Where Has All The Balance Gone?



Is that even possible anymore?

Lately, my world has been coloured in a heavy flurry of conversation about copyright issues for artists etc online. The upshot is the usage of people’s work, for Pinterest, colouring pages, etc. You have the people who pin and try to give credit to the artist which is not always easy to do, and then the ones that use the pictures in the same way and maybe don’t. You have a huge group of people who are happy to do that and share with one another, recognizing that no-one is using them for financial gain, only for their own personal use. Of course, there are always people who go too far and do things like buy a colouring book and put up the pictures for people to copy and use without having to pay for the colouring book like they did. These are the “bad guys” – all the people mentioned above are put in this group.

Then you have the artists and the internet monitors. I am saying the artists because many of the monitors claim to be artists but there are not a lot of artists that I hear from regarding this, however, they may not have the time to be in the same arena’s I am in. The monitors want everyone to know what they are doing is a crime, they passionately explain why it is a crime and try to protect the rights and the livelihoods of the artists. They want everyone to stop what they are doing and pay for everything they use OR get permission directly from the artist to colour their pictures. They are the “good guys.” They want to force the bad guys into compliance, or enact the full measure of the law on them.

Problem is that law of commons, different countries . . . It all gets very confusing. Artists have a duty to copyright their material, put a watermark on it etc, better yet – keep it off the internet. It is not that difficult to make it clear that your art is not available for personal use of any kind and must be purchased. We see evidence all over the internet of sites that do that very effectively like Dreamstime, 123RF, Getty Images, Alamay, Shutterstock, etc. You can’t easily rip any of their pictures.

So I find myself wondering why any artist in their right mind would risk using the internet at all, and if they did, why they wouldn’t at least make the effort to protect their pictures in some of the ways available – and I have certainly not mentioned all of them. You look at how many social media sites are dedicated now to pictures and the prolific sharing of photographs, posters, artwork . . . . all over the world via the internet. And it hit me, because it is worth the risk, considering the FREE exposure the artists get with everyone advertising their work.

Let’s face it, many of these artists haven’t a hope of selling enough of their work to ever earn a living from it. They can’t afford the advertising to get the exposure they need. Voila, the internet. So if 1000 people share their images, and even if only 1 of those end up buying a picture or a book or a photograph from them, that is one more person than would have had they not put it on the internet. And the potential exposure from the internet is almost limitless. The issue seems to be that the artists believe the 999 others would have paid for it had they not been able to click and save it to Pinterest. I hate to break the news to you but no, they wouldn’t have. They wouldn’t even be looking at your picture to even care if they liked it and that is 999 people who were never going to buy from you anyway. So the artist gains sales, and the reality of internet sharing it is an endless ripple of free advertising for the artist can go on for years after even a one-time exposure. When you add to that by the people who actually link back to the artist site, or give credit to the artist when they share the picture, that exposure is even more effective.

So here is the thing. If the artists and monitors are going to cry about the non-commercial, non-profit use of the picture they put up on the internet without any protection from copying, it is clear they are big defenders of what is legal and fair. That has to work both ways doesn’t it? Because if everyone is supposed to pay for every use of the art, even when it is just to say “I like this picture so much I am putting it in a scrapbook on the internet of my favourite things or I would love to colour this,” then artists should have to pay these people for the exposure and any sales that can be proven to be a direct result of them having shared that picture. How is it fair that the artist benefits financially from that so far free service? And if everyone else needs to pay the artist for that they absolutely MUST be paid. And the bonus of that? It would encourage everyone to make sure they pay for the art AND share it and list the artist if there was a chance they might get paid a commission for any sales coming from the view.

I can hear people already screaming about how hard that would be to police or prove, but hey, I am just looking for a fair and equitable solution for everyone.

The art and books that I have bought in the last 5 years have been a direct result of having seen the posts of others and my inquiring as to where they got it. THOSE people should have been paid a commission by the artist.

If we are going to be pedantic about moral and legal obligations, then it has to work both ways and while it is true artists do get ripped off by idiots, they are also blessed by idiots and in ways that enhance their pocketbooks. So can we just stop all the fighting now and move forward?? As long as people are not claiming the art as their own, or making money off of it, I am not sure how these practices actually hurt the artist.

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