An Unsettling Quandary

I love my blogs. I love sharing interesting things with my friends; there’s so much fascinating stuff out there on the net that I think people would enjoy seeing. I haven’t gone the Pinterest route, and probably never will – it just seems too chaotic. And when I do post something, I usually try to track it back to its original source, which is often several blogs deep.

Now comes Roni Loren, with a sad tale of being set upon by hordes of attorneys bearing pitchforks and torches… well, probably only one, but you get the idea. And she really-o, truly-o got sued by a real-live photographer for violating his copyright, even though she immediately removed the photo after the initial takedown notice. And once the lawyers get involved, you don’t ever get the mushroom cloud back into that pretty little silver sphere.

Here’s what she learned about fair use from the experience (more details at her blog post):


  • if you link back to the source and list the photographer’s name
  • if the picture is not full-sized (only thumbnail size is okay)
  • if you did it innocently
  • if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
  • if you didn’t claim the photo was yours
  • if you’ve added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
  • if the picture is embedded and not saved on your server
  • if you have a disclaimer on your site.
  • if you immediately take down a pic if someone sends you a DMCA notice (you do have to take it down, but it doesn’t absolve you.)”

This bothers me. Ms. Loren was neither claiming copyright of someone else;s work nor attempting to monetize it, as in the case of; in fact, she specifically gave copyright to the owners of anything she posted. I stand for intellectual property rights – I contributed to Matt Inman’s campaign to raise money for charity and embarrass supreme douchebag Charles Carreon at the same time (the entire saga is analyzed in delicious detail over at Popehat) – but I don’t stand for being a jerk; there are more human ways of handling things like this.

Case in point: some years ago, a forum I participated in was infested by the most repugnant of subhumans, the cyber-trolls. From their safe chairs of anonymity, they vomited their filth and abomination into what had become a thriving, supportive and civil community, and ultimately resulted in its demise in that venue. They may be happy with the lulz they got, but all they did was cover themselves with more shame. As a response to their actions, I wrote this little piece of nonsense, which served no greater purpose than to help me get some feelings off my chest. Later I found copies elsewhere, with no attribution, specifically here and here; I posted a comment in the first forum requesting either attribution or removal, and was pointedly ignored. My request was even deleted.

I could have gone all Clarence Darrow on these people, but what’s the point? It’s not like I’m going to make a dime off a bit of nonsense rhyme, and parody of a great author at that. Much easier to just let it go. Unfortunately in today’s society, with 47 lawyers per capita looking for billable hours, anyone with half a beef can find an attorney to cheer him one, and I think that’s sad.

So I end up being vulnerable, because if I change the nature of this blog, it simply ceases to exist, and I’m not willing to give it up. I will, however, in future posts link to a disclaimer something like this:

THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

Despite the fact that Ms. Loren has been terrorized into sharing nuthin’ with nobody without 100% air-tight attribution – and, in light of her experience and given how nasty lawyers can be, I can’t blame her – I’m not ready to go that route. I can only hope and pray that I don’t encounter the one person in ten thousand who is willing to sell their humanity for a mess of pottage.

The Old Wolf has spoken.