Copyright: Part Deux

After my post on copyright last week, a few people wrote to me privately to say that, in the interest of making their blogs purty -- or even just to illustrate a piece -- they'd often lifted stuff without permission.

Quite often such lifting goes on almost without a middle man. That is to say, the person "borrowing" from a news agency for their blogs won't bother with downloading the image to their own computer, futzing with it and re-uploading. Rather, they create a link directly from the image on a different Web site and, when the image displays on their blog, it's actually being served by the outfit it was taken from in the first place.

The first time this happened to January Magazine -- and I'm talking years and years and years ago -- I was mad. Someone was using January's resources in order to steal
January's resources, if you follow. Then I realized: since our server was delivering the image, we still controlled it. Which meant we could change or do whatever we liked to it.

Over the years, we've had some fun with that. Including one image stolen by a right wing Christian group that we recreated in devilish ways.

Basically, what we do is this: we rename the file as it exists on
January and change our code to reflect that change. Then we create whatever we want to appear on the outside Web site that's using our image, and save it to our server with the same name as the original file. Instantly our new file starts appearing on that outside Web site, as though we'd placed it there ourselves. Since mostly, by the time we notice such a thing, the file in question is in archives, our bit of fun quite often doesn't get spotted for a long, long time. Or forever.

Here's a fun example. About a year ago,
January's server logs showed me that radio personality and political hopeful Christopher Lydon had "borrowed" an image we'd run on January for his blog. It wasn't an image we owned. It was the cover of a book we'd reviewed and it was prepped in a distinctly January way: at an angle, with a shadow, etc. It was a prep I'd done myself.

Had it been an image
January owned, we would have gone after him. As it was, he wasn't stealing, but was using our resources to service his readership. As far as I know, that's not against the law. Yet. But it does place the person doing it at risk. Here's how: I replaced the cover of the Joe DiMaggio biography Lydon was referencing with the cover of my own novel, Mad Money. I just checked, and -- as I write this, anyway, it's still there: if you want to see it, scroll down the page about halfway, or have your browser find "Joe DiMaggio" on that page and then look for the happy yellow and black cover on the left-hand side.

Did I sell any books? I doubt it, but that wasn't the point. Thousands of people have seen the image on that page. (I know because -- remember? -- I see the server logs.) More importantly, it has amused me greatly over the last year or so since we did this, as have the score or so of other similar incidents we've intercepted and re-directed over the years.


ah touche....sneaky, I lift but only to promote someones book.
Sandra Ruttan said…
Very sneaky! I'll quote a source with a link, just like in an essay, but I've never pulled a feed like that.

Of course, it works all ways, even down to a name. A friend told me she blogs about me because people come to her blog off google searching for 'Sandra Ruttan'.

I feel so violated...

(Seriously, I just find that funny.)
It's possible I didn't explain the whole thing well enough. I'll try again: the image in question is on my server and, though it's referenced on someone else's site or blog, the image is still on my server. There is no link to the site that is serving the image.

Is that more clear?
Sandra Ruttan said…
I understand - it was I who phrased it poorly!
Oh... no, no, no... it was I who phrased things less than perfectly...

Wait. We'd better stop. Two Canadians fighting over who was more wrong? There's no telling where it'll all end up!
Sandra Ruttan said…
It'll get side-tracked into a French-English debate, so you're right - likely best to stop now!
Well actually we're all Canadians so we will have to go on apologizing ad nauseam.

That's the nauseam you have after too many Canadian Tire Ad's:)

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