Photo by Jess Pierotti

Photos by Jess Pierotti

Artists often seem to fall into two categories: complete fear about image theft and idea theft and complete “you can’t let it worry you, just put the images online.”

At a recent event with the Chicago Artist Coalition lawyer Patrice Perkins of Lifestyle Zen (how’s that for a different kind of name for a law firm?) spoke to us about many issues that are important to creative entrepreneurs, as she calls us: copyright, trademark and more. But the topic that got the most interest from the audience was the issue of protecting images of your artwork online.

Ms. Perkins explained about the importance of “putting the public on notice” that you’re claiming the copyright on your work. So it’s important to always put that copyright notice in the caption of your images when you post online.

As she was speaking, I had the greatest idea! You know how when you download a picture, such as something from flickr that has a Creative Commons license, or you have permission from a friend, and the title of the photo/the file name, comes with the picture?

Well, why not embed that copyright information right in the file name? That way anyone who downloads the file (with or without permission), by definition has the copyright notification, by definition, because it’s part of the file.

The audience was extremely interested in seeing what Ms. Perkins had to say about the user agreements/terms of service of Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

There’s something quite different about seeing those Terms of Service when they’re enlarged on a slide screen and a lawyer is explaining them to you!

Most of us were pretty shocked about one or more of the policies of these popular social media sites.

A fellow artist was very excited when I told her about “No Pin,” a short bit of code you can use to prevent people from pinning your images to Pinterest. Why would you want to do that? Because of their terms of service, which say that they retain rights to your photos, even modified versions of your photos, even after you delete them, basically FOREVER. Forever. That’s a long time. (This is something Ms. Perkins explained to us.)

I know it’s hard to resist the pull of Pinterest, especially since there are reports, anecdotal and otherwise, that Pinterest really results in sales. However, it can also result in other things, like your work being posted without attribution, or with the wrong attribution.

This article: “6 Reasons Why you should use the Pinterest ‘No Pin’ Code” makes a terrific case for a middle way: using the “No Pin” Code, provided by Pinterest, which prevents people from pinning from your site, and at the same time allowing very specific images, that you choose, to be pinned (by adding in a pin button for those). This seems to me like an excellent compromise.

Here’s a link to the No Pin Code: https://help.pinterest.com/entries/21063792-Prevent-pinning-from-your-site

What about blogging? What steps can you take to protect your images online and on your own blog?

Ms. Perkins explained that you should publish any artworks first on your own blog, and then link from social media back to your blog.

I was thrilled to hear that, since I have for years said that your blog should be the center of your social media universe (I heard that at WordCamp, I apologize that I can’t remember the name of the speaker), and social media your outposts.

Here’s a mind map on that:

Hand drawn mind map by Elaine Luther showing how your blog should be the center of your social media universe.

Hand drawn mind map by Elaine Luther showing how your blog should be the center of your social media universe.

You know who else says you should make your blog your online headquarters and that you shouldn’t create user generated content? Seth Godin, that’s who.

Of course, there’s this constant struggle, isn’t there? Some of us seem to struggle more than others about what to share, when to share and how to share. (A history of this, to put it all in context, can be found in the book, Say Everything, which I reviewed here.) Usually, those of us who struggle more seem to be the non-digital natives.

At the CAC event, the event photographer, Jess Pierotti shared during the Q & A portion, that she knows artists who are posting images of their artwork online less and less, and choosing to share process photos and insights instead.

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