Help me be a not-jerk
May 12, 2007 10:20 PM   Subscribe

Blogfilter: What is the etiquette about using photos found on other people's sites?

I'm starting a blog, and I'm trying to figure out how to handle photos. Note that I have no ads on my site, and don't intend to make any money from my blog.

My blog is about the history of my hometown. Would it be rude to use photos from other sites that deal with the history of my town? I'm talking about old photos. The sites I'm thinking of don't necessarily explain where they got their photos, they are unlikely to own copyrights (if copyrights even exist) to the photos. Probably, the images are scanned from books and old newspapers and such.

I wouldn't want to use a lot of their photos, just a few, now and then. I'd be doing my own scanning at the local library and so forth when I can, and using my own photos as well.

Also, the local museum has a large online collection. Their terms of use state that nothing should be reproduced for profit. I thought about just asking them outright if I can use the photos, but I don't necessarily want to draw their attention to me if they can't officially legally say 'go for it'.

Please note - my intent is not to post a "hope me break the law" question. If you just think that what I'm doing is outright illegal, go ahead and tell me. I am also not trying to screw anyone over. I'm actually trying to just respect the community of people out there who share my love for local history, and at the same time, try to save a little time so that I don't have to hand-scan every single historical image I want to post.

PS - I know that hotlinking is bad.
posted by serazin to Technology (13 answers total)
Response by poster: Hmm, on second thought:

My intent is not to make money on the blog, but I hope to use it promote (very low-cost) walking tours of my city. That wouldn't be the main point of the blog though.
posted by serazin at 10:23 PM on May 12, 2007

When I have used other folks' photos, I email them and tell them. If they have a problem with it, I take it down. Otherwise, I leave it up.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 10:35 PM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

What YoBananaBoy said. People are usually happy when you use their photos, as long as you credit them (preferably with a link back to their site) and avoid hotlinking.
posted by danb at 10:40 PM on May 12, 2007

I have always attributed any images I used, as well as provided a link to the original page. If the original site has some sort of restrictive language about using their stuff, I just link to it with a text description and no image on my page.

If the site you got the image from is in a similar vein as yours, it never hurts to add them to the link list on your page under "Local Sites."

The email suggestion is a good one. I have developed several mutual linking arrangements that way. Most people are flattered that you read their site and will be glad you posted their photo.

Burbankia is a good example of a personalized hometown site that uses images from a lot of different sources. You will see that the level of attribution varies, but I think that most folks wouldn't have a problem if their picture showed up on such a well meaning site.
posted by sciatica at 10:47 PM on May 12, 2007

My personal website is pretty much nothing but my photographs. There are some that I offer for sale. I have no problem with a not for profit site hotlinking (as long as my bandwidth will handle it) or copying the photo to their site, as long as credit is given, and a link goes back to my site, and they ask permission, or at least tell me and confirm it's ok.

Some photographers (or image owners) don't have the same attitude. Best to ask permission if at all possible. I have seen some pretty picky people; for example, even if the image is public domain, their copy of it on their site took their labor to scan and post, so they can claim to have certain rights pertaining to that copy of the image. Whether this has legal defense, I don't know.

Better to be safe. The only problem I ever had was a band that wanted to use one of my images for a self-produced CD and on marketing materials and T-shirts. They expressed interest, and before I could even respond, that image was on their main webpage as the CD graphic. I had them take it down immediately, and I didn't feel much like dealing with them after that.
posted by The Deej at 10:57 PM on May 12, 2007

Most people don't mind but you should always try to get permission whenever possible. The fact that you aren't trying to make money isn't relevant. If you're in America, you could do some research into "Fair Use." It's possible your work might be considered scholarship which would give you at least some reasonable defense if you cannot get permission.

But if you are promoting your own walking tours I don't think you can even claim that.

This is just my opinion. I've been burned by hyperdefensive copyright holders in the past so I try to be cautious.
posted by chairface at 11:00 PM on May 12, 2007

If you need to link to images, for whatever reason, don't hotlink. If you're concerned about bandwidth and storage issues, use AllYouCanUpload. It's fantastic, free, unlimited image hosting.
posted by Aanidaani at 11:07 PM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

1. If you use an image from another site, say where you got it. Include a back link.

2. Never, never, never link directly to their image on their server to load inline on your page. If you can't host it on your own server, then put it on something like ImageShack or Flicker or the one listed above.

Not only is it rude to steal their bandwidth, it also leaves you vulnerable if they get pissed, because they can change it to the image or something equally obnoxious.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:31 AM on May 13, 2007

My husband uses a lot of public domain images on his site, but it's stuff that he's spent a lot of time collecting and researching. His feeling about it is, he doesn't mind a whit if someone uses the images but he feels it's impolite to take the images without giving him some credit. There's an awful lot of work that goes into scanning and cleaning up old photos and artwork. You should try to be respectful of other bloggers who, like you, are doing a lot of this work for love (and I'm sure you are.) Give credit where it's due.
posted by maryh at 3:03 AM on May 13, 2007

I've been on both sides of this. I've run across my photos used without attribution and it always pisses me off. Every time someone has contacted me, I've been happy to share my work. But seeing it taken without acknowledgment really sucks.

So whenever I run across something I'd like to use, I always ask first. I've yet to be turned down.

People like to see their work put to good use. But they also like to receive credit for things they're proud of. Keep those two facts in mind and you'll be fine.
posted by felix betachat at 4:52 AM on May 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

"Their terms of use state that nothing should be reproduced for profit. I thought about just asking them outright if I can use the photos, but I don't necessarily want to draw their attention to me if they can't officially legally say 'go for it'."
posted by auntbunny at 9:51 AM on May 13, 2007

My photos tend to come up on Google Image Search a lot, so they get used randomly. It's nice when people ask; I always give permission. But 99% of the people using stuff don't ask. It's either message boards where people just post images on a theme (WTF??) or myspace backgrounds. So it's not exactly something you can get upset about in general.
posted by smackfu at 10:19 AM on May 13, 2007

Be nice and ask. If someone emailed me asking to use one of my photos on their site I would a) be flattered, b) check out the site to make it wasn't objectionable to me, c) say okay.

And, you should ask the local museum for permission.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:48 AM on May 14, 2007

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