Are you cheating?

SO perhaps “cheater” isn’t the best word for it, but it was as close as I could come to describing the “crime”.  Put basically, it is cheating.

What am I talking about?  Well, the issue has been around for a long time, became more serious when Pinterest arrived and is now at a boiling point.  The issue?  Stealing photos.  I know stealing copy (text) is a big deal right now too, but today, we’re going to talk about the pictures.  Why?  Well, the pictures are the sticking point for me.  The way I see it – when you steal text, you pretty much know what you are doing.  You know you are evil and stealing someone’s work when you copy and paste their work.  Since I don’t know how to stop evil people in their tracks, I’m not going to even try.  Nice people though?  Those are the ones I’m talking to today.  The lovely bloggers that truly are kind people, but they are cheating and they might not even know it.

You see, I am a photographer and a blogger so I see both sides of the issue.  As a blogger, I understand that if you are not a photographer, it can be hard to find illustrations for your posts.  I get it.  However, as a photographer, I’ve worked years to be able to take photographs for my blog and I don’t want you taking my photos for your site.  …and trust me when I tell you that I am one of the nice photographers.  Photographers are up in ARMS about their work being stolen and they will sue in a heartbeat if they only had the money.  At some point, I believe the house of cards will come tumbling down and I worry that some of the nice bloggers might get hit.

The questions are many and the answers are murky, but I’d like to offer my opinion on the whole deal and offer up a little quiz.   I know I might ruffle some feathers here, but the problem is getting too big and I have been hit personally with it, so write I must.  There are no rules in blogging (welcome to the Wild Wild West folks), but there are standards and across the board everyone pretty much agrees stealing is wrong.  What constitutes stealing?  Ahhh – THERE is the rub.
So here goes.  These are my three litmus tests to determine whether I (or you!) am/are cheating.

#1 Am I a big blog?
Here’s the thing.  I don’t care if a small blog or new blog uses a photo or two and links back to me.  They aren’t making money off my work and they aren’t claiming it as their own.  I am nice however.  The average photographer would bite your neck off if they could.  So if you are just starting out and reading this and feel like crawling into a hole because you’ve used someone else’s photos – relax.  Nobody is out to get you.  You aren’t stealing any money from them (yet), so change your ways and you’ll be fine.  Everyone makes mistakes.

#2 Am I making money?
Of course, the second you put ads on your page and start making MONEY, THAT is when you are really going to start cheating.  Think about it.  You are putting someone else’s work on your page and whether you link to them or not, that content is making you money.  The more money you make, the more careful you should be.  If you don’t have permission from the photographer or illustrator directly, you are in the wrong.

#3 What does my pinterest sourcepage say?

Curious whether you are really cheating or not?  Your pinterest sourcepage is the easiest way to check it out.  Go to (put your blog address in the bold section) and look around.  Are the photos your photos or do they belong to someone else?  Is there one photo that repeats over and over and over again?  is it yours?  No?  Then you are cheating.  If you are making a good bit of money off your blog, then you are really cheating and have opened yourself to litigation.  You can’t make money off someone else’s work!

So what is a blogger supposed to do?  How do you curate content that is not yours without stealing content?  My good friend Heather does it well.  She creates a graphic that can be pinned and then includes other people’s photos with a link to them.  Her whole purpose is to direct traffic to other sites, but she intentionally makes sure folks can pin her graphic and not the other photos on the page.  You can see an example HERE

As I said before, I am certainly no expert, and there are no rules, but there are ethics.  Ethics would dictate that if you are making money off of someone else’s work, you are in the wrong.  So stop it.  Now.  …and if you don’t know whether your site is a “cheater” site, simply take a look at your pinterest sourcepage – it doesn’t lie.

I love y’all.  Don’t cheat.


Oh my goodness...did you know what I was posting tomorrow? You must have! I'm working on a compilation post. I haven't done one just because I wasn't sure how to do it properly. I couldn't figure out what to use as the "pinnable" photo. A graphic. doh!! Thank to fix that problem! You rock!
Amy Renea said…
had no clue Janel darling!! ...but I love the way Heather does it -- the graphic really helps!
here is where i get super frustrated- when i write my features post from my link party.... i provide all the links back and a picture to help the person being featured. people then pin my post and use their images and that drives me crazy- i keep reminding them to pin from the post of the linker, and i tell them i have a pinboard just for the features where they can go repin from, yet it still happens.
Is there a code we can put on particular pictures so they aren't pinned from our site? I have noticed one or two pics on my site that have been pinned from other sites. My intent was to properly credit my inspiration for my project but even with the link back people sometimes pin my inspiration pics from my site.
So very well said Amy! I think before it wasn't considered a crime, we didn't know how to find the source of a photo (for my blog I use Google Images and upload the photo and sometimes it does take awhile but I can usually find the source that way). Now since Pinterest came along we realize that it is so much more important to find the owner of the photos.
Amy Renea said…
Cassie - I hear you. I think the biggest difference in your situation is that people are literally submitting their work to you. The added step of you having the pinboard and asking readers to pin from their sites puts you in the right (in my non-legal opinion :) I don't think you should worry at all!!

Melissa - I know some bloggers have been doing that in flickr. I am not quite sure exactly how it works though. Ashley Ann Campbell of Under the Sycamore does it well and I believe Beth (Unskinny Boppy) does it too.

Heather - I hear you too girl! I know it is a touchy issue and I know that it is hard to find a good solution. I think you are doing a fab job and are very serious about not making money based on other people's STUFF - you are one of the good eggs (again in my very opinionated opinion ;)
Laurali Star said…
What a great read! I have a personal blog and a website that I'm developing blog/magazine style. For the magazine style blog I purchase the rights to Fotolia images, for a more polished, professional look.

For my personal blog I use 100% all my own! I had no photography knowledge beforehand but if you have a decent point and shoot camera and you learn how to edit pics, there's no reason to steal anyone's images. Using you're own can actually force you to be a better blogger.
Definitely not a cheater. I've been very careful to only use photos I took or purchased from Istock. Sometimes my son makes a graphic for me or my daughter (a photographer) takes a picture, but otherwise they're mine.

I tried to check on pinterest, just for kicks, but I couldn't get it to work.
The Bold Abode said…
You know.. when I first started writing my Friday's Letters, I'd find images on Google to use, but ALWAYS link back to the original website... then all of this copyright infringement talk popped up, and I was a deer in headlights. It even made me stop writing Friday's Letters. Now I am so much more careful and try to either use my own images, or images that are from sites like Deviant art and are free for either personal or commercial use. I do still link back to the site! Another issue is Font usage as well! I think as bloggers we feel as if we can use fonts that are for "personal use", when, if we make money off our blogs, would really be more for commercial use... So I always make a small donation to the designer if I am going to use the font...even if it is for my "personal" blog! It's just the right thing to do, IMHO. Great article, Amy!!!
Amy Renea said…
I totally agree! I've been making sure to download the "free" files instead of "Free for personal use" just to be safe! I like your idea of a small donation for fonts you really love/use a lot too!
I'm sorry to be a lame a** but I have a question about the pinterest thing. If I see an awesome photo on Pinterest and repin it to one of my boards, that's not cheating correct? I only ask because when you said something about it coming up over and over. I repinned a project about mod podge fall leaves onto my Fall board and everytime someone else repins it, I get an email saying someone repinned one of my pins. It's not mine so I'm not sure why I'm getting an email. Maybe everyone does? See? Lame A**!!! Sorry for the confustion
Holly said…
This is a great post. Good for bloggers to read. Some bloggers use a lot of pictures from other blogs or ads - I always wonder why that was an Ok thing for so long.
Amy Renea said…
Jaye - not lame and that is not a problem :) That is the joy of pinterest and the owner of that content is probably very happy that his/her work is being pinned and repinned. If you took that photo, screen snipped it from pinterest, used it in a blog post and people pinned that picture from YOUR site - that is the problem.

Holly - thanks and I agree - I've wondered why too!! I truly think it is going to blow up soon and it is good to be on the legal side of things ;)
I am a relatively new blogger but an amateur photographer, so I always choose to go with no photo rather than use someone else's. To me, this is just intuitive. Perhaps it is naive, but I'm shocked at what a rampant problem this is.

I confess that I once used a political cartoon. My thinking was that it had the author's signature, so was accredited, but I now think that probably was inappropriate. Given the size of my blog, I'm sure I still fall into #1, so I hope all will be forgiven. Thanks for the good post.