Monday, May 28, 2012

Crediting Pictures: An (Un)Official Guide

Given the recent Cretaceous Studies incident and some people's questions on how pictures should be properly credited, I've thrown together this guide on what crediting should (ideally) look like. A lot of this is directly inspired by ART Evolved Admin Glendon Mellow who has put up several very good and important links about art use and artist crediting (here and here being two key ones of many). For a full understanding of the issues surrounding online image use definitely read these posts by Glendon. I'll summarize some of it here, but this post is meant to be a practical demonstration and reference of how you should be posting other people's pictures.

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So a quick brief on why art/photograph crediting is important.

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If you run a website, blog, or other online venture, I'm sure it isn't a stretch to say, a big part of the reason you do it is for the sense of positive attention and recognition you get from your visitors. The only thing is if not everything on your page was actually created by yourself, than you alone shouldn't be the only one basking in that attention. If you are using pictures or photographs created by other people to improve your site than you should be sharing your success with them...
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Using work by others means you are gaining from their time and effort, and unless your paying them money you really should be recognizing this. No matter how much work you put into making and arranging your sites content, artists and photographers typically put a comparable amount of their own work into their art. So even though you are the one who brought their work onto your site for the world to see, your site would be all the less without that picture. Give this contribution to your site the nod it deserves...
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Hopefully the work that went into a piece of artwork should be self evident, but there is a common misconception that photographs are "easy" to take, so its okay to use them as though they are free. Yes in principal one takes (most) pictures by simply snapping a camera, but the catch is that photographs capture an exact moment of time. They are not truly replicatable. More to the point most of the time the photos we seek are of things, places, people, or events we ourselves haven't been able to photograph ourselves (otherwise why didn't you take the photo yourself?). Meaning a photographer who has captured something you haven't, still has expended resources you were not willing to, and thus you are still borrowing this other peron's efforts. So photographs are art, just of a very unique nature...
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How do we properly share our site's success with those who help create the pictorial content? Easy, credit them by name and link back to their site. That way anyone interested in the pictures and their creator can easily find this artist/photographer, and hopefully help the creator keep making more pictorial stuff for us all to enjoy!
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Frankly it is not only the right thing to do, but most of the time something you have to do (I'll talk about copyright in a bit). Crediting and linking is protection against an artist's wraith should you be using a picture improperly, as it is hard for a creator to get furious if they find you've at least been acknowledging their efforts and sending them potential customers and fans. On the other hand if you have just been taking their stuff and not remotely hinting to their existence or the fact you appreciate their stuff, you could have (legal) problems on your hands.

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So I've thrown together this quick reference guide of how to reference yours and other people's work. All the artwork is "real" (though please don't judge it, I made them in a hurry for this tutorial only), as are the links and credits. So please feel free to click and see how I've done this crediting. I have permission for all pieces I've used and modified, in addition to just crediting them if anyone was wondering.

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The trend I hope you'll notice is that the more of your own work appears in your pictures the more options you have for displaying them. As you're effort in the pictures drops so do your options for post them morally and legally...
The categories are:

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0. Captioning versus Not captioning
1. All My Own Work
2. My Work and Someone Else's
3. All Other People's Work
4. One Last Thing to Consider: Copyright
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0. Captioning vs. Not captioning

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For all my other examples I've used captions, which is a useful tool for ensuring the text always accompanies the pictures. This is an easy feature to use on the new Blogger platform and many other online host services. However if you are unable to use captions, you should still be typing out credit lines directly above or below the picture. Not having caption capabilities is no excuse or hindrance to crediting.
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 Non-caption
Picture by Craig Dylke

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This was not a caption, but is just as functional. Simply type your credit line, align the text as you wish, space it so it is on the line direct under (or above) the picture, and you're done!
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Caption 
By Craig Dylke
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Here is the caption. Apart from how Blogger displays it, there isn't much difference here with the actual caption. The benefit is that if I move the picture in the post the credit line automatically follows it.
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1. Crediting All My Own Work
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I start the guide with how to credit your own images and pictures. When you own ALL the content than you frankly can do whatever you want with it. I'm just presenting you with options here.
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As this is not as sensitive category (the only person you'll be ticking off here with improper crediting will be yourself after all) I'm not going to go into detail, except on watermarking.
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For this tutorial I've used a picture created by mixing a piece of my own artwork and one of my own photographs. These tips can be used on a singular photo or artwork, or in cases like this where you've mixed more than one thing together...
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Method 1: No crediting or linking
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Using your own stuff is the only time it is acceptable to have no credit, caption, or links. As it's all yours, do feel free to do with it as you please. Credits are useful for clarifying whose material it is, but again that's up to you...
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Method 2: Crediting but with no links
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By Craig Dylke
A great way to denote that something is indeed yours, and provides others an easy way to back link and credit you, is to credit yourself. If this is your only site or post about a particular piece or photo you don't need the back link. There is no point in someone clicking to see what they are already looking at! ;)
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Method 3: Credit and Link
By Craig Dylke
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Adding a link to the credit line is the most common method through out the rest of this tutorial, and it works fine for your own work so long as there is a reason. Add the link should only be if you have somewhere different and relevant to send visitors your visitors. In this case I've sent you to my official page for this Dinosaur artwork.
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Method 4: Watermarking
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Now we come to a method that is (in my opinion) only okay for work that is your own, and that is watermarking. This is a fancy term for superimposing words over a picture, like I've done here. They can be more tastefully and artfully done (transparency, fancier colour choices etc.).

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Watermarks could be thought of as a virtual of stamp of authority. So putting your stamp on your own stuff is fine, but its not good edict to stamp for someone else (especially if they don't even know your using their stuff). There is an implication of authority and ownership with a watermark. So to do it for someone else on implies that you not only have permission to post that person's work, but that this other person endorses your use of it.

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So my advice don't watermark anything that is not 100% your own. If you watermark for someone else and they don't like your use of their stuff you could aggravate things (compared to the methods listed below)!
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2. Crediting My Work mixed with Someone Else's
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So what happens if you mix other people's art with your own? Now we are entering a category where there needs to be some recognition for those who made your final product possible. Regardless if you did a great job photoshopping or drawing around or on top of that other person's stuff. Point is without those other elements the final product wouldn't exist! (Even if you think what you've used is "easy" to reproduce. Instead of giving that lame excuse just go reproduce the element! If you use someone else's effort to save yourself work you need to give credit!).
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The only correct way to post this sort of composite artwork is to include a credit somewhere.
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Method 1: Credit and link stuff that is not your own
Dinosaur by Peter Bond
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If you only want to minimally put credits by or around your pictures, you can get by with just crediting and linking to the other person. However this is the most minimum you can get away with.
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The credit should make clear what the other person created. Your linking should send visitors to an online portfolio, homepage, or post about the person's art. Here I've linked to Peter's specific post about this art. Just make sure the link is of use to someone wanting more information about the artist, and presents that artist in a positive light.
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Method 2: Credit and link all components
Dinosaur by Peter Bond, Photograph by Craig Dylke
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The problem with crediting just the other person's work (which you have to do) is that it becomes unclear you were responsible for some of the work in a picture too. Crediting yourself is the answer. There is nothing wrong with plugging yourself when you created the work.
Just again make sure you're back linking is relevant on yourself. In this case I don't have this picture anywhere else on the web. So there is no need for a link (as if this were on my own site you'd already be on it).
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3. Crediting all other People's Work
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Finally we come to what happens when you use art or photos by just other people. There is only one proper answer. Credit and back link to all the creators involved. Even if you photoshopped it all together, it is NOT your creation. Those elements took other people's time to exist (if you think they were easy to make, than go make your own!) so they need to be acknowledged. Whether it be a single thing you used or a bunch you mixed together. You only have the one option!
The Only Method: Credit and Link all works used!!!
Art by Glendon Mellow, Photograph by Peter Bond,
Optional Credit Photoshoping by Craig Dylke even though it is rubbish in this example :P
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This is pretty straight forward. Acknowledge each creator and their part in your composition. You can credit yourself for mashing the components together, but that should be the last credit (and I'd suggest only if it is a really good effort... I'm half embarrassed putting my name to this as it is not an example of my best work).
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Once again make sure your links are of use to people seeking more information about the artist, and you'll be good as gold.

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5. The Last Thing to Consider: Copyrights
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In my opinion if you follow the other guidelines above, especially when using images and pictures by other people, I recon you should not have a major problem like legal action or angry creator declaring war on you if you are crediting them properly. That having been said the above methods do not actually protect your use of the images. You need to be aware of the legal implications of using other peoples' work.
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If you use an image improperly and a creator comes after you (which is within their legal rights) the outcome can vary from you having to take down the offending image, your whole website being shut down, or an outright lawsuit against yourself! Right away you should check the copyright on any image that is not your own before posting it on your website. Just because you found it on some other site uncredited doesn't mean its okay for you to do the same. When I say it is not okay I mean that both ethically AND legally. Just because someone else is breaking the law doesn't absolve you of the same crime if you commit it too!
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Creative Commons


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One of the most common copyright types you'll encounter these days is the creative commons. This is a standardized set of image usage criteria established with the theory that image creators AND users would all follow the same rules. This has not worked out mostly due to users. Please don't be one of these image users that ruin a perfectly acceptable universal standard!
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Most creative commons are denoted by a graphic like this somewhere on an image's page. The vast vast majority of them do not appear on the the image itself. For reference you'll note we here at ART Evolved have one at the very top of our site.

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Creative Commons can seem confusing if you don't know what they mean. However I've provided this excellent graphic by Milos Janata that should hopefully show you how easy they are to understand.
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You'll notice a very common requirement here is to mention the creator of anything you have used. So get those credits up!
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Outright Copyright
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Some creators just put an all out copyright on their work, which means that you can not legally use that image without their expressed permission. Yes that often doesn't happen on the Internet, but you yourself don't want to get caught breaking the law and simply using the excuse "but they did it too"!
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Now if there is an image you must use but it is copyrighted, my suggestion is break the law as gently as you can (I'm not pretending to be an angel in this regard... I have been known to post copyrighted work BUT...). Make sure you credit the heck out of it. It is also a good idea to state in that credit you are more than willing to take down the image if requested to by the owner. Also whatever you do make sure you are not making any money from your site or the image use! If you make money (even just from ads) that is asking for the most severe legal recourse!
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Again showing you at least respect the artist enough to pay them their due in credit should protect you from the worst options they have that their disposal. That said be aware you are still taking a risk in doing this. So do so at your own risk!
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Mashups and Copyrights
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All the pictures I used in this demonstration today were composites of multiple pieces, and in all cases (had I not acquired permission from the owners before making this post) I would have been really breaking copyright law!
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In cases where you are modifying other people's work it is really important to be careful of copyrights. You can open yourself up to the more intense consequences of infringement with derivative works.  You should not modify or mix parts of images that have total copyrights or Creative Commons licences that forbid it (and keep in mind nearly half of CC licenses prohibit unauthorized derivative works!).
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You open yourself up to a lot more action to be taken against your site or yourself. If you are mashing up other people's stuff you should definitely be crediting them!
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Conclusion

Hopefully the one take home message is that you credit everything and anything that you did not directly create on your website. It not only protects you, but hopefully will help the image creators keep on creating stuff! I'd also caution you to beware of copyrights for the safety of your site/blog and or bank account.

2 comments:

STEVIE SPECTRE said...

As an Artist and Paleoartist I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to educate others about the importance of accreditation. Thanks.

Craig Dylke said...

No worries Stevie. We just need to get the word out more now...