Blogger and ‘journalist’ Dana Blankenhorn recently posted an article on Smart Planet about recent developments in US Healthcare policy. When this article was posted, he included the image “Big Mother” by world-renowned Illustrator Chris Buzelli (you’ve seen him in Rolling Stone, advertizing work, etc.)
The problem here was that Dana never even attempted to contact Chris for permission to use this image, which was licensed for another publication anyway. Mr. Buzelli posted a concise response asking that the image be removed immediately. The image was taken down, and the following message went up:
The picture has been removed. However, I want you and every artist to
know the following:
1. It’s easy to watermark any Web illustration if you don’t want it
copied. You leave it in the clear, you’re giving permission.
2. I made a thumbnail. I didn’t “steal” the picture. I linked to the
original, gave you credit, and tried to bring you business.
3. I will also remove all references to you from the story, quid pro
This idea that one must gain permission before doing what comes
naturally on the Web has to end. You have the tools to stop it. Use
This is when Illustrators, concerned citizens, even the heads of the Society of Illustrators, a pioneering organization for artists’ copyrights, chimed in about how wrong Mr. Blankenhorn is – watermarks can be easily removed and junk up an image, no matter how small the theft it is still theft, and acting like you’ve done someone a favor when you stole from them is just plain rude.
But it got even better, because rather than responding to all these impassioned pleas for sanity from the art community, Mr. Blankenhorn posted a tech article to explain to everyone how easy it is to stop intellectual property theft. Some highlights:
I would try to use small versions of each image, just big enough to fit the space. I would credit sources. I would name them and link to them. If it was a piece of art or a poster that was being sold online, I’d link to the sales page. And I’d say nice things. That usually works. Publicity is good. Art that isn’t seen doesn’t exist.
Point is, any professional who does not want their images used without permission can and should protect them. Failing to take basic steps is like leaving a buffet lunch out by the street, walking away, and then calling the cops when someone takes a carrot.
Dana attempts to call his theft justified under the Fair Use section of the US Copyright law (because the “I gave you exposure, you should be THANKING ME” logic wasn’t winning anyone over) but he failed to note that this does not give free use of copyright protected works by living artists, and certainly not for profit – like an article he is being paid to write. Still not one serious apology, just alot of feeble excuses.