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Respecting copyright – why do I bother? 23 June 2008

Posted by admin in blogs, miscellaneous, personal.
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I think copyright is very important. The fundamental principle for me is that I expect my own work to be treated with respect and properly attributed, and I extend the same courtesy to others. When I want to use copyrighted material I always ask first.

And I’m wondering why I bother.

I’ve just been through my list of copyright requests pending and find that I am still waiting for a response from no fewer than eight organizations. In each case I’ve identified the item I wish to use (images, invariably), explained why and how I want to use it, made various guarantees that any permission granted won’t be abused, and framed the whole thing in the politest possible terms. And I’ve had nothing back from any of them.

In the worst case I’ve been waiting three months, and sent three follow-up messages. The rest come in at between six weeks and two weeks. These are not one-person operations: the organizations concerned are all large, have substantial budgets and full-time staff, advertise e-mail addresses through which they can be contacted, and plaster copyright protection notices all over their content. Some are government organizations, some are private companies, two are educational institutions.

They insist that you contact them to get permission to reproduce any part of their content, and when you do, they ignore you. Great.

Why do I bother?

Because it’s the right thing to do. But you can understand why I ask.

(I won’t name any of the guilty parties here. Yet.)

The Volcanism Blog


1. Alan Sullivan - 23 June 2008

I think “fair use” reasonably applies to photos as well as text — so long as you don’t hot-link. If you load an image on your own site, link the source in a post, and offer credit, you have done more than most bloggers do to respect copyright of photos.

I have only had one problem with a photo in six years’ blogging. An ornithologist (whom I had linked and credited) demanded that I remove a borrowed photo of a bird. It became clear in a brief discussion that her true issue was contempt for my politics. She was simply engaging in harassment. Of course I took the photo down. Perhaps I could have gotten her in professional trouble for her unprofessional communiques, if I had chosen to pursue the matter. Or perhaps not. Politics are increasingly corrupting the sciences.

2. volcanism - 23 June 2008

Thanks, Alan, I take your point (and I sympathize with you in the case you speak of). The problem is that there is no “fair use” provision in UK copyright law, only the much more restrictive idea of “fair dealing”. The US is ahead in this area, I think.

3. David Newton - 24 June 2008

Specifically in UK copyright law, the exception for news reporting explicitly does not cover photographs. Any photographs use in a news report must be used with permission.

4. Silver Fox - 24 June 2008

Aren’t some of the government things in the public domain? Maybe that’s different, also.

5. David Newton - 24 June 2008

British Government works are not public domain. They are under Crown copyright which lasts for 50 years from publication. There are some classes of work where the copyright has been waived and pretty free use is allowed. Examples include legislation and public records. However photographs, except in archives, are likely not among the things with a waiver.

6. Tyson O'Donnell, iCopyright - 24 June 2008

Hey, I’m a product marketing intern for iCopyright and I can sympathize. This is one of the biggest problems of the virtual world. To get copyright permission before you or the issue you wish to write about dies. iCopyright is set to fix that very problem. We offer instant licenses to both large organizations like those you speak of and individual creators like yourself. Our latest innovation (still in beta) focuses on individual writers, bloggers, artists, and photographers. It’s called Creators, http://Creators.iCopyright.com, and it gives content creators interactive copyright tags to place on their works, which helps you license your works as well as promote yourself as a creator. You should bother with getting copyright permission because it’s the right thing, it just shouldn’t take forever!
I would love to know what you think about creators, let me know.

Tyson O’Donnell
Product Marketing Manager

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