Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Good & Bad of Posting Content on Your Website

Well I had the age old problem of discovering that once again, another studio had "borrowed" content from one of my sites and was using it to promote a class of theirs. This has happened many times before and I have taken harsh steps with some of those in the past. I didn't want to do that this time for many reasons.

To give some back ground to the latest event, a student of mine was googling vitrigraph on line and came across a document with a class description. The images on the document looked familiar and on the second page there were images of finished pieces that used vitrigraph in them. One was a plate that any student of mine has seen me use as a sample in my class. The student called me to ask why I hadn't said anything about teaching at the other studio and I said I wasn't. Well I was given the web address and saw that not only were my images there but also those of other artist I knew. Some of the wording in the text was way too similar to mine as well. To say I saw red is an understatement.

I called the studio and explained who I was and why I was calling. To make a long story of what happened yesterday, they removed the link to the document in question and are going to put a link on their site back to mine. I also explained copyrights to them and asked them to go through their whole site and remove any thing that was taken from other artist as well. I think they get it now and will not do it again.

Years ago when I still did shows, I had a bunch of small photo albums walk off that were filled with pictures of my past work. That was before I had a digital camera and of course I didn't keep the negatives. Well not only did I loose all those photos but I learned someone was using them as their built in portfolio. Nice ha? I also had a few overseas companies "borrow" images from my site of my pieces and then offer them for sale on their sites. I won't even go on about original patterns I have had people "borrow" and clam as theirs.

Class hand outs are an other item that others love to "borrow." I used to have them on my website but learned that a couple of studios had downloaded them, whited out my studio and copyright info and were copying and handing them out to their students. A few semesters ago at another place I teach at, I had a student ask me for an extra copy of the class hand out. I asked if she had lost hers but she said no, her other fusing instructor wanted a copy. You can guess what my answer was. Unfortunately I am now thinking of no longer giving handouts to my students. I don't want to do that but I am tired of putting in so much work coming up with classes, photographing the process and building the handouts only to have another instructor use the whole thing and claim it as their own. My reputation as an instructor is what is because of the time and care I take to provide my students with the best I can give them. My class notes might be made into a book that students will be able to purchase at a discount instead of freely given as in the past. Again not something I really want to do but it might be necessary.

When an artist or studio takes the time and expense to put a website up on the Internet they are hoping to promote themselves, their work and services. Most of the time this is what happens but unfortunately they also are running the risk of having their images and web content stolen and used by others. It is stealing by the way no matter how someone tries to justify it. There is the myth that any thing you find on the Internet is up for grabs free of charge. It isn't. This is from both a legal and moral point. While it may be harder to get awarded monetary damages, you don't even have to put the word copyright for it to be an infringement. Here is a link to an easy to understand site about the many myths about copyrights involving the Internet,
http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html. It is worth checking out for anyone who might be tempted to "borrow" any image or other content from someone else's website. You can find many other sites listing both the rights of the copyright holder and the possible outcomes for those that violate their rights by doing a bit of googling.

So where does that leave website owners? Realize the risk you take in putting your work out there on the Internet. Hopefully no one will infringe on your rights, but they may. Look into software that will block someone being able to right click on your images and download them. I will be spending the next few weeks going that and other thing to my sites. Most of all, register your copyrights. Although it is true that you can take legal action without it, it makes it easier to have the other side pay for all your legal fees when you win your case.

I still haven't decided on everything I am going to do to protect myself from any further issues with this but I am taking it much more serious. We all work hard at what we do and in these hard times we all need to protect ourselves and try not to screw each other over.