Have You Gotten To The Point You Care When People Steal Your Work?

You know how you are supposed to check the batteries in your smoke detectors every time we go on or off daylight savings time? It may be worth having a similar rule for checking your intellectual property licenses for your online presences. Maybe every time you renew your domain name?

There was a recent story about a photographer who had set his Creative Commons License to allow commercial use with attribution.

When a map company used his image on one of their publications giving him full attribution, he sued them for their use of the image and lost.

The tone of the article is that it was sort of silly of him to be protesting the use of his work in a way explicitly allowed.

But it occurred to me that it would be very easy for many artists and organizations to accidentally find themselves in a similar situation as their online presence evolved.

For example, maybe your website or blog just starts out as a source of information for people about what you are doing. You set your license to require people to quote you with attribution or a link. You aren’t trying to monetize anything and you would be happy if people quoted you all over the Internet.

Later, your organization starts a new exciting program where you are producing all sorts of interesting stuff (or if you are an individual, you take up a hobby/refine your skills and get really good).

You start putting images and examples of your work online, forgetting your license is so permissive and the next thing you know you are seeing your work appearing all over social media, people are selling tshirts and tote bags with your images and are using your video and audio tracks in their own videos.

If you have been publicizing/bragging about achievements and have realized ambitions much greater than when you first established your blog, website, Pinterest, Flickr, etc, presence you may want to go back and review how much permission people have to utilize the content of those pages.

A similar issue may arise if you are featuring other people’s work and their more stringent use requirements aren’t clearly discernible.

Upon review, you may be surprised by how lax your settings are. Or maybe you will despair that no one wants to steal your stuff despite how lax your settings are.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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