ModlyChic’s Friend Friday series is quickly becoming an invaluable source of information for both new and seasoned fashion bloggers. Each week the posts contain valuable – and often varied – opinions and thoughts on important subjects. The past few weeks a number of the posts written by contributors have even made it into IFB’s Links à la Mode.
This week’s subject is one of significant importance – copyright. We’ve discussed copying in the fashion industry, but this post deals with copyright infringement in the blogging world. Katy came up with the topic for a number of different reasons, including photoshoots clearly inspired by other bloggers, and a DIY recipe reprinted by another blogger with few changes. This led to the question of what is – and is not – acceptable “copying” in the blogosphere. When is it “fair use,” and when does it become copyright infringement?
This topic reminded me of something I had recently read about. Fashion Gone Rogue is one of those websites that every fashion blogger is aware of. Even if it isn’t a daily read, at some point in time something has likely drawn you to its pages. It is evident that the site’s curator, Joanna Gillespie, receives her content directly from industry insiders because she is generally the first to post editorial images from any given publication. If anyone has it, chances are it is her. She attributes her images and always, without fail, links back to the appropriate source. And she doesn’t just reprint editorial images. Each post includes some type of commentary on the shoot.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that she had received a cease and desist email from Trunk Archive earlier this year due to one of the images she was using on her site. One of the original photographers had taken issue with an image of Lily Donaldson being using in the header of the site and a representative of the company sent her this message:
“I was very disheartened to see the Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin photograph of Lily Donaldson incorporated into the design of your website. Clearly you never asked for permission nor received permission to use this image from either the artists, their agent or their licensing agency…It surprises me that a site that purports to support and admire fashion photography would engage in such blatant copyright infringement. How do you expect this industry to survive if sites such as yours do not respect the basic premise of artist copyright?
We ask that you remove this image from your website immediately. In addition, we require payment of a $2,000 copyright infringement fee. Please remit payment today to Trunk Archive, at the address below. If the image remains as part of your logo by this time tomorrow, and if we have not received a check from you by July 6th, 2010, our lawyers will be in immediate contact.”
Joanna immediately removed the image and put the site on hiatus while she dealt with the issue at hand. According to this blog post on the fashionista.com, she happily removed the image – it was the request for $2,000 that left her baffled. Ultimately the situation was resolved, but, in my opinion, if this could happen to Joanna, it could happen to anyone.
It could easily have happened to me when I first began blogging. My original site header incorporated images of Daria Werbowy along with some of my own nature photography. It was striking, and I loved the way it looked. The last thing on my mind at the time was copyright infringement. It never even crossed my mind that Mario Testino could, if he wanted, sue me for incorporating his work into the design of my site. But he could have done exactly that had he desired.
I think this was also the main issue that Fashion Gone Rogue had to deal with – the fact that she was posting editorials wasn’t what caught the attention of the photographer in question. It was the fact that a particular image was incorporated into the design of her site. According to copyright law, that is not fair use. And the same thing could have happened to me. Look at your site. Have you incorporated any copyrighted images into your design? If so, you may want to rethink that. Stat.
This was a very long introduction into this week’s Friend Friday questions, but let’s get to it!
1. What are the ‘unwritten rules’ about copying content that we bloggers should all abide by? Unwritten? How about written? Most bloggers have some sort of copyright or creative commons license indicated on their blog (and if they don’t, they should). First, abide by the requirements of that license. Second, even if no copyright is indicated, the work of that blogger is still covered by copyright law.
It’s simple really:
- Don’t copy content (be it written or photographic) and claim it as your own. End of story. No one likes that. Ever.
- If you refer to someone’s work, credit and link back to them. Not only will it give you more credibility,you will also gain the respect of that other blogger.
- If something you do was inspired by another blogger, be it an outfit post, a new blog series, or a recipe, credit that person for the inspiration. V from Grit and Glamour did this just recently in one of her outfit posts. She was wearing something that was inspired by Kristy Eléna from Vogue Gone Rogue.Would V have worn that outfit even if she had never set eyes on Kristy Eléna’s blog? Maybe. Probably. But the fact of the matter is the outfit reminded HER of Kristy Eléna, so she was respectful enough to indicate that. Respect, people. That is what this is all about – respecting the other blogger.
2. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. But when it a post imitation and when is it copying? A post is copying when it is a replica of the original post. If you can’t contribute any original content to the post and if you can’t add your own voice to the post it is copying. If you claim it as your own, but it is clearly imitation, that is copying.
In the United States, “fair use” is an exemption of copyright law that allows people to provide commentary on, parody, satire, report on, etc. something without getting permission from the author. If you are doing any of these things, and attributing your original source, you are providing some type of original content, and fair use dictates you can legally use that content.
This is why I am able to post images of editorials I love – I am protected by the fair use clause. I don’t claim any of the images as my own, they aren’t incorporated into the design of my site, and I don’t profit from them.
In my opinion, imitation = inspiration. Anything more than that and you are copying.
3. Taking another blogger’s idea (perhaps for an outfit, or DIY tutorial) is pretty common in the blogging world. Do you think it is necessary to credit the original source? Absolutely. See answers 1 and 2 above.
4. How have you improved your blog by comparing it to other bloggers? Have you made changes due to something you have seen others doing? Others bloggers certainly influence my own blog.
- I am using the Thesis theme on WordPress because numerous blogs I frequent use it. Do I use it because I want to be just like The Coveted or Grit and Glamour? No. I use it because it fits my needs. Their blogs just introduced me to it.
- I take note of elements on other blogs that are aesthetically pleasing to me (white space, social networking buttons, etc.) and apply them to my own blog. Yet my blog is MY blog. It doesn’t look like anyone else’s.
- I love it when bloggers recognize one another. Christina of Profresh Style has her “Reader Appreciation” posts, V of Grit and Glamour has her “Sunday Coffee” series, and Casee Marie of The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower has her “Weekend Reads.” Tanvi of The Fabulous Life of the Not-So-Rich Infamous inspired me to start my own Guest Post series. I receive email requests from random individuals asking if they can do guest posts on this site, but I have chosen to focus the series on bloggers I have relationships with. It is my way of recognizing bloggers I respect.
Those are just a few of the ways other bloggers have influenced me. There is nothing wrong with getting an idea from another blogger, be it for an outfit post, editorial post, photographic settings, blog series, etc. But don’t just copy what they do. Run with it and make it your own.
5. Have you ever had one of your posts copied by another blogger or publication? How did you handle the situation? Not as far as I know. If that did happen I would start by contacting the blogger/publication and go from there.
What I have had done to me involves my personal photography. Specifically my concert photography. I have had images I posted in a member-only forum stolen and sold for profit on EBAY. Learning that was devastating to me. All I can do now is monitor ebay and, if I catch someone, report the incident so that the images are removed. I can’t do anything about the images that have already been sold because I don’t have the resources I’d need to do that.
Respect everyone’s content – be it written, visual, or auditory. Flat out copying is just a form of stealing.
What about you – has anyone ever copied your content? If so, what did you do?
Independent Fashion Bloggers has some great resources on this topic:
- For information on Fair Use, check out this great post.
- For information on the types of photography you can use with no copyright concerns, click here.
To see what other bloggers are saying about this topic, click here;
For more info on ModlyChic’s Friend Friday series, click here.