The Business of Openness

Over the weekend, a big stink was raised over AP News attempting to squash the use of material by bloggers, even flying in the face of fair use. As backstory, the Drudge Retort, a parody site of the Drudge Report, used a very small excerpt of an AP story as part of a larger story published on Drudge Retort. AP served a takedown notice claiming infringement of copyright law.

The repercussions of that action were felt far and wide and caused the AP to sorta, kinda back down off their “heavy handed” approaches.

Last week, Startup Nation served us with a takedown notice of sorts claiming that the excerpt used on Steve’s 6 Steps to Successful Small Business PR was illegally used when the reality was clearly fair use and included a link to the original Startup Nation story. We declined to take down the excerpt but did correct the omission of

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That’s one business tactic to prevent infringement of intellectual property rights. Most larger blogs respect copyright and trademark laws and make every effort to follow good practice, as we do here. Most larger blogs recognize the hard work that goes into creating content and wish our own IP rights to be protected and respect that line with others. It’s not an issue with us.

The New York Times has taken a completely different approach to business and intellectual property rights. Instead of assuming an antiquated approach to content preservation, they have flung the doors wide open almost begging people to use their content. See, the Times has figured out the magic rule of distributed authority where, regardless of content consumption, the authority always trickles back to them.

This is a winning strategy in an increasingly open world with data exchange being valued highly.

According to the Programmable Web story, not only has the Times invited people to use their content – for free – but they have created a robust API for doing so. Developers love APIs and no better way to make people want to use that content but to make the API fun by producing data in lots of formats, including my favorite, JSON.

End of the day, the Times will win the battle of business openness, if only in principle. They are making data easy to access, fun to access and useful to access. Winning Recipe.

Using Images Legally on Your Blog

Everyone likes to use images to spice up posts, right? Posts without images are boring (except mine, of course! :-)). The question comes up alot, “How do I use images in my blog posts legally?

It’s a very valid question and more and more people are getting in trouble for using images that are copyrighted. Let me be clear, it’s Theft!

While, I’m not a lawyer and my advice should not be construed as real legal advice, it’s becoming more and more critical that bloggers understand the ramifications of copyright infringement. And while I think that copyright law is laden with crappy case law and even crappier legislative law (let’s hear a big boo for DMCA), violation of such laws carry hefty fines and penalties. And while individual infringements probably do not mean problems for the blogger, they can carry penalties of anywhere between $200-$150,000 per infringement in the U.S. (USC 5-504(c)).

It’s a dangerous game to play. If you don’t own the right to an image, you need permission in writing to use it. Often times, the “permission in writing” is a Terms of Use agreement or a license agreement at the site you get the picture from. In the case of individual copyright holders, you may have to send an email and get permission directly.

So where can you get legitimate photos?

Creative Commons provides a means to search for CC-licensed work. Creative Commons licensing mainly constitutes an attribution clause which requires that you cite the author. It’s pretty open. If your site is for-profit, your search should include the checkbox for “Commercial works” which will give a for-profit entity permission to use CC images licensed as such. If you’re someone who likes to modify images, you’ll also want to check the box allowing for “Derivative Works”. The social media community is all over Creative Commons. Share and share alike is sort of a defacto motto. Ironically, the real evangelists of Creative Commons are in the podcasting and video communities where the most legwork is performed to produce their media. Even if you don’t produce Creative Commons media, supporting this movement is a strong way to help legitimize it in the eyes of mainstream folks.

Flickr is a great source of photography and a large part of it falls under Creative Commons or public domain. Search your term, and check out if the image you want to use from your search is actually freely licensed. In most cases, a link to the image page is perfectly valid attribution and is a highly respectable way to utilize these free images.

The U.S. Government is not allowed by law to produce copyrighted photography. All images available from the U.S. Government are in the public domain. This site has a list of lots of government resources but note the disclaimer that the feds themselves may have purchased the right to use a photo in the publication, so check the licensing. Almost all the photos are in the public domain.

stock.xcng may be my favorite source of free stock photography on the net. Most of the images are free to use, however there are a few that have specific requirements by the photographer such as “Ask me first” or “Go ahead and use it, but I’d like to know that you did so I can see it in action”. The last theme I had here at Technosailor came from this repository. The rider on the license was of the “Ask first” variety. I emailed the photographer who lived in Australia and within 12 hours, he had emailed me back thrilled that I wanted to use his image. So it’s really not hard to get permission.

iStockPhoto provides inexpensive hi-res imagery (very good quality stuff) for as little as $1 per shot and at most $20 shot. All images are royalty free so feel free to use them as well.

Deviant Art is another long standing citizen in the world of graphic arts and photography. Not all, but many of the photos available there are also Creative Commons licensed and I’ve found many great images there. Check them out.