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30 September 2012

Am I a Blogger Cheater?

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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.

blogging cheater

#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.

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