Creativity and Website/Blog Content:
Here's a tip for all you with websites and blogs, make sure that if you put up something it is either your own creation (your photo, writing, art, drawing, poem, recipe etc.), you have permission to use that work from the original creator (like I did with Annie's photographs in Supermodel Garlic), or you are using work labeled in the public domain (be very careful with this, some of it is not really available). If you use information that you honestly believe to have a Creative Commons license but it is really copyrighted work that someone has fraudulently posted - YOU still get the blame and pay the penalty. For reviews or critiques of scientific studies use references to give credit to the authors of the studies.
First, you can get into trouble with violating copyrights, and it is better to be safe than sorry. People have been sued for monetary compensation for posting other people's photographs and material. Claims or fines from places that sell images like Corbis and Getty Images can start at $1,000-$1,200 for illegally posting a single image. That's a lot of moolah for one generic photo that is usually not too exciting anyway! I mean how many politically correct photos of happy people do we need on the web anyway?
In addition, photographers who have registered their photos with the copyright office can demand up to $150,000 for each misused photo (plus attorney's fees). Don't be the person they decide to make an example of for others. If you think I am exaggerating please read this post on how one mistake with a copyright photo cost the Content Factory $3,000 (PS they still sound a bit bitter about it, which I can sympathize with), some copywriters who ended up shelling out $4,000 for a photo, or this story of one blogger who got sued for using a photo on her blog. I appreciate the authors of these articles helping out the rest of the web by telling their stories.
This doesn't just happen to other people. I was recently approached by a friend who received a demand for $750 for an old photograph that she used on her website. She thought the photo was in the public domain but it was not. Companies and individuals actively try to protect their copyright by searching for their images.
Using images without permission is not necessarily a blameless crime. Just so you appreciate the other side of the story, here is how internet piracy negatively affected this person's livelihood and peace of mind. People who make their living with photographs or writing can be financially effected when their work is used without compensation.
Second, original material is much fresher than that same old 'funny' picture of the cute kitten with a misspelled and grammatically incorrect caption above it. Personally, I believe that if cats were to speak English they would most likely speak correctly (come on, when was the last time you noticed a cat doing something really badly). Put up your own interesting and new ideas and don't worry if they aren't 'perfect' or professional looking. I know that my garlic photos aren't National Geographic quality but that's okay. Perfection is overrated anyway.
Picture: The few hours a month it takes me to create my own photographs are well worth it in peace of mind. Plus I have a unique picture that helps my website to stand out!
I also have to say that since I have been working on my photo taking skills my pictures have become much better! It doesn't bother me to see my photos on a PinInterest page or blog, I actually find it flattering that others think my photos of garlic are gorgeous too (and I'm certainly not going to sue anyone if they use my website photos in a non-commercial setting, although it is nice to get credit). On that note, if you are interested in reusing an article or webpage I (or anyone else) has written, send an email to ask for permission. You may be surprised at how many authors are delighted to let others use their work when given proper credit. I normally do not mind my work being reposted with proper author credit.
So the moral of these stories? Watch out for the occasional odd duck on the web and be careful of photos that you post. The safest pictures are the ones that you take yourself! Remember, the web is not as anonymous as you think.