You’re probably familiar with a certain Keanu Reeves paparazzi photo that quickly became an Internet meme sensation. Sad Keanu, photo-shopped into hundreds of scenarios, was a user-generated content dream, popping up on blogs and websites all over the Internet. (If you know nothing of this meme, trust me, you’re probably better off.)
However, the takedown of various Sad Keanu sites by the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) earlier this year presented some interesting implications for digital rights management that anyone who administrates a blog or other website should take notice of. The organization responsible for the original photo of Reeves filed copyright infringement suits against sad-keanu.com, which led to the site’s eventual takedown.
If you manage a blog or are you launching a new blog, you should know a few things about digital rights and whether or not the content on your website is violating any tenets of the DMCA.
Here are some easy tips to help you keep your visual content accompanying your blog posts clean and legal:
1. Use Creative Commons
Creative Commons is a non-profit website that grants free copyright permissions to corporations, bloggers and anyone else to publish user generated photos, illustrations and videos found on the site. Photographers and other artists use it to promote their creative work, so nearly all of the licensees require that they be credited.
Here’s a typical example of a properly credited image.
(Above image by John Smith, licensed by Creative Commons.)
Depending on what you’re searching for, you can usually find really great work that is more unique than a stock photo image.
2. Invest in Your Visual Content
Remember, this is your website. Imagery is one of the most important parts of connecting to an audience, so a few dollars is a small price to pay to keep a reader. If you don’t want to worry about giving credit to artists, you can still get out the door inexpensively (meaning under $5) with stock imagery.
Here are some popular and relatively inexpensive image houses:
3. Always Give Photo Attribution
Whether you’re scraping a photo from The New York Times or a tiny underground music blog, you must give attribution for the photos you use to be in compliance with DMCA provisions. Annoying, I know but much better than the alternative. Imagine a photo you took of the Eiffel Tower ending up on a popular blog. Awesome! Now imagine that you weren’t credited with that photo. Ehhh. Bummer. Give credit where credit is due!
Believe me, if the person who took the photo or created the video wants you to remove it from your blog, they will let you know. But at least give them credit.
4. Ask Permission
If you want to be really careful, it doesn’t hurt to ask an author or artist if you can have permission to use their work on your blog or website. Most likely, all it will cost you is an attribution. And in the case that they decline, imagine if you had used it anyhow -- just something to think about. This obviously varies on a case-by-case basis. The AP probably won’t come after you for using a photo on your blog, but it can’t hurt to do a little research on their permission process.
5. Take Your Own Photos
Simple enough. When you take your own photos, you don’t have to worry about any of this stuff. It’s a bigger challenge, but creating your own visual content will give your blog an original feel, because the imagery is uniquely yours. Not only that, taking your own photos gives you more creative control.
If you choose to go this route, there are several organizations that will help you protect your creative content. Check out dmca.com for starters.
And, if you’re wondering if it’s ok to take screenshots from movies or videogames, just do a little research.
Is there something I missed? Are there any other measures you take to make sure your blog content is legally sound? Let me know in the comments below.
Above image credited to Sad-Keanu.com (Of course we did.)
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I have a question and if you wouldn’t mind answering it, I would greatly appreciate it. Myspace recently pulled a ‘video’ I created and placed on my profile, with the statement that I had violated copyright laws. It was a music video of my character dancing around in Second Life to a snippet of the song ‘Stripper’ by Lords of Acid. I mentioned the game and the song when creating the video, I gave due credit. So I’m curious, in by doing all this did I in fact break copyright laws? Or is Myspace being anally retentive and just on the slightest possible chance that I had did anything remotely wrong, pulled the content to cover their own butts?
Thanks for your time!
I know MySpace is a breeding ground for fake artist profiles, so there is a chance this has led them to be extra cautious about digital rights management within their network.
Sometimes, artists are adamant their music is not used – with or without attribution – unless the party has received express permission to do so (or has paid royalties). It just depends on the record label and their policies.
You may want to look into the label that issued that song and find out what their policies are. If they don’t specify, it’s likely MySpace is ‘covering their own butts’.