Fair Use for photos on the web and in blogs: a modest proposal to avoid a major battle.

Let’s face it, blogging has been a copyright free-for-all over the past couple of years.People grab photos here, quote a paragraph (or more) there and no one seems to care since a) blogs aren’t making money and b) if you’re grabbing a photo or paragraph you’re linking to the person. Additionally, some more sophisticated users know that there are provisions for “fair use” of others content when reporting news.

No attorney can tell you for certain if it legal to use someone else’s photo or textit is a judgment call based on a number of factors like how much of the original you use andif the use of that original content damages the authors ability to make money.

Today, for the first time, someone got upset at us for using one of their images in a 70 word blog post that is sending dozens of people a day to their website. I’m trying to explain to the person that we’ll take it down if they want, even though we could use a thumbnail/cropped photo by the fair use provisions as reports, but that we would rather work with them to come to a partnership.

I mean, we could just not send this person any traffic ever again. Blacklist their site. Ban them getting out traffic. It would be no problem for us. However, that is not good for the audience looking for links to important information and it is not good for them because, well, they could use the free traffic!

Anyway, it’s a clear sign to me that blogging is growing up. The market is starting to get testy and competitive. When traditional companies discover blogs are the audience they are getting look for the more paranoid ones to crack down.

As a group we need to set a standard when using other people’s photos. Perhaps we should all agree that we won’t use more then 50% of the original photo, cropping out the rest. Nick does this on Fleshbot all the time. Now, granted it is because of the design and to keep the site more “work friendly,” but I think he is on to a model of fair use for bloggers. Also, we could agree that no photo will be over 300×300 pixels and that any time you use an image you should link back to the source (we do this already, as almost everyone does).

Anyone have any experience with this they can share in the comment below?

Leave a Reply