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Tuesday, 26 June 2007


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With some of the newer interpolation programs, based on fractals, it's possible to scale up a jpg image, and get very good

So anybody can upload as many pics as they want? I'd hate to have to use that on a regular basis to search for and purchase images.

I gotta think that you will find a lot of really average images. I just searched a couple things and can't say I was overly impressed.

Who is the real winner in this one?

Agreed. That's really a lot of the reason I use a Creative Commons license on my Web site and Flickr photos, which (depending on the license), says essentially, Sure, you have permission to use this image. No need to ask. Just don't use it for commercial purposes without asking.

I am one Australian photographer who agrees wholeheartedly with you about copyrighting tiny images. The proof of pudding are the images in my website (www.johnslaytor.com.au) which I would be delighted to share with you (the use of flash may deter the simplest of copyright thieves).

kind regards

John Slaytor

Lately I've been considering watermarking my images with my name and possibly my photoblog url. It's a way of spreading my name just in-case my image is used on another site. The only thing holding me back from doing it thus far has been how it completely ruins the image.

Feel free to link my images anytime :)

Not bothering says more about Random Excellence than bothering.

If you really care, then e-mail or call like so many other photo editors in the world.

I'm sure he/she would want to help you fill out your feature and would see the sense in it...

Unfortunately, too often people aren't only putting a copyright notice on it, but doing it big and bold, sometimes right over the center of the image even. And that ruins the image. I can't really tell if it was a good image before or not since I get distracted by the large embossed transparent text all over it. I certainly have no wish to copy it - or use it legally - for anything at all, I most likely have no wish to see it again in any form.

For a size of, say, 500 to 800 pixels on a side, there are just so many pictures of good quality - legally free, for you to take - on any conceivable subject that degrading your particular image of a tree in sunset in the name of protection just is rather pointless.

The value of an image does no longer rest in the image itself; the market is flooded, as it were, the cost of entry is near zero. You need something special, some value-add for your images to matter in any way. If you can catch a unique event, or can reliably present a particular subject in any number of particular ways on demand, or you have the training and ability to print, frame and present a whole body of work as a coherent, interesting set, then you may have something going. But just a picture of something isn't worth much anymore.

Completely agree with you, Mike! While I do include my Copyright info as a watermark on my images, these days I try to make it as unobtrusive as I can. I only include this in my images for people to be able to find me if someone emails them one of my images (I do not kid myself that this does not happen). If I did not include this, then they would have no way of finding out who the photographer is. That's it!

I've figured out some time ago that those who want to steal my images will do so whether I like it or not. If they really want that 800 pixel wide JPEG that badly, good luck to them! The rest of the population can contact me if they wish. :-)

I find that this approach has actually worked in my favor. Rather than antagonizing potential customers by disabling right click, etc, etc, I enable them to find me if they wish. So far, it's been working like a charm!

I'm not clear if you wanted to contact the owner of the image to ask permission to publish, or for an image files without the notice? In the absence of a notice, what would you have done?


Way back in photo 101, when we all printed in the school darkroom and collected our dried prints the next day out of a big bin, having your picture stolen was the best compliment you could get.

The only people I can think of that could get any real use out of an image that's 750 x 500 pixels would be web designers or game developers. The latter is still using textures that are 512, 256 and even 128 at times.

Mike, what type of permission does a blogger such as you need in order to link to someone's photo that is located (for example) in their Flickr stream? I presume that any photo tagged as "all rights reserved" is off limits, even for linking to -- or am I mistaken? Would some type of non-commercial creative commons licence do the trick? I'm sure many people would be pleased to see their photos linked to by your blog, but would not want their photos to be used commercially without permission.

This post came across as a bit harsh, I think. Especially that last line. I didn't mean it that way. People will do whatever they want to do, and it's possible that my take on it is from my own narrow selfish little viewpoint.

To answer Bob's question, without a copyright notice, I would have just taken the image and used it. The point is that it's a link, so it's really just leading back to the photographer's own site, which presumably exists to be seen. No one has complained yet about being linked from here--on the contrary, most people really appreciate the traffic it gives them. But if an image has a copyright notice on it or near it, then I'm not going to take it without asking first. And if I can't ask, then I can't use it at all.

I can never use images from PhotoSig, for example, because most say in the line directly underneath them that the image may not be used without permission. PhotoSig does provide a message service to the photographer, but unfortunately it's not forwarded to the person's email--it just goes into a mail bin in their PhotoSig account. So they have to check that to know that I'm trying to get in touch with them. Sometimes I've left messages for people that way and not gotten a reply for as long as 8 months, because people either don't check their accounts or don't know there's a mail feature. In any event, usually I need a response sooner than 8 months.

(See? That sounded harsh again. Sorry.)



I certainly don't mind getting a bit of extra traffic to my site and have never put a copyright notice over my pictures, that's why I have my website and blog, to get my work out there and be seen !


Dear Mike,

This connects to a conversation I and a friend had today, her griping about how many folks in the blog universe DON'T provide a ready way to email them. She grumpily guesses about half; I wouldn't know. Now me, I'd think anyone running a website that's supposed to interact with the public would want to provide easy contact info. But apparently that's not the case.

So lemme see, where's the email link on your site? I'm having trouble finding it...

pax / Ctein

"So lemme see, where's the email link on your site?"

It's in the right hand column, right under the lynx picture. It says "Email Me."


I hate to tell you this, but with or without the copyright notice, the image is copyrighted. (Prior to 1989, the law in the United States required a copyright notice, but since then copyright is automatic.) You infringe the photographer's copyright when you publish an image without permission. In most cases the photographer may not mind, but at some point this could come back and bite you where you don't want to be bitten.


Since you are using the photos on your blog to illustrate an article about the artist, doesn't that fall under the fair use provision of copyright law that allows use of copywrited work for the purpose of a critical writings that reference the copywrited image?

That said, if you wanted to use mine, they're not watermarked, and although they are all copywrited, I am happy to allow free publicity :)


I do have a copyright notice, not on the picture, but at the border just below. Even if my pictures are "worthless" in the sense that most people don't care about them, I still like to keep ownership of them. This is mostly important if someone use them to promote something I don't want to be associated with.

I still want photo sites and bloggers to be able to use my stuff, and I say that very explicitly in my copyright notice. So the essence is, photo sites and blogger are welcome without asking, others should send me an email first.

It depends - if you are working on the "artier" side of things, selling prints to collectors, copyright notices may do more harm than good. If you are looking at a more commercial market, its a different matter.

Don't forget, many companies and news services use the web as their primary form of communication/advertising - even in a small format, the "right" image has commercial value and probably needs protection.

Since there is no foolproof way of technically protecting an image, defacing it with a copyright notice is perhaps necessary if websites are a potential market.


You'd be surprised how many web designers use those small photos and make something out of them. I've had someone steal a banner image from one of my websites, removing the logo and replacing it with their own. With the amount of retouching needed it's amazing they even bothered to use it as the end result was absolutely appaling ;)

I've seen people steal preview shots (500x300) from Getty to use for all sorts of designs, not just web use. A friend had a wall covered with 10x15cm prints of 800x600px photos found online etc. There's plenty you can do with what you find online - if you don't mind the quality.

But I just don't care anymore...

Just one more thing... I've seen newspapers!! (tabloids) use photos found on a blog without ever mentioning the source. When confronted via email and phone the person responsible had the nerve to argue that everything posted online is free?!?!

Yes, it's true that all images have rights attached whether there's a notice that says so or not.

Yes, it's also true that virtually any use of any particular image that I might make on TOP falls under the Fair Use provision.

Further, almost no one would complain about being given free publicity.

Some people follow the PhotoSig model and add to the copyright notice some phrase such as "may not be used without permission." I take that to mean exactly what it says, and I respect it.

I also habitually entend the same consideration to images with explicit copyright notices on or near the image. While I'd probably be within my rights to use these images, and the authors would probably not complain, a posted copyright notice just seems to me to say "hands off." In that case, I ask if I can, and if I can't ask, err on the side of caution.

There's also a slightly different standard for different uses. "Random Excellence" is a feature of my site meant to decorate my page and appeal to and be attractive to viewers. I'm on shakier ground in terms of Fair Use than if I were illustrating a news article where the illustration adds something substantial to the editorial content of the article.

I published a magazine piece once on a deceased photographer. His estate was notoriously prickly about his pictures being used in magazines. I received legal advice that it would be safest to run his pictures relatively small (so they could not be construed as decorative) and to refer to each one explicitly in the article text. That way, it meets the strict standard of Fair Use and can't really be quarreled with. I think "Random Excellence" could be argued to be a decorative, non-editorial usage of the picture. So it just seems a little iffy to just grab an image from somewhere and use it without permission despite a posted copyright notice.

I may be wrong about this. It's just the way I've chosen to do things. I need to be practical, but also, since this is a photography site, it only makes sense to me to be respectful of photographers' wishes concerning their work insofar as possible.



Your post made me realize I too needed to put up a copyright notice on my site. After carefull consideration this is it:

"Feel free to use any of my pictures free of charge. If you need a bigger file just let me know and I'll email it to you. If you want a print, let me know how big and I'll mail it to you. It'll cost only as much as the ink, paper and stamp. I would like to know what you use my picture for and get credits for making it."

I feel this fits my stature in the photographers community and don't plan to change it unless Magnum demands it when they ask me to join.

Best, Nick

If they wanted you to be able to ask to use it they would leave their contact details. Big fat catch 22. And I guess the value of their image to you for blogging content purposes is directly proportional to how inconvenienced you are by finding good random excellence and then undergoing the emotional frustration of not being able to use it 'cos they've no contact details. Everything has a value even if there are "rather a lot of them on the World Wide Web".

"If you're worried enough about your little JPEGs to attach copytight notices to them, make sure you also put your contact information somewhere nearby"

Wow, that sounds more than a little bit bitter! I certainly agree with the part about including contact information, though. But in point of fact, that's the *reason* I put copyright information (and my web site's URL) on my on-line photos: So that when a photo is passed along from one friend to another, through a chain that takes it several steps away from my web site, the latest recipient knows where it came from and who to contact for prints and/or other usage rights.

A couple of other points:

1 - That "little" 750-pixel JPEG may be small, but it's plenty big enough for a thief to use on his web page.

2 - You do know, of course, that copyright itself is independent of copyright emblems and statements, and that lack of a copyright statement in no way affects your responsibilities as far as using the photo on your blog, right?

I put a copyright notice in the bottom left of the border of my web work, but I also put an email address on the bottom right corner.

There was a recent case where some women, was she from Iceland?, found her web material had been stolen by some upmarket London gallery and was being sold for something like $4000 a piece. So it's not impossible for people to steal things. Oh yeah here is a link to it:


So your low res Flickr shot can be ripped off.


That is really good information, Mike. The line between decorative and expository (?) is an interesting one and I wasn't aware of the difference w.r.t. fair use. It is only morning and I have already learned something today!

I think many photographers get hungry for sales and very nervous about people using their images without paying; they fail to realize that anyone who would go out of their way to use their small pic would also not pay in any case, and those who would use it honestly (like you) can only help. It is a shame. As to contact information; I am always amazed at how many fail to provide it, even then they are responding to something which explicitly requires it. I have seen offers for something free and almost inevitably see the followup posting that those who want it must provide their mailing details. I guess people figure they know who they are, everyone else must too...

There's no need for sarcasm!


I get a lot of image leaching off of my blog. All I really want is a little credit and a link back to the site. Most people don't do that, so I am starting to put my website on the photos. I don't like doing it, but the only other option is using a Flash based solution. How do others deal with this?


JPEGs may seem inconsequential, but in the internet media world, they are very important. Once you post a file online, you cannot assume that everyone who would like to use it will do the right thing and contact you, or link to you, or give you credit. Without a watermarked copyright and URL, you essentially lose all control and accreditation for that image.

I've had newspapers use my "little JPEGs" to illustrate articles, and "forget" to give me credit. I've had blogs copy and resize/crop my image files for their own site, instead of linking back to me. So for now, I will continue to put a watermark on all my online images. Overkill, maybe. But to not do it at all seems too risky.

I don't like copyright notices meself. If you're worried about others using your images on the web without crediting you, just be aware of the web. If you're worried about others printing your work, you should remember that anybody who's satisfied with a block inkjet printing of a jpeg isn't going to see value in laying out $70 for a fine art print -- and they won't be deterred by the copyright notice, either.

I offer anybody who visits my gallery a 720x720 image and a link to a 1280x1280 wallpaper. I don't have much that's worth viewing, but I'd like to think that if somebody likes an image enough to use it on their website or make it their background, that they'd contact me about it -- the way I contact photographers whose work inspires me.

I think watermarks are used most effectively for professional photographers to thwart very amateur thieves -- fr'example, folks trying to bypass buying prints of their event by picking the photos off a contact page.

Of course, this begs the question of why people feel it's worthwhile to bypass your services. Are your prints, though high quality, simple too expensive? Do they feel they're being hard sold? Does your business model require that you inconvenience your customers?

>>Yes, it's also true that virtually any use of any particular image that I might make on TOP falls under the Fair Use provision.<<

Maybe. Maybe not. Remember that Fair Use is simply a defense to a copyright infringement charge. If a photographer sued, the matter would have to be decided by a judge who would weigh your claim of fair use against other factors, such as the fact that you are selling ads on your website to generate income.

Of course, if you are simply linking to a particular photo rather than hosting it on your site's server, you have a much better case.

Mike (and all you fine TOP readers worldwide),
My own randomly excellent images (gathered in a dusty, far corner of the WWW) are displayed at a juicy 600 x 800 mouth-watering pixels, copyright is indicated at the bottom of each page (NOT on the images) and contact info is on each page. Am I making it easy enough? I try, Lord knows I try. And to celebrate this post, you are personally invited to visit my site, find an image (or two) that float your boat, and make me an offer. Be sure and mention TOP. (Mike, I'll let you know how this flies.) http://www.stephengillette.com/

Mike, wait till you get a free publicity that you do not want. One of my pictures was linked to some blog. Great, free publicity, I thought at first. Here is a small detail, the picture is a headshot of beautiful 14 years old girl and the blog is mostly about porn... It was easy to block this referral, but there is no solution to catch someone who download your pictures and upload them somewhere else.

Stephen Gillette,
I stole all your images. I sold them to a major fashion magazine for $15,000 each, and now I am escaping to Costa Rica.

I have changed my name, fingerprints, and literary style, and all that money paid for very convincing plastic surgery. I now look like a cross between Tom Selleck and Quentin Crisp. No one will ever find me, so don't even try.



--"The Artist Formerly Known as Mike"

That's serious, and I'm sorry that happened to you. I remember reading a story about a young girl who had one of her self portraits (at age 14) stolen and used as the cover of a porn video. That's serious too, and wrong in several ways.


Offline/Personal to Mike

Thanks, Mike! I needed a laugh...too funny. But Costa Rica? They have too many snakes down there...

---Steve Gillette

I totally agree with you, Mike. What a silly habit to protect something that, theoretically, is meant to COMMUNICATE with people. I personally am always happy when I know that somebody is decorating his/her computer's desktop with a jpg "stolen" from my website. This is what the Internet is meant (Walter Benjamin would agree to this). And I also know that this will not affect the sales of my fine art prints, which are not that easy to sell anyway.
Gianni Galassi - Rome - Italy

I'm with Joe, above. I license my images using a Creative Commons license. Hey, I want people to see my pictures! There is no watermark. The license says that you must provide attribution, which people are usually happy to do. And honestly, there's just not that much you can do with the 1024px images on my site and on flickr - print out a low quality 4x6, maybe?

Funny. I am using 750 pixel width for my photos, and I am displaying a copyright notice at the bottom of the photo, for two reasons, really:

1) To enable visitors to save the image and give them the chance to find the source easily later. Good for potential sales in the future.

2) To claim copyright while fighting against hotlinking morons (typically young folks who are not familiar with the copyright concept). Makes it easy to send DMCA notices to the host ("see the photos even carry MY copyright").

Both use cases have proven to be very valuable. (And yes, I have stopped tracking all the sites that are hotlinking my photos. I just go after the most blatant offenders these days.) I can only encourage any photographer to put copyright notices into the photo files they put on the web.

Well, there _is_ this meme that "everything online is free". I know a guy who posted his 3D art online only to find out that some scum used at least one of his illustrations for CD covers. The pictures were something like 800x600.

But what p*sses me right off is what somebody kinda suggested upthread - linking to an image. Leeching is one of the worst possible things on the Internet. So you not only want to use my photo/illustration/texture to prettify _your_ site without giving me any credit, but _I_ have to pay the bandwidth for you to do that? I don't think so.

I had found my stuff on several sites (after looking through the logs) without a single mention of my name, although there's was a nice and quite readable copyright notice _below_ the pic and there was a quite prominent Contact link at the bottom of the page. I instituted anti-leech measures after that. Furthermore, there's absolutely no way somebody can right-click on a pic now and copy the url, even with the anti-leech protection on. No, I don't use some lame Javascript. (The fact that the site is not even in alpha is beside the point. :-))

Mike, you're an honest guy. But I do understand that Australian.

I've been tinkering with the idea of a way to at least place a modest copyright notice on the images I have on my blog and website, however the problem always remains in whether that one line of text interferes with the picture itself. I don't sell my works, although thats something which does intrigue me. My only concern is that someone would try and claim my work as their own, which is probably unlikely. Either way, it's just a concern and I think the creative commons license that I've tried is a decent idea. Protecting intellectual property online is not a simple task anymore.

So why won't you use the picture if it has a copyright notice attached to it? is the picture worthwhile using without the copyright and somehow not worthwhile with? Same picture is it not? Conveys the same meaning to your article or story? Just as relevant to the topic your illustrating?

Why does everything think that if something is on the internet, it must be free for all to use?

There's a very good reason why I watermark my images quite visibly - and even across the middle of the image. I've suffered from image theft.

I've had bands, who have earned much more than I ever have, use my images on their website for promotion.
It is a nice feeling when a band like your work so much they want to use it.. it's not so nice when a fan steals the work from your website, cuts off your copyright notice from the edge of the image and then submits it as their own work to the band for them to use to decorate their website for other fans. That's value added content for the band, and I'm not see any value for the work I put into taking the photos.

The other thing to remember is that newspapers don't need huge numbers of pixels to fill their pages. Most newspapers request images of around 7mb uncrompressed - that's somewhere in the region of 1200px on the longest side.. and that will give you quite a decent 1/4 page image. 750px will be sufficient for a couple of columns.
If my image doesn't have any watermark or copyright notice across it, how am I to know if it's going to end up being used in newspapers across the world?

Of course, I'm not going to know if my images are being used WITH their watermarks, but at least other people will know, and that's enough to deter most image thieves.

I don't need publicity for my photos - want to link to them? Great.. but think it's doing me any favours? No it's not. I do not earn a living from people looking at my photos and going "Ooh, that's a nice one".

I need hard cash, and for that, I need to be paid when my images are used.

I saw one of my photos lifted from a newspaper's website once and used on a Canadian rockmusic website. The original image had no watermark on it, it was only thumbnail sized, but was next to a copyright notice where it was lifted from.

I objected to this. I'd licensed that image to the newspaper for them to use in print and on their website, and they paid a fee for that usage. This rockmusic website comes along and decides to use the image AND the content of the review for their own website, without paying me, or the newspaper.

The website is generating money by sponsored adverts splatted all over the page.. that revenue increases every time someone googles for the name of the rock star involved (who happened to be all over the press at the time). Why should my work, and that of the newspaper, be earning money for this website owner who'se only effort was to cut and paste the work from someone else? Fair use? Bollocks. It's theft. I deserve a share of that advertising revenue or they should pay the license fee to use the image with permission.

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