v6.2.3 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Attribution, in the open web

This past weekend I happened to see a post on twitter from a contact that I haven't seen in quite some time. This person is a photographer and earns a living from the photographs that she takes. It seemed to me that she was a bit annoyed that someone had used one of her photos on their blog, but had failed to give attribution.  My gut reaction to this was "how dare they!" When you borrow something from someone else (like a photo in this case) for your blog, then making sure that you give credit should be one of the things that you do in the process of blog writing. If the image is used for a commercial purpose (corporate website for example), then you should seek to make payment for the content that you have appropriated.

Then I took a step back, and I thought if my own creative behaviors on this, and other blogs that I maintain.  Truth be told: I don't give attribution to the original image creator.  I just hop on a google image search (or bing) and search for images with certain attributes. If I like something I will copy the URL and put it right in my blog. I think that attribution is something that is not second nature to most of us.  We do our thing, we remix content in every which way we like, and we republish.  In academia we have established style manuals for citation which direct us toward appropriate attribution, both carrots and sticks to ensure that we cite appropriately - this doesn't exist in the world of blogs. This citation process of course takes time and effort, and it takes you out of the creative process. Sure, you could go back to it after the fact, but most blog posts aren't essays that you go over ten times with a fine tooth comb to make sure that all the t's are crossed and all the i's are dotted.

In the end, what this thought process boiled down to is this: If you prefer to not have your work taken by others without attribution then throw in a giant watermark on the each image you have on your flickr account so people can't remove it even it they wanted to. Sure, it detracts from the beauty of your photo, but no one can use it without paying royalties.
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