Some people were pretty angry with The Post and Courier this week because the newspaper asked a Facebook page to take down several Post and Courier photos that were posted without permission or credit.
The Facebook page, Charleston in Pictures, took down the photos upon the newspaper’s request and initially said it was going to delete the page (which was not part of the request). Now
it’s encouraging people to people are expressing their anger with The Post and Courier and some people are reportedly canceling their subscriptions over the issue.
I suppose it’s easy for the newspaper to look like the big, bad bully in this case but the copyright laws are there for a reason and they benefit everyone. There are also ways for Facebook pages like Charleston In Pictures to exist and prosper without violating the laws.
But first, why should we adhere to the law?
Let’s say you take a great photo and post it publicly on your Facebook page. How would you feel if the newspaper or even a friend took it from your page and posted it on to their page without giving you the credit? You’d probably feel pretty violated because it is your property. It belongs to you even if you’re not a professional writer or photographer.
I’m not an attorney but we regularly get training on what to do and what not to do when it comes to intellectual property. So that’s why, unless it’s a matter of fair use, which is a complicated can of worms, we ask your permission to use your photos and we give you credit (and link back to your site when applicable) unless you don’t want credit.
Some people asked why The Post and Courier was ‘picking on’ the Charleston in Pictures page when the page wasn’t making any money off the pictures.
1. One of the key ways to preserve copyrights is to enforce copyrights. If people are aware of what the law is they hopefully won’t violate it.
2. The fact is most of the photos had appeared on the newspaper’s Facebook page first:. Examples are here and here and here. And while that may not translate to actual dollars, Facebook has its own currency of likes, shares and comments that are valuable to anyone who uses a Facebook page to promote something. If our photos are used without permission on another page, we lose out on those likes and shares.
So how can pages like Charleston in Pictures thrive?
1. Use the Facebook share button: The magic of the share button is it allows the user to post the photo on his or her page while linking back to the original author’s page. That way everyone is happy.
2. An added note: Some of the photos were not posted on The Post and Courier’s Facebook account at all, but taken from the newspaper’s website after they were found through a search.
Ask for permission and always give credit: We use a lot of reader photos and we do it with your permission and we credit it to you. Don’t use a photo if you don’t know where it came from. Note: Giving someone credit without asking for permission could possibly land you in legal trouble.
3. Embed. Twitter, Youtube and Facebook have embed tools that let you take the tweet or Facebook post or video and add it to your website or blog. I often use Storify, which lets me do the same thing (see the one I made about this subject). This is useful because while it allows me to use the photo on my site, it again links back to the original users’ post.
4. Use your own art.
I hope this helps clarify the situation and I urge any administrator of any Facebook page, blog or website to ask me any questions about using Post and Courier photos or photos in general. You can reach me here or at firstname.lastname@example.org.