by Tess Gerritsen
Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post over on my own site about e-book piracy, and how victimized I felt, as an author, about my books being pirated. After I wrote the post, I thought I’d add an appropriate graphic to accompany the entry, so I went searching for a pirate image. I did a search on Google Images and found 17,700,000 entries.
Now, I don’t think of myself as the type of person prone to be a pirate. My daughter-in-law and my younger son both make their livings as professional photographers, so I’m well aware of the issue of photographers’ rights. Photographers want copyright control over their images just as much as we writers want control over our creations.
So as I looked at all those pirate images on Google, I automatically shied away from any and all photographs, because I knew they were probably under license. I shied away from anything with a live model or anything that looked like a hand-drawn illustration. I shied away from anything that had a trademark or an obvious business logo. I finally settled on the most generic black-and-white skull and crossbones I could find. It looked like your standard pirate flag symbol, something that might actually have flown on a flag two hundred years ago. How could something so generic be under license?
The blog post went up, and two weeks went by.
Then I received an email from a helpful soul, pointing out how ironic it was that I’d chosen a licensed image to illustrate my blog post about piracy. Take a careful look at that image, he advised me. There was a watermark there, almost hidden in the background. Yep, my generic skull-and-crossbones flag was a licensed image.
I’d completely missed it. I’d pirated an image for my post about piracy.
Of course I took it right down. And it got me to thinking — how often does this happen? How often do we unknowingly pull off licensed images from the internet, thereby violating the rights of artists or photographers?
I asked the person who’d written me how one can tell if something’s licensed or not, and he passed the question along to a friend of his who works in the graphic arts business. And the response was: all original creative works are copyrighted by default. The problem with Google images is that there’s no way of knowing if the image is indeed in the public domain. So to be safe, none of us should be using anything off Google images.
So where can we find free images?
He suggested a site: morgue file, a public image archive.
He also suggested that one could head over to Wikipedia to look for public domain image sites.
Finally, he added that “Many US government produced images are Public Domain, except for “agency logos” as we paid for them. NASA, EPA, etc… image can be be freely used in many cases.Just see the term of image use on most agency pages. Some require crediting the agency or photographer or not commercial use.”
It’s a valuable tip for anyone who blogs. If we hate being pirated as writers, then we should understand that it’s just as much a sin to be pirating off artists and photographers.
Just my tip for the day.
(I’ll be traveling today so won’t be able to personally respond to any comments.)