A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if I knew about the copyright of my website pictures on my website. "Yeah," I said, "I pick them off Google Images."
My friend, a professional with her own established web business wasn't very impressed. "You do know that's stealing?"
Stealing? Well no, actually I didn't. I thought it was a bit naughty, a bit lazy perhaps, but I'd brushed it off with the comfort that a) everyone does it b) nobody really minds and c) nobody will find out. (I've told you before that the Degu Witch isn't very technologically minded!)
"Stealing," she said firmly. "And its very frowned upon in the web industry..."
News to the Degu Witch but I went through my site, removed all the original art work and illustrations that were not mine and emailed the artists asking for permission to use the ones I really liked.
A couple of weeks later, she asked me again. "Yep," I said brightly, "All the drawings are gone."
She gave me a bit of a look. "Just the drawings, what about the photos?"
Personally I didn't think there was a great deal of effort in a bit of point and click. I mean its not like spending hours doing an oil painting. And I said as much.
Ooooh she put me straight - the costs involved, the lighting complexities, the difficulty in finding premises and reputable photographers.... Not quite the easy snapping action I thought it was. Grudgingly I had to acknowledge that a lot of effort went into these pictures that I was merrily picking off Google....
But the Degu Witch is a lazy wotsit and still did little about it other than feel a bit guilty.
"You still haven't done it, have you?"
"Ummm, No. I found those free sites hard to use..."
"What you mean is you're too lazy to try?"
(Pretty much....But how did she KNOW that???)
"Not at all, I just find all this creative commons and public domain thing a bit of a headache..."
"Ok, well enjoy the bills for the royalties when they turn up on your doorstep!!"
Her words worried me a bit, after all she is much more knowledgable about media laws than I am so I thought I'd better just check out the legality of what I was doing and I had a quick look on the internet. Turns out I wasn't just being a bit naughty, I was potentially breaking the law and could be fined thousands of pounds and made to pay huge royalties for any images I don't own.
Aaaaargh! Not only was I unwittingly heading toward a criminal career I was also doing it on a site dedicated to religion and one where I give advice and support to young people. Not exactly the message I want to promote - steal for gain!
So I went through my site with a fine toothcomb. I checked every single image was either my own, public domain, allowed to be used if artist credited or used with specific permission from the artist themself. Big job. Boring job. Kind of served me right for being a berk though.
Anyway, its done now. And I'm fairly confident that I've done a thorough enough job to make my site 100% within the law. And funnily enough, once I worked out the whole creative commons thing I actually found some even better images so I'm really pleased with how the whole thing turned out.
And the other positive thing is that now I'm a bit more limited in the range of images I can access, its spurred me on to be a bit more creative and create my own. So I've dusted off my camera and I'll be taking a lot of my own photos in future which will please my husband no end as we'll be out for lots of walks together.
So - one witch well and truly back on the straight and narrow and with a new hobby to boot!