A confession. No. A lamentation.
Recently my beloved Community Yoga, (West Lafayette, Indiana) was sued for copyright infringement based on a re-posted Hungryphil blog post.
I am mortified and confused. In all my work, I aim to always attribute images and honor the work of writers, artists, and designers. I quickly learned that “free downloads” and filtered public domain images are not so, attribution and plagiarism are not same, and the copyright/fair use issues are very gray. The image I had used was a comic cartoon of a yogi doing a handstand, sideways (funny and creative work, thank you artist whom I don’t know and have inadvertently offended). Ironically the post was about the dangers of ego-focus. It had the website and the image id number ON the image. I wrongly assumed the on-image attribution would operate as an advertisement. A very unintentional misunderstanding of “free downloads” and fair use. Confessedly, I’m ignorant of the shades of copyright gray not malicious. What makes my mistake worth $660 for a third party who simply re-posted?
The system, or rather the single letter received over mail is based on guilt, shaming and punishing rather than creative protection and public education. How is the calculation made that one can be sued for an indeterminate amount between $660 and $150K for an $11 image? How much of the $660 would the artist get? Once I have a clear view of the rules regarding online image use on personal blogs, I’ll be sure to post it. So far I haven’t found an easy list to follow and would be grateful for recommendations.
This makes me hesitant to use ANY online imagery. So, from now on I’ll be posting random potentially unrelated images of things, myself and my family.
Community Yoga did not make a penny from the image I posted. Yes, I should pay for my unintentional mistake, like I would a traffic ticket. In this case, the passenger is getting the ticket and the fine is random.
Part of me wants to sulk quietly in fear of being sued myself. If I’m quiet maybe they won’t hit me with a lawsuit too. But, I believe it is important to share and warn of the dangers. In a moment of unaware image use, I opened myself and those who would support me up to legalized blackmail by online ambulence chasers.
Let this be a gentle warning to you, my dear blog reading and writing friends. Protect yourselves and your friends. I’ll try my best to do better.