This past week I participated in what I like to now call “hyper academia.” I was lucky enough to earn a fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for teaching journalism to secondary students and I was more concerned with what I would pack to wear than with the actual academic merit of the course. I may or may not have hung the acceptance letter on my fridge next to pictures of my grandmother bass fishing and my boyfriend’s duck face. In reality, I was taking a graduate school class in a week.
The girl I semi-roomed with (we shared a bathroom and she peed with the room doors open which made us immediate friends) said she “knew all along what was coming and felt prepared.” BAH. WHAT. Prepared to take class from 9-5 with an hour for lunch (some days) and then study the text book and do homework until 1 am every night? Because I’ve never been prepared for that. I’m a girl who needs the Disney amount of sleep. Spinning wheel or not, I am neither beautiful, nor filled with niceties if I don’t get sleep. In fact, my boyfriend calls this, and the times that I don’t eat at regular intervals, “The diva mode.” If it has a name, it must be true.
I’m not here to bash the course, it was awesome. I learned so much about how to format my class, how to work in an online journalism platform, and how to teach my students that platform. I made my own video on a street artist in Chapel Hill. I built and now manage an online literary magazine and online newspaper for my students, thanks to WordPress and two fabulous professors. I may not have eaten anything healthy, and this may have been the first time that a class caused me to be so tired that I got a sore throat and smushed my face into the text book while the professor was lecturing, but I learned some really valuable things. AND ONE OF THESE THINGS…pertains to all of us.
We did a little bit on the ethics of journalism in the course, and fair use laws. And I’m here to say that I’m just as bad as my students and have been completely abusing fair use laws on this blog. And I actually think a lot of us do this thinking that in a world of Pinterest, and Tumblr, that fair use laws on the internet don’t actually matter. If you put your naked body on Tumblr, then everyone and their mother, and crazy Uncle Steve, can go on Tumblr and repost that sucker. This is just not the case. Fair use laws are serious and we can all be sued for our lack of depth or knowledge in this area.
Everyone knows a post with images is a post people like better. Look at BuzzFeed, the queens of all image lists. I am sure of one thing, they’re following fair use laws. Think of all the cat ladies they had to contact to create that post…hoards. BA-DUM-CHA.
I love the use of images, I think most people like a blog that separates the words with cute, intelligent, or interesting images and LOTS of white space. In fact, according to online column rules, this post is probably already too long.
I think it’s time that we all educated ourselves on copyright and fair use laws so that we don’t become “those people” who are stealing from the interwebs of the actual creative minds who photographed, created, or distributed these lovely images for the masses to see. I thought I was doing a good job of using the @ sign to link to where I got the image and that was enough, but it’s not. Real people took these images. Real people deserve the credit for these images.
Now I know, we aren’t stealing cars. But we’re stealing someone else’s creativity and isn’t that almost worse? We might not drive it off a cliff when we’re done with it, nor did we finagle it with hot-wire tactics, but someone brilliant isn’t being noticed behind their images if we’re just distractedly linking from Google.
From now on, I’m going to ONLY use images from Creative Commons, my own Instagram account or baby Nikon, and other images that have attribution licenses. I’m going to do my best to ask permission from the ORIGINAL owner (no more Tumblr images because I can imagine that unless it’s art, it’s practically impossible to find the Original Gangsta who created some of those images) and I’m going to promote fair use as much as I can.
I would hate if someone stole my writing and publicized it as their own. I don’t want to be “THAT person” who does that with anyone else’s work.
If you’re a person who thinks as long as you site the website where you got the image and you link back to that site that it’s okay to take the image, then you need to read up on Intellectual Property. If the goodness of your heart hasn’t swayed you to become a blogger, or continue being a blogger, that follows fair use guidelines, then read Roni Loren’s story and get with the program. Pardon me while I go through 467 posts and edit out the images where I didn’t follow fair use.