Credit where credit’s due

Breastfeeding isn’t the only thing I get a bit geeky about. I have a “day job” (I feel that using this terminology puts me in the same category of rock stars and artists who slave away at desk jobs during the day and create at night, and thus makes me sound cool) where I do copy editing and desktop publishing. I am pretty nerdy about things like commas and hyphenation and word usage (ironically, I’m a bad speller and not a great typist, and often fail to proofread my own posts before hitting “publish”), and get a lot of joy out of creating templates and writing macros, which may seem strange to some. Another component of my job is trying to help ensure that copyright is respected.

While there are people who don’t believe that copyright matters—this blog post probably won’t change your mind if you’re one of those—there are people who simply misunderstand what respecting someone’s copyright entails. It’s a common misconception that you can use anything as long as you’re not profiting from it, but it doesn’t matter if you’re printing a photo on t-shirts that you’re selling or using it to decorate your blog post; if it’s not yours, and you don’t have permission to use it, you’re infringing upon copyright. You probaby won’t get legions of lawyers after you, but I’ve never thought that “it’s okay as long as I don’t get caught” is a good reason to do something.

Because I like lists, and things like bolded text make it easier to read blog posts (pro tip!), here are some more specific thoughts about copyright and how to respect it while still being able to use and share pretty pictures you find.


  1. Getty Images recently rolled out an “embed” feature. See the photo above? Isn’t it gorgeous? At this point in time, I can’t afford to pay for stock photos. Stock photo licenses are purchased through places like Getty Images and Shutterstock. You pay per photo or per month/year to download a certain number of photos to use, in any way you wish (though sometimes there are restrictions). Shutterstock, for one, advertises their images as “royalty-free,” but that doesn’t mean they’re free, it simply means you don’t need to pay every time you use the image.

    Getty rolled out the embed feature to join them rather than try to beat them, so to speak. Rather than trying to hunt down copyright violators, they’re making it easier for those people wanting to use their images non-commercially to do so while giving credit to the photographer and Getty. You can’t take those images and put them on an advertisement (so you might want to be careful when it comes to things like Facebook ads featuring your blog posts), but you can decorate your blog posts and articles.

    Flickr has an embed feature, but the difference is that Flickr does not own the rights to all of the photos available. If you wish to embed a Flickr photo, make sure it’s either offered under a Creative Commons license or ask permission from the photographer to feature the photo. The photos I’ve used from Flickr have been offered by the photographer under a Creative Commons license, and I have asked permission to use photos in some cases as well (such as the beautiful photo in my website banner).

  2. If you want to use a photo, piece of art, infographic, or any other content that you did not create that is not offered freely for use, ask for permission. Many people are happy to allow you to share their work, usually with attribution. This is a great way to build relationships with people, too, such as local birth photographers; you might even get a social media boost when they share that you’ve shared their work.
  3. When sharing, share from the source. It happens frequently: Whether purposefully or not, a page with a lot of followers shares an image or video that goes viral that is not one created by the page owners.

    At one point, my husband created a meme* that has been shared over 1,700 times at this point. As a credit to its hilarity, I’ve seen it pop up elsewhere, being shared through other sources, another 1,000 times. It’s great to see it out there, but in the age of social media, shares and likes help boost a page’s visibility. If you share someone else’s photo from your wall (either by downloading it and re-uploading it or your mobile app sharing it that way by default) rather than sharing it from a page’s or person’s wall, you get the traffic, not them. I don’t mind so much, but I do feel badly for photographers who have had their images downloaded and shared with their ownership information stripped and without linking back to their original page. 

    When I am sharing something on Facebook, I look to see if an image has some sort of identifying mark, such as a website, to figure out where it originated. For example, if XYZ Breastfeeding** shares an image from Breastfeeding USA, which I can recognize from the logo and text styles used, but shares it from their own page, I know to go back to the Breastfeeding USA page to flip through their photos and share directly from the page. I want Breastfeeding USA to get credit for the time and effort put into their message, not XYZ Breastfeeding. (Although it’s not uncommon for me to say I found it through XYZ Breastfeeding if I want to give them credit for their find.) 

  4. Unless you receive permission to do so, sharing media and providing a link back to the source isn’t enough. Again, go back to the source and share from there. Give people credit for their skills and thoughts and showing the initiative to share them. 

While this topic may seem odd for a blog that is normally about breastfeeding and parenting, social media has become such a part of our lives and businesses that I felt a little primer would not be too unusual. The breastfeeding support, birth, and parenting communities as they exist online are vibrant and full of people creating wonderful things and sharing centuries worth of collective knowledge. Respecting this and sharing that information responsibly (and legally) is one way to keep it growing and thriving. 


*I admit that I’m not sure about the use of the images for memes in terms of copyright. They came from somewhere, and I am uneasy that I don’t know the sources. However, they seem to live in a gray area of ubiqutousness. 

**Not a real name, I hope.

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