Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Little American Freedom

Photograph by Carrie Leigh

Enough is enough.

From now on, when you click on a copyrighted picture on this blog, you will be taken on a visit to the NUDE website.  No more free downloads.  It came to our attention yesterday that copyrighted images from this blog has ended up on pay sites. 

"I don't mind sharing my art," Carrie said.  "I have not previously protected it from downloads as I don't mind someone showing it with proper credit.  But when my art is stolen and sold on Internet pay sites without my consent, it hurts everything I have worked for.  It hurts me and my models when this happens."

As the glut of pirated music and images drives legitimate sources out of business, it concerns us to learn where images go that are posted on not-for-profit blogs.  Our stat counters show every download, and sometimes a visitor comes and downloads hundreds of images.  For what purpose?  Some create electronic portfolios for their own use, but now we have proof some of the downloads are pirated images to be used for commercial purposes without even a credit to the artist or artists.

The website of the Recording Industry of America says, "Copyright law protects the value of creative work. When you make unauthorized copies of someone’s creative work, you are taking something of value from the owner without his or her permission."  Not only is this a clear breach of ethics;  it violates U.S. law.  Criminal penalties can run up to five years in prison and/or $250,000 in fines, even if you didn’t don't download music and images for monetary or financial or commercial gain.

According to the site:  

Online music theft is "commonly known as piracy, but that’s too benign of a term to adequately describe the toll that music theft takes on the enormous cast of industry players working behind the scenes to bring music to your ears. That cast includes songwriters, recording artists, audio engineers, computer technicians, talent scouts and marketing specialists, producers, publishers and countless others.

"While downloading one song may not feel that serious of a crime, the accumulative impact of millions of songs downloaded illegally – and without any compensation to all the people who helped to create that song and bring it to fans – is devastating. One credible study by the Institute for Policy Innovation pegs the ANNUAL harm at $12.5 billion dollars in losses to the U.S. economy as well as more than 70,000 lost jobs and $2 billion in lost wages to American workers."

The site shares legal precedent regarding the piracy of copyrighted images online.  In Playboy Enterprises v. Russ Hardenburgh, Inc., 982 F. Supp. 503 (N.D. Ohio 1997), it was decided that:

"Distributing unlawful copies of a copyrighted work violates the copyright owner’s distribution right and, as a result, constitutes copyright infringement. . . . . [Unlawful distribution occurs where] [f]iles of [copyrighted] information are stored in the central system, and subscribers may either ‘download’ information into their[computers] or ‘upload’ information from their home units into the central files . . . ."

So there is no need to question whether online theft of copyrighted images is indeed art theft.  It is, and in the United States it is a felony to steal art.  Within hours of notifying an Arizona-based pay site that they were in violation of U.S. copyright law, the site removed artwork pirated from Carrie Leigh that initially appeared in print in Carrie Leigh's NUDE magazine and was later published on the official blog.

I don't mind visitor downloads of work for personal use.  But it is another story with the pay site pirates who take our work for commercial purposes and make money on it without even crediting the photographer.  There are also those who pass off others' work as their own work.  Piracy is art theft, and it is unethical and illegal and hurtful to all of us, each and every artist, when it occurs.

I realize some will shrug and say, "Then don't post your work online."  That's like saying, "If you don't want to be hit by a drunk driver, stay at home and don't go out on the highway."  This is, after all, the Information Superhighway.