McGuinness on…the (copy)righteous ones

Posted on February 18, 2011


Think of your homework. So you’ve Googled a point, you’ve taken the best-fitting answers to the question you are faced with from the websites that you’ve found. You’ve probably referenced them, because it’s that sort of an essay. But did you ask the writers’ permission to use their information?

Top search for Google Image 'bikini model' - would anyone think to ask permission to use the picture? Who needs to be consulted?

That’s part of the reason that I don’t really understand copyright in online production. If the content would be found anyway through an ordinary Google search, then other than reference the source, where’s the harm in putting it on a website? Especially when you’re not in it for profit or any particular political stance, such as our group with the Elements website that we are producing for our course.

It may go some way to providing an online CV for us, but there is no untoward intention, no malice or vendetta aimed at purposefully creating professional misconduct. So I have been incredibly lazy in asking permission to reproduce pictures that I have found whilst Googling around the web.

The case for tourist attractions

How many of us, when taking a picture on our cameras, ask permission of the owners of landmarks, sites where many photos are taken, to do so? Yet there is a high chance that breaks a similar sort of boundary. Which of course is nonsense, as that’s part of the reason these things are landmarks.

None of us asked permission to take the photo including the Palace of Westminster. It appears on Facebook. Are we breaking copyright?

That’s not necessarily a good argument, but there is method in the flawed madness of this latest diatribe.

The case for imitation

If I thought that I had anything worth putting up on the internet (and I really question myself at times), I would be happy for others to reproduce or reuse it; what better way of saying, ‘this is awesome’ than having my stuff stolen. Imitation is the finest form of flattery.

The case for the employee

It’s not my living. That’s where this standing falls down. But then, if something was your living and you put it on the world wide web for all to see, surely you’ve got to build in some damage clauses? You won’t lose earnings, right? People will still be linked back to the original and hopefully want to see more of your art.

The case for the media-type

This applies more to pictures, sounds and music, I feel, than content. Anyone can write drivel online (this is very much a case in point), and it’s nigh-on impossible to trace the perpetrators of such ‘flattery’.

‘Charlie bit my finger’ is one of the most commonly viewed clips online – but do people always seek permission to replay it? Will reproducing it here really make much difference? Will it lose out on royalties? Will I be breaking the law? Would posting a hyperlink to it from any site, let alone one with questionable content, be against the rules (Think about the ‘risk’ attached to being found to have been linked to by a pornography site – heaven forbid!)? After all, as a course-mate puts it, isn’t all this just reinforcing the echo chamber of online content and getting lost in the mire?

But why should pictures be any different. I need this explained to me again.