Protocol for Photos on a Blog?
April 26, 2013 9:36 AM   Subscribe

What is the protocol for 'reblogging' photos you find at various places on the internet?

I run a photo-only site where I feature a ton of my own work. I use Tumblr and love the 'reblog' feature when I come across other users' photos that are relevant. Question: what is the best way to do this with images found through other sites (Flickr, personal websites, newspaper websites, etc)?

I would love to be able to highlight their photo on my site while giving full attribution and a link back to the original source. Do I need to contact each person individually? Is this a common thing to do?

Don't want to commit a bad internet faux pas or inadvertently insinuate that these are my works.

posted by amicamentis to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do I need to contact each person individually? Is this a common thing to do?

No, it is not common to do so, but yes, you do need to contact each person if you want to publish their photos. Unless copyright is explicitly waived by the photographer, the photographer owns the copyright on the photo and you need to respect that in your Tumblr feed. That said, the chance of you getting in trouble or even a nasty email from the original photographer is pretty close to zero.
posted by saeculorum at 9:39 AM on April 26, 2013

If I see something I like and it has no source credited, or is misattributed to the original (tumblr) uploader, I will GIS the photo and, if I find the original flickr upload, I will link back to that in my reblog. I don't always check to see what kind of rights the original photographer has listed for releasing the images, but the few times I have seen them explicitly state that they don't want anyone reposting it, I have abided by their wishes, even if the 40k previous reblogs would seem to make it unnecessary.

I don't know a single person who has ever been contacted by a photographer for innocently reblogging something that has come across their dash. I DO know a couple of people who have received terse emails when they were the original reposter of something unattributed. YMMV.
posted by elizardbits at 9:48 AM on April 26, 2013

I used to be a paid blogger on a site that reported media news and gossip, and I always asked permission to use a photo. I don't know why anyone thinks that another person's work is just there for the taking. If the original photographer/blogger has a Creative Commons license, I guess that should serve, but linking back is polite.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:53 AM on April 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do I need to contact each person individually? Is this a common thing to do?

I would be super weirded out if someone contacted me to reblog one of my photos on Tumblr, even if they were the original poster. It's polite to put a link and the name of the original author/artist as the caption to the photo, and I usually attempt to cite the source of any unattributed stuff I reblog, but it would be very very strange and sort of creepy if someone asked me for permission, and I would assume that person was maybe new to this whole internet thing.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:03 AM on April 26, 2013

If it's a personal website or newspaper/magazine site (i.e., not a Flickr type service but something privately run), I would do a quick check to see if they have a Creative Commons license or other copyright notice posted, that would indicate their policy.

In the absence of that, I would go ahead and reblog the photo, but definitely provide a link back to the site as a courtesy. Or if you found the image at a site but know that it originates elsewhere, provide that credit as well.

If it's a Flickr or similar site you've found the image at, I think it would be polite to email that person and let them know you reblogged their photo, and to let you know if that is not OK.

Unless it's expressly requested, I don't feel it's necessary to get advance permission to use photos someone has made publicly available on the Internet, but proper attribution is important.

All assuming of course that you're using the images for personal, noncommercial, nonprofit use. Otherwise I would absolutely get advance permission.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 10:09 AM on April 26, 2013

Check for a Creative Commons license, definitely, and any statements about sharing/reposting. If you don't find that information anywhere, I might just avoid using the images. But if you think the image is worth the bother, then go ahead and contact them for permission. The worst they can say is no! It could come off as a bit overzealous but I know far more artists would be pleased to know somebody out there is taking attribution seriously than not.

On tumblr, you can put in source data (the new interface is weird, but if you upload a picture there will be a little gear icon in the upper right corner that you can click and put in metadata like source url), and set it so clicking the image will take anybody directly to the creator's website as opposed to a larger version of the image on tumblr, as well as providing a text link below the image with creator name and such. It's also good form to have a regular tag that will delineate it from your work, like "#not mine" or something, and explain that in your sidebar or intro post or tags page, depending on the structure of your tumblr.
posted by Mizu at 10:12 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are changing the context of the photo's presentation, you can piss off a bunch a people even if you fully attribute/link and are blogging non-commercially. For instance, if someone posts a photo of their dog on flickr, because they think it's cute or whatever, and you in turn post it to your blog of ugly dog pics... it's not going to matter whether the original photo is creative commons. In a case like that, you really need to contact the photographer and say "I want to post Fluffy to my ugly dog blog... is that cool with you?" And be prepared to lose a lot potential posts in the process.

I don't know if that is at all relevant to what you're doing, but I say from experience that that is a thing. It doesn't matter whether you think you are blogging the content respectfully, it matters whether the photo owner/subjects think you are, so if there is any doubt get permission first.
posted by 0 at 10:22 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in this photographer's thoughts on having a set of photos going viral. It's directed more at large blogs, but his main point is that he'd like to be contacted first, and only have a few photos of his larger set republished (as opposed to sites that republish 10-12 of a 13 photograph set).

I get my Flickr photos reblogged on Tumblr once in a while. Flickr has built in sharing links for Tumblr on each photo, and that will automatically set up the linkback to the Flickr photo on your Tumblr post. In addition, I'd recommend manually adding text mentioning that the photo came from Flickr and the photographer name/username.

I wouldn't expect anyone to contact me before reposting one of my photos for a personal blog - I've had some people contact me and say "Hey, I used this photo on my blog post here, hope that's alright" and I've never had a problem with that, as long as the linkback is there.
posted by Gortuk at 11:01 AM on April 26, 2013

I have a photo-heavy blog and people republish my photos a lot. I greatly, greatly prefer to be contacted first and asked. I mean, I own the content, and uploading it to your own site is a form of stealing, even if it's for an innocuous purpose. If someone just wants to use a photo and a link to the source, I'll almost always say yes, but I like to keep tabs on where my pictures are how they're being used. A lot of people don't ask, and while it annoys me, I usually don't bother to track them down unless they republish a bunch of my content and/or also steal the accompanying text.

I should note that my experiences are based on hosting my pictures on a personal blog (not tumblr, not flickr) without a creative commons license.

P.S. Thanks for asking this question, it's refreshing to see your willingness to do things the right way!
posted by Bella Sebastian at 12:14 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's some good reading, from an attorney: blog law: photo use and etiquette.

And yes, you can be sued for illegally using photos. Here's just one article about that.
posted by jeri at 1:07 AM on April 27, 2013

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