Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Copyright once again

Awhile ago I posted about music piracy.  At the time Wendy and I often disagreed on the topic because I had little sympathy for people who felt that they were entitled to pirate music and expected this to be taken as a form of protest against the music industry along with the expected indignation at the idea that their actions were illegal and thus subject to normal legal penalties.  Wendy's opinions were much more strongly against record companies and for doing anything that would stick it to them.  Although both of us agreed that the music industry wields far too much power, that DRM sucks and we both have music that has not been paid for she took the side of the pirates and I advocated for the law and by extension the music industry.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I have posted all kinds of pictures on my blog yanked from Google searches and I rarely posted any sort of links or credits for the original sources.  I very much felt like since I was using the pictures purely as pictures, not making money from them and not representing that they were my work that I was doing no wrong but this time Wendy took the other side.  She argued that I was breaking the law (true, I imagine) and that it was necessary for me to only post things that I had received permission to post or which were explicitly under Creative Commons.   I found it strange that previously I was on the side of Big Brother and now I was defending my completely harmless use of pictures found on random sites.  What a strange reversal.

I got pretty defensive.  I try not to do that because I want to be the sort of person who can set aside personal investiture in things and be entirely objective when someone I love is saying "You are doing things that are *wrong*!" but I just can't.  I got irritable and talked about never putting up pictures again - that would suck hugely as I think appropriate pictures are great for making posts more amusing and fun to look at.  If I have to hunt down the legal information on every picture I want to use I am pretty much not going to use them since I just don't want to sink that much time into every selection.

Now I have some figuring to do.  You may or may not have noticed but over the past little bit I have been posting credits and links to every picture I use that isn't something I took myself.  I haven't bothered checking licencing though or attempted to determine if the original picture is one that I am technically allowed to reproduce.  This is some kind of compromise.  I give credit to the source of the picture and make it clear it isn't mine but I don't worry about whether I am supposed to use it.  Obviously if anyone cared enough to tell me to take a picture down (Hah, I wish!  What a great moment that would be.) I would do it but that isn't going to happen.  For the moment this is where I stand.  I will steal and pillage but at least I will be clear and up front about who I am stealing and pillaging from.  A moral high point this is not.


  1. I have my students use this

  2. When it comes to images the general rule is don't get caught. If you use due diligence and hot-link the images to their original website you should be safe. Obviously avoid using images that have the copyright stamp on them but for the most part you can use images you find online. The worst that can happen is a cease and desist order will come to you to remove the image. Honestly until your website draws in 10 000 hits a day I don't think anyone will bother.

    As for pirating music I actually gave that up recently. I listen to music on youtube and if I like it I buy it on iTunes. My thought process being that if I want more good music I should give the artist my money. How much they make on my iTunes purchase is their deal not mine. Movies and TV I find I do pirate a bit, TV more than movies as I only watch the free to air shows and CTV, CBC and Global all have bad streaming. Pirating sites stream much better :)

  3. Copyright laws mostly protect only rich and successful people. For everyone else, the problem, to quote one of the Boing Boing curators, is not piracy, but obscurity.

    I'm not saying we don't need some kind of protection for creators. If you write a novel and I steal the manuscript and get rich selling it as my own then I'm a criminal and you are entitled to the money.

    That being said, if you wrote a manuscript and Stephen King stole it, what would you do? As mentioned above, the rule is don't get caught. Who would believe you, how much could you pay for lawyers?

    Copyright laws are supposed to encourage artists to create, and these days they are primarily used to suppress artistic expression. We need to seriously think about how they are working and how they should be working.

  4. Vote Pirate in the next federal election!