In my world, copyright's purpose is to encourage the widest participation in culture that we can manage – that is, it should be a system that encourages the most diverse set of creators, creating the most diverse set of works, to reach the most diverse audiences as is practical.- cory doctorow
The above quote got me thinking about copyright, people stealing my designs, and the wide open world of the internet. Last weekend, most of you may have missed it, as I failed to announce it, I opened my entire flickr stream up to Creative Commons(CC), Attribution, non-Commercial. I had the setting previously to All Rights Reserved. I read this article with the above quote this AM, about a week after making the decision to go creative commons with my photos. I've also made the difficult decision to set my blog, back to the first entry on blogspot to the same creative commons as the flickr set.
This has been something I've been mulling over for months. I see the internet and thus my blog and photos as communication. I've always seen the important part of them is as a tool of communication. By setting my flickr to "all rights reserved" I forced people to ask permission before blogging one of my photos, or worse yet, forcing them to make the choice between asking permission and just not blogging one of my images. Over the last year I've seen how foolhardy that is, first hand.
Over the last year I've featured a lot of artists here on my blog from flickr. I've been forced into the same choice I've forced people into- ask permission or not blog. I'm ashamed to say, I've made the choice to NOT blog more times than I can count. I started out with the whole idea of the feature from flickr to showcase some of the work that makes my heart pitter patter, things that bring both enjoyment and inspiration into my life. When you go "all rights reserved" the viewer entranced with your image is forced to ask you permission to post your images. Flickr takes away the easy access. I'm forced to go from the awe and inspiration phase into thinking about business before I hit "post." Instead I hit "send flickr mail" and type up a quick email asking permission. More often than not I get no response. So after sending several hundred "Hey can I post your pic?" emails I quit.
I quit because a blogger asking an artist's permission to use their art- with attribution and a link back to the original image with a paragraph about WHY the blogger loved the image wasn't enough to get a response from most people. I have my flickr mail set up to send me an email. I can read the email and decide if I want to respond with a yes or no. I'm willing to bet from the utter lack of response I've gotten when I asked permission that most people don't have that set up. Or people just didn't care about getting their work posted on someone's blog.(Even with hundreds of readers a day!)
The real question is why would any artist want to shut down an avenue for more people to hear about and see their work? The more eyes on your work= the more potential sales. The more people talk= the more sales. To me allowing people to easily blog my images is a win-win situation. They write about my work and people see it= win. If someone wanted to use my images to illustrate a blog post, they can easily do that, all they need to do is link back to either my blog or the original image in flickr. Again, I see this as a winning situation.
Recently one of my favorite artists went from easy access sharing to no access. I was looking through her flickr stream and found a whole host of images I was considering posting with a week devoted to her work. When I went to set up the posts, I was shut down. I was no longer able to use the flickr "post to blog" option, nor was I able to use the "embed image" option. The artist had shut down all options to share her work with others. I was and remain baffled. This is an artist who has had several shows of her work and is well establish and until 3 weeks ago, allowed open sharing of her images, with attribution as long as there was attribution, which I had always given. I have to wonder why someone would do something like that.
On one of Hazel Dooney's recent FB updates I wrote that I felt people should have more access to artists and their work. CC is one way to do that.
Of course, there are always people who are going to steal your stuff. It's the nature of people, the internet, and commerce. Like it or not we're in a commercial business (like it or not art, writing, and images are commodities) and we have a choice- let people steal or take control of our commodities and sell to people what people steal from us. I, for one, am tired of people stealing my designs. So, I will continue to make and design my stuff but I'm going to open a lot of it up to the CC and see what happens. Make anything I create for yourself but start to sell and we'll see what happens. This isn't tricky legal territory. You can read all about the CC here and educate yourself in it, it's less complicated than you think. It also puts the screws to the people who would take your hard work and rip you off.
I tweeted that I was frustrated that people had essentially stolen my pen slip design and were offing the product at a premium price. I'll be honest it's frustrating to use my creativity and come up with an idea that is immediately ripped off. Eventually I gave up on making the pen slips I'd been handcrafting in my basement, individually with care and attention to each one. I gave up becuase I felt I couldn't compete. I see now exactly how misguided I was by giving up. People will always buy the original from the original. There lies my big mistake. Should I start up on production again, it won't seem like I'm the original, no I'll seem like a copy cat, though I've got images in my flickr pool dating to way back in 2006. Giving up was the worst idea I've ever had. I've been kicking myself about it every day.
When I realized that I was doing the exact same thing I hated on flickr, I knew I had something to fix. I looked through flickr and figured out how to make the change and made the best CC licensing choice for me. Should you want to use one of my images in a commercial manner, email me. We can talk, but if you want to feature me on your blog, that's easy, now! Use the flickr share option and share away!