Wednesday, January 14, 2009


After reading Jennifer Altman’s post about having her copyrighted images used by others on Polyvore and blogs without permission, and even without credit at times to her, I feel a heavy sense of sadness and fear. I have a deep respect for Jennifer’s work. I aspire to be as good as her someday. She is pissed off, hurt, and indignant (my words, not hers). I can understand why.

at any moment it may pop

It’s got me thinking about my own actions, examining my own behavior, man in the mirror style. For a brief time I participated in the free for all on Polyvore, but have removed myself from it after realizing that artists’ work was being stolen, in a sense, because of the site. But a bigger issue in my mind is the mosaics I do of my Flickr favorites using fd’s Flickr toys. I guess I’d rested assured that since credit is give for each photo via link back to the original posting of the photo in the artists’ stream, it was all kosher. And maybe, legally, it is. But, is it ethical? By the sound of what Jennifer was saying, and by the comments left on her post by like minded and similarly offended artists, it’s not.


While I would certainly be very upset to have my work stolen and plagiarized by some unethical wannabe, I am actually pretty easy going about this kind of thing. If I am credited (with links back to my blog or Flickr stream), and if the person displaying my work doesn’t profit from it directly (i.e. isn’t selling it) I’m fine with my images being used in mosaics, on blogs, etc. I had assumed that nearly everyone who puts their work on the internet would generally feel the same way. I’m gathering that that is not the case.


I feel kind of sick inside, knowing that I may have contributed to feelings of betrayal amongst Jennifer and her like minded colleagues. I feel guilt, I’m good at that emotion, and unsure of myself. And I know that I will be watching my step a lot more carefully from now on, asking permission whenever another’s work is going to be effected. As much as I LOVE doing them, I guess mosaics are out. (I’d like to say that I can just ask each person in a given mosaic for permission to use their image, but I just don’t have that kind of time.)

Any thoughts my friends?


Anonymous said...

I always thought that as long as I don't modify someone's work, post it as it is and give credit, it's ok. As I saw it, it was my way of recommending their work, telling my blog readers that I saw and liked that photograph and I thought there was nothing wrong with it.
One of the photographers whose picture I used in a post contacted me about it, and explained that he didn't have the 'blog this' option activated in Flickr, and that meant it's not allowed to use it, and since then I'm using pictures that have 'Some rights reserved' instead of 'All rights reserved'. the some rights reserved pictures allow for reposting with credit.
In my search I discovered a site that indexes 'some rights reserved' pictures from Flickr, and you can 'save' your favourites. It's, and I think making mosaics using those photos would be ok.

I felt guilty when i got that email, but after thinking about it I realized that I haven't done anythign with malicious intent, or ignored anything that was easily found. I think that for both of us it was a misunderstanding of the way these things are handled, and I think we don't have a reason to feel guilty.

This is something that I've considered lately, as you can see, and 'm sorry i got carried away like this :) I got to your blog through you Flickr stream, because I love your photos and wanted to see if blogging them with credit is allowed.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your expressing your thoughts and feelings on this rather than just feel them in silence. I love the mosaics you have done but I think your own photos are so wonderful you will be able to do mosaics still with the beauty you capture. I certainly can see it was not with malicious intent but with more a desire to share others' work. As artists it is hard to get our work out into the world. We are all learning together it seems with this "new technology". I am glad for your post and the heartfelt way in which you presented it.

kendalee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kendalee said...

I have definitely been "guilty" of posting other people's images in mosaics etc. although I always link credits, and use them in their original form.

My intention is always to celebrate the beauty and creativity that is out in this wonderful cyber world and I would hate to think that I had contributed, even inadvertently, to someone's distress about this.

One of the wonders of this medium is surely that we are able to share and reference things we find & that we love, so that it reaches an even wider audience?

However, I think that just as it's our duty to behave ethically and responsibly when using and referencing the work of others, it's their duty and responsibility to protect their images, and express their preferences clearly. And this includes making it clear if they prefer not to have them used in this way. For example, the blank spaces that occur if people have 'opted out' of having their pictures used in mosaics.

This of course applies to defining our own stance as well. Like you, I am pretty relaxed about people using any images of mine (referenced of course, and not for commercial gain) and I think many feel the same way. Just to be even more certain, I tend to use the creative commons search feature on flickr explore when selecting images for mosaics because the copyright parameters are clear. There are still millions of gorgeous images to choose from.

And I would certainly remove any images if asked to do so, with a profuse and heartfelt apology!

I think there is always a risk (just as in the 'real' world) that people will behave disrespectfully, unethically and even illegally but I'd hope it never prevents people from putting themselves out there, or diminishes the wonderfully rich, inspiring and creative place that this cyberworld is.

That's my rather long-winded tuppence worth... :)

kristin said...

on flickr people can block their images from mosaics. i have made a few and the spot comes up white no image. and i just know that my images are "out there" and have to accept that in my heart. i do so love your mosaics and you are paying an homage to the images. i too would never have the time to wait for permission. it is a sad situation that some steal images. that IS surely wrong. but what you do i only see as paying a respect.