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Open Thread: When artistic license isn't... - EBSQ: Art Meets Blog
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wickedgillie
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wickedgillie
Open Thread: When artistic license isn't...
Those of you who know me know that I'm not just an artist; I'm also a huge tech geek. And so it's with great interest (and concern) that I've been watching the most recent internet kerfuffle at the convergence of my two areas of interest.  You may not be aware of the latest viral video that is the darling of the same tech community it parodies, "Look, It's Another Bubble" by The Richter Scales. At the heart of this controversy is a photographer, Lane Hartwell,  who found out that yet another one of her photographs was used without her permission in this beloved video. Like many of you might have been in her place, she was pissed that her copyrighted work was used both without permission or attribution.

Yes, it was a good video. I personally passed it around to a lot of like-minded friends before this whole thing blew up. And I can understand that people who enjoyed this video are mad at the photographer for not just giving her blessing after the fact and spoiling everyone's fun. But now this woman is being called, among other things, "a whiny bitch" for protecting her copyright and being a spoil sport, and some claim she's impeding on The Richter Scales rights to use the piece in question because the end result is a parody. People have made fun of  the quality of her work, and the quality of her character, saying she's money grubbing and wants a piece of the viral pie, or is taking advantage of all of the publicity she's receiving for having this video taken down all over the net while she works things out with the other party. It's personally disheartening to see an artist villified by a community of which I am normally proud to be a part. 

So let me put this to you: if this was your photograph being used in this video, how would you react? Would you be thrilled to have your work (sans attribution) appear in a video gone viral? Or would you, like Lane, be pissed that your rights were being infringed upon and try to do something about it? Was the usage of Lane's photograph fair use, much as parts and pieces are used in a collage, for example?

For further context:

From the photographer in question: http://flickr.com/photos/fetching/2090802706/
From the infringing party: http://www.richterscales.com/blog/
A representative post from the tech community: http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/15/misunderstanding-copyright-law-and-ruining-everyones-fun/

We greatly welcome you thoughts on this issue. And if copyright issues are important to you, please pass this on!
 

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Comments
blu_moo From: blu_moo Date: December 16th, 2007 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am not really sure how I would react but I do know that I have a problem with the mindset that she should just let it go so she doesn't ruin the good time for others. If you went to a store and took things for a party w/o paying for them, would anyone say to the store owner "let it go - you will ruin the good time for everyone here at the party" if he called the authorities?

You don't simply take things that aren't yours just because you want them.
wickedgillie From: wickedgillie Date: December 16th, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
You don't simply take things that aren't yours just because you want them.

Amen on that!
bromley2 From: bromley2 Date: December 16th, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Not right

Just plain not right. I don't know what I would do, but it would be pretty much the same as what she is doing. It is a sad commentary on our world that she is vilified when the thief seems to be supported. To take and use a picture that is not yours is plain theft. It shouldn't be up to her to have to defend herself.

Carolyn
wickedgillie From: wickedgillie Date: December 16th, 2007 09:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Not right

It's sad commentary indeed.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 16th, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
from scanning those links I get a few impressions...that maybe the photographer would have at least appreciated being told ahead of time her work was going to be used, "fair use" or not...
the fact that credit was being given to everyone else but her would have pissed me off too....a simple apology might even have been enough...
so why are they all up in arms over this? Just re do it with another photo and shut up

wickedgillie From: wickedgillie Date: December 16th, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
For all we know, she would have granted permission, had they actually asked her first. And if not, they could have found any number of other photos under creative commons license that would have been equally fitting.

And one point that hasn't been brought up--Lane isn't the sole artist whose work was used without attribution here. So far as I can tell, the Richter Scales didn't ask anyone first.
From: toucanne Date: December 17th, 2007 01:38 am (UTC) (Link)
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<<the fact that credit was being given to everyone else but her would have pissed me off too....>>
Yes, THAT would have pissed me off.
But after reading her ther stuff i doubt she would have granted permission. She comes across as green and fearful to me.
From: heidehibbard Date: December 16th, 2007 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you take a pen from a friends house are you any less a thief than if you take a plate, if you take a plate are you any less a thief than if you take a pan, if you take a pan are you any less a theif than if you take their microwave, if you take a microwave are you any less a thief than if you take their flat screen television?

Stealing is stealing there is no justification for taking something that doesn't belong to you no matter the size of the thing you take. If you do not ask permission and give credit you are stealing.

wickedgillie From: wickedgillie Date: December 16th, 2007 10:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fantastic analogy, Heide. Of course, people do like to make this into an issue of degrees, where stealing a pen is somehow morally and ethically less than stealing your flat screen. And I do think that's why people have tried to turn this into a quality issue. People have made fun of Lane's work in particular and photography in general as something any monkey can do. Doesn't change the fact that even if my toddler took a picture, I posted it on flickr, and it got used without her permission, my toddler's less-than-stellar end results are still copyright protected and not free to use.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 16th, 2007 11:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is becoming very common lately - people copy/use another's work without credit to the orginator of that work. This is morally and legally wrong. I am with Lane Hartwell on this one. She is not the villain she is the injured and exploited party!!!!!
From: toucanne Date: December 17th, 2007 01:34 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sorry, but I'm not liking either of the parties very much here.
It's also difficult to judge when you can't see the video in question (pardon my ignorance, Amie, but what is a viral video? I suppose I could look it up...) or any of Lane's work.

It is obviously not OK for people to blithely appropriate any image they find on the internet. I'm sure these guys thought anyone would be flattered to have their work stolen for use their video; they probably regard their own work as freaking genius. Jeez, what arrogance.

Reading the photographer's blog, it is nothing but whines about one thing or another. I also have little patience with someone who calls herself a professional but takes people's photos at concerts without asking their permission, much less a model release and acts all offended when they want a copy.
wickedgillie From: wickedgillie Date: December 17th, 2007 02:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Think of a "viral" video as a communicable disease, like the common cold. Or like that one hair commercial from the 70's (Suave perhaps?), where you tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on and so on until everyone and their brother has seen it, all without an organized marketing effort.

And while the photographer is not without faults(who in this world is, lol), she doesn't have to be likable for this to be an infringement upon her rights. You're right, she probably would have said no had they asked her. But The Richter Scales never even gave her the right of refusal. But that being said, I do think people finding the artist abrasive coupled with people liking the end result of the copyright infringement are seriously colouring this issue. People are losing sight of the fact that her work was used without permission or attribution, and that's just not cool.
From: toucanne Date: December 17th, 2007 03:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the definition! I guess all those forwarded emails everyone gets would qualify as viral too, LOL.
You're absolutely right of course. The likeability or not of the photographer has nothing to do with the fact that her rights were trampled on. However, it doesn't help her case any. And the video was fun, which makes it harder for people to sympathize, as well. But yeah, bottom line, this should not happen.
From: dawnt Date: December 17th, 2007 04:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
An aspect of copyright law that may be being missed here is that if you DON'T protect your copyrights now, you CAN'T protect them in the future. If you let little things go, you have in essence, implied that your work is open to fair use without permission. This is why large companies so stringently protect their property....even from "little guys".

The photographer is not in the wrong here, and the offending site most certainly should have known better. It would have been a simple matter to attain permission to use the images and/or credit them.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 17th, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

I guess you can call me a whiny bitch too

I don't blame her at all for wanting to claim back her work. I'm a struggling fiction writer. I've been attempting to make money at this for about 20 years without any luck. I self-published a couple of novels, got good response from readers, still do for the free novel I have on my website. But agents and publishers will not even read my work. Fortunately I was able to make a living as a technical writer.

I recently got back into writing poetry. I posted some of my poems on a blog. One morning I got an email from someone who'd seen my work plagiarized at a band's fan site. Not just one, but 8 poems posted under someone else's user name with no mention of me or that they weren't that person's work. In fact they claimed they'd written them. Fortunately the site owner promptly removed them as soon as I notified him. But this isn't funny if you've been working for a long time at something and haven't even had a token reward for your efforts. I chose to put my work up for free, but that didn't mean I was relinquishing rights to it. No matter how talented or untalented anyone is, their work is their life force, their life's breath infused into something they care about. If that doesn't mean anything to people then it's no wonder kids go berserk and shoot up schools. Look at what they're shown by us adults. That people are worthless, everyone's work is worthless and up for grabs? That's how I've been made to feel for 20 years, and I'm bitter about it. So call me a whiny bitch if you want, but I think anyone who's called this woman a whiny bitch over her photographs should turn those words on themselves. If they enjoyed that video, then they owe her for that, and they're whiny bitches for complaining and not showing her some respect.

On the other side of the issue, I understand that the web makes it easy to download others' work to enjoy. I use a laptop offline, and have copied things to it to study at my leisure. But I'm very meticulous to separate others' work from my own work, don't make any attempt to pass it off as mine or make money off it, and I do my best to remember where I found it and whose it is.

Maybe people need to improve their organizing skills while browsing.

I also think anyone who graduates from high school should have some knowledge of what constitutes copyright violation, and what plagiarism is. They didn't teach that when I was in school. I had to learn it on my own as a fledgling writer. If we don't teach kids what intellectual property is, we can't expect them to respect it.

B.K.
kris_jean From: kris_jean Date: December 17th, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

well...

Those that embrace the community, and give back to it not only allowing but asking for their work to be mashed up, re-used and otherwise embraced are being rewarded with attention. At the core is a basic implicit understanding - if you want to be part of the community, you have to give back to it, too.

From Michael Arrington, in the last link provided.

I think that sums it up right there.

It doesn't have anything to do with giving back to the community. 9 times out of 10 people are not asked. It's taken by the community or other venues.

There is a difference between give and take.

So I should be grateful for the attention? Because someone stole something from me? Used it in a manner that I may not of wanted my creation even associated with?

I think it boils down to lack of respect for the artform. With the negative connotation that "Anyone can pick up a camera and snap a photo" or "who cares it's only a photo". (With the people who are calling her a "whiney bitch")

Honestly - I'm proud of her for stepin' up, amongst all the negativity. If people like her don't; the next person who does it (or it happens to) will think it's ok or normal. And it's not.
From: lamiller63 Date: December 17th, 2007 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
After much thought on this subject, I have to agree with everyone here. Don't take it, it's not yours. Period.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 17th, 2007 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Another Bubble

I think what the people who are upset with L. Hartwell are neglecting to understand is that Richter Scales were stealing her means of living. One person on Vallwag posted, "Don't get me wrong -- making money from the Internet is great. But sometimes I miss the old days when nobody gave a shit." I don't believe there ever was a day when you could enter any business and take someone else's pay check without the checkless victim becoming upset. Taking credit in this case is the same as taking money from her pocket. She does photography for a living, it is very serious. However people are viewing the Richter scales as having done something as innocuous as retold an old joke or anecdote.

Lisa Whittaker
From: heidehibbard Date: December 17th, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I get more irked the more I think about it. Speaking up for yourself is something that takes courage. Trying to silence someone by attacking their character or skill,,,especially by a group of people is bullying and cowardly. I detest bullies.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 18th, 2007 06:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Artistic License...

I agree, Lane has the right to and should protect her art and her lively hood. What form or media it is and what some people think of the quality really doesn't matter at all, bottom line is art is subjective to begin with, and her art belongs to her in any case. Lane isn't just standing up for herself but for every other artist on the net who can fall victim to cyber thieves.
wicked_dollz From: wicked_dollz Date: December 19th, 2007 10:47 am (UTC) (Link)
No one should be bullied for standing up for their rights.
I think The Richter Scales, made a mistake of doing something because they could but not thinking about if the SHOULD. Although I did think their blog was pretty contrite about having done it once they realized that they had overstepped the boundaries.

Sadly if you truly do not want your work used out there without permission, it comes down to not putting it on the web. Which is of course the other edge of the sword, because if you don't have a web presence you don't get seen.

I believe it has to do with this sense of privileged people have. The feeling they just have the RIGHT to have what they want, and why the hell should the world try and stop them.
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