing proposition when illustrated posts are expected.

Imgembed is new, so its selection of images doesn’t yet appear to be enormous. Scroll down to The Creative Finder on the Imgembed website to browse or search for images to use.

I’m not wild about the minimum image size requirement, but I’m not sure every image has a minimum. The photograph I embedded in this post is as small as I was permitted to render it. Also, my use of the owl image through Imgembed is free of charge for up to 10,000 impressions, which means that about eight years from now, I’ll need to remember to remove it from my blog if I don’t want to buy a license. I wasn’t given any indication what a rights license might cost me at that point, if I decide I want to continue to use the photo. Surely the licensing terms will be made clearer as the Imgembed site evolves. As far as I can tell, the terms offered are fairly standard for this type of use. I am happy that the photographer was automatically credited and linked, saving me a series of time-consuming steps when posting. All in all, it’s a great concept. I hope it catches on.

One Reply to “Get permission. Don’t violate copyright.”

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