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A few thoughts about copyright and Instructables Answered

I have had some excellent exposure from some of my projects on this site. My Nintendo card reader was published in Popular Photography magazine. My geek wallet went pretty viral. Even my shopping cart bike was picked up on Wired and may be published in an Italian magazine. These have been great because they have had my permission to publish my work. But there have been some negatives.

Many splogs (spam blogs that just scrape content from valid blogs) have essentially stolen my photography. Thanks to a tip from someone near Boulder i was able to pick up a copy of a newspaper that had published one of my photos "courtesy Instructables."

I'm happy to have other people take my ideas and tweak them. That's why i post my projects here. That's why the license i have chosen for all of my projects is Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike. This specifically states "This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms."

So when a newspaper publishes my photo without my authorization and credits Instructables that gets me a little hot. When someone takes one of my projects and then makes a video of it and submits it to the MetaCafe rewards program that seems like a violation of my license. And when dozens of splogs pick up a popular project and i have to go around trying to get photographer credit it makes me really reconsider if sharing projects on here is actually beneficial to me at all.

I'm sure others have had their great projects ripped off (if they want to retain any rights) in the effort to contribute to the community too. Admittedly, i do have a Leatherman and a few t-shirts and magazine subscriptions to show for my efforts. I do want this site to work - i truly believe in it.

I guess i'd like to see image protection for projects that have specified that they need to be attributed. I'd like the license more visible on the project pages. Perhaps a "if you write about this project provide a link to Instructables.com as well as the author's website at xyz.com" type footer to projects.

I suppose i can watermark all of my photos and put copyright notices all over my pages and it would be moot.

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jessyratfink (author)2007-10-31

I've never really thought about this that much and I'm not sure what we could do to get more credit for things. I certainly don't want to paste my real name all over everything I make. ;) So far, I've been interviewed by Jezebel.com, and I'm going to be in Theme and Adbusters... and they were all wonderful to talk to... but I wonder where else my work has gone? I do know that my Barbie Doll Electric Chair has ended up all over the place... and in some cases, in places where I didn't want it. (Foreign fetish porn sites, for example.) But it's so hard to track my projects after I've completed them. :P

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Kiteman (author)jessyratfink2007-11-01

Out of idle curiosity, I googled Barbie Doll Electric Chair - all the sites I found credited the 'ible directly (or at least owned up with a link).

One site (sribd.com) has had the article removed.

Quite by chance, a side-link from one of the references brought me to some quite cool Soylent Green stickers (you're supposed to take them to the supermarket and stick them to stuff )

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Kiteman (author)Kiteman2007-11-01

LOL - this is why I love the internet:

A few more clicks looking for reference to your project, and...

Quote:

...I recall doing a similar experiment involving Barbie's head and a lightbulb.

WHAT I LEARNED: You can dispose of the solid physical evidence, but you can't get rid of the smell.

And a darn weird site:

http://thenonist.com/index.php/thenonist/permalink/the_science_fair/

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gmoon (author)Kiteman2007-11-01

Gotta love that Photoshop.... But the link is also appropriate for this topic...as the original images were 'found' on the web...

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Goodhart (author)jessyratfink2007-10-31

There are tracking/sniffer programs out there, but most of them are not cheap.

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zachninme (author)Goodhart2007-10-31

Err... there's Google :P

Thats awesome for you!

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Goodhart (author)zachninme2007-10-31

I am referring to those industrial trackers to do not make you wade through tons of false positives. ;-)

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trebuchet03 (author)2007-10-30

Interesting... Was it really courtesy instructables? Did they actually get permission, from instructables as "courtesy instructables" suggests?

i have to go around trying to get photographer credit it makes me really reconsider if sharing projects on here is actually beneficial to me at all.

I completely agree with your frustrations - but, for a moment, consider the alternative. Would you get the same exposure, consistently, on an independent site?

That aside, how would you answer this:

What is more important to you?
a) how many people your work reaches
b) how many people know your work

Neither answer is more noble than the other ;)

Not to skew your answer, but personally - I'd rather reach more people, even anonymously. Also personally, I haven't done much in the realm of world changing ideas - well, ideas yes (like most); implantation -not so much (I'm working on that though :p).

But after saying that, there's a reason I haven't changed my avatar and use the same one everywhere. While at a party in California, someone actually asked me if I was the same person from some other site as recognized by my avatar - I thought that was pretty cool - so I guess people are making the connection.

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zieak (author)trebuchet032007-10-30

Here's a link to the scanned image from the Boulder County Business Report.

http://www.zieak.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/cartbike.jpg

I wouldn't get the same exposure - I'm certainly aware of that. I have submitted projects to magazines and major sites on my own and they have not been picked up - only to have them featured by those sites later when presented in a top 10 list by some blogger.

I guess i want my cake and to eat it. I'd like to reach the maximum number of people and still retain some ownership of the idea/project/photo... there's probably a bell curve to draw here.

Thank you everyone for the excellent thoughts, comments, and discussion.

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trebuchet03 (author)zieak2007-10-30

Yeah, I saw that image -- but I'm wondering if courtesy as printed means they got permission from someone - or at least attempted. Obviously, not from you - I'm fairly certain you would remember that (and at least request a copy be mailed to you :p). But I really wonder if they even attempted to ask.

I guess i want my cake and to eat it.
Oh, don't we all :p And at the same time, everyone else wants a slice of pie :p Life is, after all, some sort of twisted bakery of sorts (with a special on nuts too) :p

On an only marginally related note... What does your cart bike have to do with the percentage of garbanzo beans in some brand of hummus?

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gmoon (author)2007-10-30

I'd like to comment here--my job is photography.

1) Copyright and license are two separate issues. Practically anything you create automatically has a copyright. But a 'registered copyright' is considered more legally 'robust.' If you can't prove you have a copyright on the material, you don't have one (from a legal POV.)

2) Licensing is a bit more difficult to get a handle on. As you said, you have released your work with the Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike license . This really doesn't effect your copyright. You still 'own' the work, but you cannot 'take back' a licensing agreement unless that's in the license... And even then the original agreement still holds.

3) It's up to you to enforce the license, unfortunately. The web is, as you note, viral. The only way to ensure no one uses your work is not to release it.

The internet has spawned a whole new set of intellectual property rights issues, may unresolved. Some people consider everything on the web 'public domain,' and will use your images/text regardless of any copyright notices.

But you also need to weight the benefits of all the free publicity vs. any lost revenue (or 'credit', I guess.) In the current legal climate, taking a 'hardline' might do your reputation more harm than good...not to mention the time and expense involved in enforcing your rights. It's a balancing act.

4) A fairly large number of instructables utilize photographs that are essentially stolen from other sources. Ah, well...

5) Don't get me started about Metacafe...

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zieak (author)gmoon2007-10-30

Thank you for your thoughts gmoon. I'll admit that combing through the blogs that steal from Make or Engadget or Lifehacker can be a bit of a rush - seeing just how far something goes. The use of stolen material on Instructables is awful. I'd rather see hand drawn depictions than robbed content.

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zachninme (author)zieak2007-10-30

You should set the Licensing to "None (All Rights Reserved" -- then.
The newspaper held up 2 out of 3 of the "main conditions" of the license: Attribution (COURTESY INSTRUCTABLES) and Share Alike (I'm assuming their policy is close enough)

If you set it to none: they'll still be able to say "Can we use this?" and you can sub-license.

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ewilhelm (author)zachninme2007-10-30

Actually, I think they violated all three. Attribution should point to zieak, as he owns his content -- Instructables just hosts it. I really doubt a newspaper has a share alike policy. If someone were reprinting their articles without permission I'm sure there would some nasty letters.

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gmoon (author)ewilhelm2007-10-30

I'm also surprised a newspaper violated the license. They are usually very aware of the legalities. And most are real sticklers for avoiding any appearances of improprieties (I can name at least two photographers who lost their jobs for digitally altering photos...) At this point, most newspapers still have higher ethical standards than TV journalists...(personal opinion) A couple guesses: --the information was moved by a wire service, and either it was incomplete (no attribution), or the editorial staff removed the attribution since the license wasn't included. --a general lack of intellectual property law knowledge on the part of editors. --ignorance on the part of a column writer (they sometimes aren't subject to editor scrutiny, as they don't normally publish 'hard news.') I'd be surprised if it was deliberate...newspapers publishers generally don't enjoy being sued--it costs too much.

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Kiteman (author)2007-10-30

I recently tried to copy the address of a photo on ebay (I was trying to text the address to my mother - "I want one like this"). However, when I right-clicked to get the photo's properties (and url), I got a message that said "right click disabled". Would it be possible to make that an option for people who are bothered by the fate of their images? I know it's not a sure protection (somebody could always take a screen-shot and crop off the rest of the screen), but it would protect the high-quality versions.

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NachoMahma (author)Kiteman2007-10-30

. You may be able to look at the source code for the page and find the URL. Works on most pages, but I've never tried it on a right-click-disabled page.

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Goodhart (author)NachoMahma2007-10-30

Here is an example:
The first link goes to an image that is not right clickable
http://www.gardenoffriendship.org/ladystarlite/ls1.htm

However, it is not hard to get the url of the image, since it is on the web, so this:

http://www.gardenoffriendship.org/ladystarlite/top.jpg
Can be obtained and one can right click on it.

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zachninme (author)Goodhart2007-10-30

You can just disable javascript -- too ;-)

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zachninme (author)zachninme2007-10-30

Heh -- the protection doesn't work in Epiphany :P

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Goodhart (author)Kiteman2007-10-30

It is not full proof. Depending several things, whether the picture is loaded into the html (or DHTML as the case may be), or must be "retrieved" from a ASP or JSP page from the originating server, sometimes one only needs to hover their pointer over the picture to get a box that asks if you want to save, print, etc the picture. But as you said, it would deter the common thief from taking and copying it.

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NachoMahma (author)2007-10-30

. As gmoon points out, if you created it, you have an automatic copyright. Just make sure you have some way to prove it (dated letter at your lawyer's office, publication, &c;). . While you still retain the copyright, when you publish on a site like Ibles, you have effectively given it away. May not be fair, but that's the way it is. There are a lot of ppl out there that think: it's on the 'Net, it's free, attribution is for sissies. Therefore I just consider everything I publish on the 'Net (forum posts, iBles, web pages, &c;) to be PD and forget about it. If I get attribution, great; if not, oh well.

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ewilhelm (author)2007-10-30

For the record, whenever someone actually asks if they may use content from the site, I always tell them that they are welcome to use anything from the people that work here as listed on the about page, but if they want to use something outside that scope, they must contact the original author to secure permission. I'm highly disappointed to hear that a newspaper would take your images without asking. They should know better. On the other hand, obscurity is a far worse fate than copyright violation. I'd rather have my own work copied far and wide without my permission than for it to be unknown. As you're well aware, the internet isn't good at finding the middle ground in issues like these.

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zieak (author)ewilhelm2007-10-30

Thank you for that clarification. Had i known, i might have been a bit more firm while standing in their offices asking about a photo of mine that they had published. I agree about the obscurity vs. copyright violation - in some ways. A friend saw my name in that issue of Popular Photography. She didn't know it was going to be in there or even that i tinkered like that. Someone else that had used one of my photos from Flickr for a conference booklet also contacted me to say they had noticed my name in the magazine. Both of those were huge incentives to continue to publish. I'm not in it for the money - i have a good job or three.

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