Good Images Speak a Thousand Words – But Is It Legal?

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From: Olly18 – Depositphotos.com

From: Olly18 – Depositphotos.com

Two things I learned about posting articles — good content, and killer images.  Something about that picture tells a story, has me spending almost as much time searching for the right image as I do writing the article itself.  Professional blog mavens claim an article graphic more than doubles site visitation, and acts as a lure to get visitors to stop and actually read the article. No shortage of great material on the internet’s cyclopean browser engine, finding good blog photos or illustrations can be a blessing of convenience or a pitfall of copyright infringement.

It is not a new subject, and author/bloggers have posted many a cautionary tale, but too many folks today, especially newbies starting out in the blogosphere, still think that if something is on the internet, it’s public and free to use. I recently helped a fellow author post an article, which had a “great photo” from Google Images, no additional attributes provided.  I could tell by the photo type, it was a canned stock photo from a royalty-free site (which doesn’t mean it’s free).  My friend couldn’t remember which Google page it originated, and in the interest of avoiding possible copyright infringement, I offered a royalty-free selection of “similar” shots from a site I use, for only two bucks.  My friend can buy me a donut some day.

Posting random photos on the internet happens every nanosecond, so what’s the big deal?  Isn’t a disclaimer and/or attribute with “Found on Google Images” good enough.  Not like we’re trying to take credit for someone else’s work.  Here’s a recent story posted in January by Roni Loren, Blogger Beware: You Can Get Sued For Using Photos You Don’t Own on Your Blog.

On one random post, I grabbed one random picture off Google and then a few weeks later I got contacted by the photographer who owned that photo. He sent me a takedown notice, which I responded to immediately because I felt awful that I had unknowingly used a copyrighted pic. The pic was down within minutes. But that wasn’t going to cut it. He wanted compensation for the pic. A significant chunk of money that I couldn’t afford. I’m not going to go into the details but know that it was a lot of stress, lawyers had to get involved, and I had to pay money that I didn’t have for a use of a photo I didn’t need.

I have my own story. During the early months of my newly launched blog page a few years ago, I used a “great photo” from Google Images, with no second thoughts as to if I should, or could, use it on an article.  It wasn’t even the header graphic, but a smaller 3D art thumbnail at the end of the post.  A couple weeks later, I got one of those “Dear DT” emails from the artist who created it. He graciously forgave my indiscretion, provided I properly attribute it to his artist website.  Dodged a bullet. Color me lucky.  I now mostly use graphic art and stock photos from royalty-free sites for the price of a couple donuts.

Taking your own pictures is sure-fire way to avoid copyright issues, but if your photographic library is stocked with mostly selfies and video-grabs of the neighbor’s cat, you’ll have to consider alternate resources.

But canned photo stock is so “corporate-ish”.  True, most sites are geared to service business clients, but I’ve found surprising exceptions on the site I use, Depositphotos, and there are many other sites like it (See references below).

But those free creative commons sites all carry the same overused images.  I’ve learned to sift multiple sites to find what I’m looking for, but it does take time.

But no one’s going to care, it’s just a stupid blog. Then it probably is.

But I really like this “great photo” I found on Pinterest.  I’m a huge fan of Pinterest, but I tend to avoid using Pinterest pins. The rare times I have, I ensure it isn’t copyrighted material (need to follow the rabbit holes), and link the pic directly to the original pinner.

From: mactrunk – Depositphotos.com

From: mactrunk – Depositphotos.com

Want to know a secret?  If you’re patient (key word here), and willing to search out the artist/photographer, you’ll be surprised how many of them are willing to give permission to post their work, provided it’s properly attributed and linked to their site.

When I created my blog site, Searching for Light in the Darkness, I spent days looking for the perfect image to represent my brand theme.  Pinterest hadn’t become popular yet, I didn’t know about stock photo sites, and Google was the only playground in sight. Found a lot of material, but most linked me to dead-end rabbit holes. Then I stumbled on photographer Lori Nix, who photographs her own elaborate dioramic settings.  On a whim (and a bit of ferreting through a labyrinth of internet links), I found her contact info, and ultimately secured permission to use her dioramic, dilapidated library with a tree stretching toward the roof for better light. I included a short description of “The Library” in my profile, with links to Lori’s site, and highlighted her unique artistic journey in a blog titled, Lori Nix – My 8X10 Life, based on an article written by her partner, Kathleen Gerber. On my new about.me social media profile, The Library has attracted over 50,000 views year to date, and dozens of complements.

The Library – Lori Nix

The Library – Lori Nix

Sometimes a photo or illustration itself will spark an article. Such was the case with my article, To Be Human, Or Not To Be.  Rudy Faber’s “Robot in Love“, sent my muse into hyper-drive, but Faber’s 3D illustration had been pinned and re-pinned by dozens of like-minded admirers from one blogger site to another, with no clue where the graphic originated. Just finding the artist’s name required herculean web sleuthing. I located Faber’s work on DeviantArt (another favorite haunt), which led to his site, which led to his Facebook page, which led to his contact address, and eventual permission to post his art.  It took a couple weeks of waiting. Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  The article generated twice the average views, and I hope more traffic to Faber’s gallery.

Robot in Love – Rudy Faber

Robot in Love – Rudy Faber

If you’re still hemming and hawing on the need for legal attribution, just imagine yourself an artist who put hours, days, maybe weeks, into creating that perfect picture or illustration. Imagine seeing your work headlining an article with nary a mention of who created that perfect image. I’d be pissed.  So would you, I’ll venture. Writers, especially Indie authors, are very familiar with the potential for piracy.  Same goes for photographers, graphic artists, and illustrators.

I’ve provided a few recent articles below on the subject from writers who offer some good advice, and links to many sites offering free and low cost royalty-free stock.  Blogging Jedi, Kristen Lamb, has free photo sharing at WANA Commons site with hundreds of members. And if you stumble on that perfect image that’s not available on stock photo sites, take the time to find the artist and just ask. We’re all artists looking for a little exposure … and not find ourselves staring into the evil eye of copyright infringement.

From: theblackrhino – Depositphotos.com

From: theblackrhino – Depositphotos.com

If you have a favorite site for finding blog images, share it with us in the comments section.

If you like this article, show the love and “like” it back.  If you like reading my stuff, be sure to sign up for an email notice of new articles.

Articles of interest about using images for blogs.

Blogger Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Photos You Don’t Own on Your Blog

How To Stay Legal Posting Pictures While Blogging

How to Find Royalty Free Images for Your WordPress Blog Posts

18 Resources For Finding Stunning Images For Your Content

Creating Images for Your Blog the Right Way [Using Canva]

Ultimate Guide to Finding, Customizing, & Using Free Images for Blogs

Star Spangled Memories

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Photo: DT Krippene

Photo: DT Krippene

Fourth of July will always be the bandstand of summer for me.   Men burn meat over an open fire, beer flows like the Mississippi in spring, pools slosh with white caps, hotdogs become an endangered species, ice cream puddles in vats, and fireworks cloud the sky with enough phosphoric haze to create its own weather pattern.  Doesn’t get any better than that.

Memorable fourths fill a dozen photo albums in our family.  The kids spent most of their summers at grandpa’s place, where the mossy scent of lake water and drone of motorboats still bring a smile.  Grandpa used to start July 4 by lighting a string of black cat firecrackers by our bedroom window.  Clothing for the day had to include red, white and blue.  Children vied for the honor of carrying the flag in the annual parade between the houses, all to John Phillip Sousa blasting from the house of a retired neighbor.  The parade ended at a flagpole, where the kids recited the Pledge of Allegiance and gave thanks to the men and women of the armed forces who help us keep the freedoms we enjoy.

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My Big, Fat Mediaphile Life

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From: Bicubic - DepositPhotos.com

From: Bicubic – DepositPhotos.com

Are you a media-phile?  I’ll bet you are and don’t even know it.  What’s a “mediaphile”? Someone who has the same excitement for pop culture media as a bibliophile has for books.  No, it’s not just TV stuff like America Has Talent or Game of Thrones, it’s all the “screen” time we spend on TVs, smart phones, audio streaming, gaming, and social media, which may or may not include the aforementioned programs.

When I read James Poniewozik’s, The Paradox of Television’s New Golden Age, and You Don’t Have Time to Watch it; (Time Magazine, The View, June 22, 2015), it had me pause for introspection.  Am I a mediaphile?  I mean, sure, I do social media, check emails on my smart phone, chill out with a few tunes and stare at nothing, watch a little TV at night. The suffix phile, seems rather extreme, like foodophiles, Potterphiles, or spermophiles (okay you pottyminded-philes, it’s not what you think; see below).  Mediaphile conjures visions of attending weekly Media Anonymous intervention meetings.  Hi, my name is DT. I’m a mediaphile. Of which fellow participants somberly greet, Hi DT, followed by a reminder to turn off our smart phones.  Sidebar questions like Have you seen the last three episodes American Horror Story, are greatly discouraged.

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No Turn on Red – Futuristic Traffic

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Gilles Tran © 1993-2009 www.oyonale.com

Gilles Tran © 1993-2009 http://www.oyonale.com

In a city of the future, what is your vision of vehicular transit?  Do you see yourself straddling a flying scooter on the way to school, catching a taxi driven by Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element, or something more realistic, like networked hover vehicles seen in the movie Minority Report?

On my near-term bucket list is to see the movie, TOMORROWLAND.  The original Disney Epcot version left an indelible print on a much younger me, adding fuel to my infatuation with science fiction. I’d ride Space Ship Earth several times in one day, then lie awake at night, dreaming of a future city where robots, jetpacks, and commuting to space was the norm. To me, flying cars characterized a futuristic metropolis.

As I matured, something that came late in life (some would argue I’ve yet to achieve it), a sciences education and many years toiling in the real world, clouded my childhood acceptance of some futuristic tenets.  I hit the stoplight of plausible reality recently, while writing a scene involving city traffic like the kind depicted above. I needed a little inspiration, and browsed the many concept art sites I frequent for ideas.

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Went Off the Grid … Again.

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From: DepositPhotos.com

From: DepositPhotos.com

Two years ago, I went off-the-grid to Central America and for awhile, folks didn’t hear from me.  About the same time last year, I went to Nevada (see Going Off the Grid for a Human Touch), and got caught up in the wonder of my newborn grandson. Well, I’ve done it again and gone off-the-grid for a few weeks in Mexico. Like my adventure in Central America, local cell service existed if you could speak Spanish. Internet is spotty but available … in-between frequent brownouts. My cell phone didn’t have international access and I chose not to rent one locally (because I’m cheap and who would I call in Mexico). When I did find a working Wi-Fi signal, my laptop had issues speaking the same digital lingo. It might have been the dozen rum drinks I had trying to make it work, but I decided the purpose of my visit was to regale in the splendor of unspoiled sandy beaches and turquoise waters (I took that right off the tourist brochure).

A few days passed before withdrawal symptoms set in. Fingers twitched involuntarily, as if searching for something to type. Fitful nights, separated from emergency calls in case something happened to my daughter or if my house burned down. What about all the unanswered email? Will social media followers drop me? Did Tyrion Lannister survive his harrowing boat journey with the scheming eunuch?

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Not Going Anywhere Soon

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Astronaut in the tunnels

Lurii-DepositPhotos.com

Ah yes, we science fiction writers dream of interstellar travel and meeting otherworldly aliens.  Imagine the excitement of a young lad watching Walter Cronkite broadcast Apollo 11’s moon landing. I must have visited the Disney Futureworld’s, Spaceship Earth a dozen times. Can’t tell you how many times as a tyke, I dreamed my real parents were due to pick me up from the star system Yucantgetthrfromhere. As an adult, it’s depressing when we have to face the real possibility, humans can’t get there from here.

The World is Not Enough, a WSJ book review by best selling sci-fi author, John Gribbin summarized a mostly positive outtake of Chris Impey’s new book, Beyond: Our Future in Space, which claims human wanderlust will eventually draw mankind to the limitless unknown. I especially like the book cover; a fully suited astronaut entering an elevator. Going up, sir?

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Science and the Naysayers

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From: DepositPhoto.com - prometeus

From: DepositPhoto.com – prometeus

I finally got around to reading the March issue of National Geographic, The War on Science, which examines why reasonable people doubt science.  For us science fiction geeks, them is fighting words (metaphorically of course, I can’t run as fast as I used to).  I’m one of those guys who thinks we should have clean fusion energy by now, and able to plan the next vacation at Playa-del-Mars. Why is water shortage even an issue anymore?  Sigh. Never thought I’d actually see members of my fellow humanity view technical advancement as a bunch of mad scientists out to destroy the world.

Neil deGrasse Tyson recently tweeted “If I were ever abducted by aliens, the first thing I’d ask is whether they came from a planet where people also deny science.”

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To Be Human, Or Not To Be

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Robot in Love - Rudy Faber

Robot in Love – Rudy Faber

Love and Artificial Intelligence

I’m working on a scene in my new book and stuck on how emotionally self-aware a robot should be. Artificial intelligence, or A.I., in science fiction go hand-in-hand, like romance titles do with ripped bodices and men with hairless chests. Which brings me to a question … can artificial intelligence ever achieve the emotional rollercoaster that defines who we are as humans?   You know, that thing called love, the craziness that alters behavior, evokes euphoria, obsession, distortion of reality, personality changes, and risk taking (loosely defined as doing really stupid shit because we can’t think straight).  Can anyone actually associate the word intelligence with love?

A.I. can be many things; a voice on a computer or command module, mechanical production, or prosthetic arm with a mind of its own, but it’s more fun to create A.I. in our own image, give them a humanistic physique so we dream about indentured servants who won’t bitch about workloads, or get a headache when daddy’s feeling frisky.

Could you love an artificial human … real love … beyond a mind-in-the-gutter play toy that knows where all the right tickle points are? For that to be possible, our robot friend will need to reciprocate with an emotional range that isn’t easily coded in algorithms, because true love … defies common sense. Continue reading

Your Shirt Just Ratted You Out

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From: Whitenoise - Depositphotos.com

From: Whitenoise – Depositphotos.com

Thinking back at all the science fiction I’ve read over the years, real-time biomedical telemetry is rarely a major theme in the story line.  Dr. Leonard McCoy of Star Trek fame pioneered scanning tools with computer assisted diagnostic tech, all so he can report:     He’s dead, Jim.

Sure, a few stories touched on “vitals” monitoring.    He’s still dead, Jim.   

Intelligent pills have already hit the test market, ready and able to snitch on you from the inside. Now, scientists have developed textiles that can monitor and transmit wearer’s biomedical info (Sparkonit, December 2014).  If you thought privacy was an issue with smart phones, wait until the healthcare industry starts insisting on textiles with biomedical remote telemetry.

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Love and the Fickle Finger of Fate

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Our Lucky Numbers - @agsandrew via Depostphotos.com

Our Lucky Numbers – @agsandrew via Depostphotos.com

It’s no secret that romance writers love imagining how fate throws two people together.  It’s a big part of the RWA canon.  Protag should meet love interest by chapter two and must have a satisfying ending.  Killing the love interest, like Downton Abby does with regularity, is frowned upon (but forgiven if you’re … Downton Abby).   It is not a new formula. Twentieth-century movies formatted the process for decades with “guy meets girl, guy loses girl, guy gets girl“.  Joke as I may about RWA’s blueprint, all I know about writing romantic entanglements came from published authors of romance novels, nurtured by the RWA.  They know a thing or two about love. I belong to the RWA. There – I just outed myself (but wisely waited until after the Super Bowl).

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