I’ve been trying put together some marketing images lately and while doing searching for ‘free’ images useable under a creative commons license have been reminded of a lesson that I learned way back when I first started using the internet.
Once you put something out on the internet, you lose control of it.
I didn’t come up with this all by myself, I was a green teenager and the internet was young. Most of the social interaction came through AOL and of all things, Yahoo groups. (Yep, aging myself here.) I was a member of several of these groups in a large fandom community and there was an older member on there who told us all that you are not as anonymous as you think you are. There weren’t as many IP hiding and server jumping software services at the time, but this still holds true. No matter how anonymous you think you are, someone, somewhere can find you. Think before you post anything on the internet, good or bad. Be prepared at all times to stand by what you said and for someone to figure out who you are. Because once you say this stuff, once it is out there, you lose control of it. Unless you are all right with your mother, conservative grandmother, girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/spouse, random internet stranger and your future employer to find out what you get up to online. Don’t put it on the internet.
In this age of cyber bullying, internet doxing and constant selfies, this holds true more than ever.
Be careful what you post.
There was a reason in the “old” days that fandom writing had disclaimers about copyright infringement and not making a profit off of anything. Some fandom writers still do this, others don’t because they aren’t aware of the need. Or for some reason, don’t think it applies anymore. (It wouldn’t really help in the short or long run, but we disclaimed anyways just in case.) The reason was that some intellectual property holders don’t like fan created works and would go out of their way to sue, send cease and desist orders and yes, cyberbully and doxx people having fun on the internet. (There are at least 2 very well known authors infamous for doing this.) And fandom writers hoped that if we disclaimed hard enough that we weren’t making money off of our fan created works, that it was for fun and hopefully under fair use, that they, professional authors, wouldn’t sue, send us cease and desist orders, cyberbully or doxx us. (Think about how ridiculous that looks for a moment please. Professional authors sueing mostly teenagers, outing where they live and if they were adults, trying to get them fired.)
I decided to be the same person on the internet as I was off the internet. If I wouldn’t say it to a person’s face. I wouldn’t post it. I learned the lesson about my parents finding my fandom identities during college, twice. It came as a shock, that yes, my parents had found my fandom identities and yes they knew what fandom was and shipping. And all I could do is hope they didn’t read everything on those blogs because some of it was NSFW. It took some time for me to accept that yes, I am a sexual being and if my parents don’t know that, well, that’s their problem and not mine. (No. I am not telling anyone what fandoms I was in. Just. No.)
By the way, if you go into my computer and start poking about. You deserve what you find for breaching my privacy.
This is especially true of any artistic endeavor. If you post something, you lose control of it. The internet is a great place for creative people. There are so many places to exchange ideas and post creative content for fiction and art. In my short time on tumblr I’ve seen a great many amazing ideas that made me go “I wish I had time to write that.” (I have so many ideas of my own to write first!) The problem with exchanging ideas and posting images and writing fiction is that on the internet it is so easy to steal things. People don’t respect copyright. They see things on pintrest and suddenly it is on their pintrest or Instagram or tumblr without any idea of the original source. Somebody turns it into a wallpaper and it ends up on a free wallpaper site or turns it into a jigsaw puzzle and so on and so forth until it is next to impossible to track down the original place the image is posted.
Copyright becomes a slippery thing. And when people are trying to create images for book covers or shareables or just put them on their blog, wander into illegality without meaning to do so. The meaning of copyright gets lost and the copyright holder of the image spends lots of time sending out cease and desist orders and their lawyer works overtime. There are a great many images I’ve found through google images I’d love to use for something and have to spend the time to track down who holds the copyright to make sure I don’t infringe on someone else’s creative endeavor. Most people don’t do this. They don’t care or they are lazy or they don’t know they’re supposed to do it.
Honestly, the best thing to do is either place the copyright of your image in the bottom right of the image with your name, year, copyright symbol and website or to put a watermark over the whole of the image. Even this won’t stop people, at the VERY least unless they crop the image, the copyright holder is credited and people can find the original.
And if you don’t want the image/art piece/fiction used without some sort of remuneration. Then don’t post it on the internet.
So, in short, be careful what you post. You never know where it’s going to end up. And if that isn’t a scary thought. I don’t know what is.