Yes, really. In a story entitled “Flickr as an Interior Decorating Tool” (here) Sonia Zjawinski says the following:

Through these bouts of procrastination, I’ve often found stunning photographs, so much so I’ve gotten in the habit of printing faves out and framing them. If a user offers the original resolution for download, don’t let that go to waste. Download, print, frame!

And if you’re wondering about copyright issues (after all, these aren’t my photos), the photos are being used by me for my own, private, noncommercial use. I’m not selling these things and not charging admission to my apartment, so I think I’m in the clear.

You might want to check with Keller on that one.

I don’t see a correction anywhere even after getting completely shelled in the comments. Now acknowledges a ” controversy surrounding the use and reuse of other people’s content on the Internet.” What an idiot x2.

Thanks for the tip Lane.

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  1. That is disgusting. What an ignorant thief. If I had a dead tree subscription to the NYT I would cancel it. What an idiot. Another reason to change the Flickr settings to stop all the Sonia Zjawinskis out there from easily copying images.

  2. Wow. Absolutely crazy. I wish someone could go to this woman’s house and rip everything off the walls!

  3. if she’s doing it, you better believe a lot of people are doing it. so, if you got your work up on flickr, just imagine all the money you’re giving away.

    • @Tim, If you have your work on Flickr (or anywhere) that is full size, you’re certainly asking for trouble. If you have work online that isn’t watermarked to a significant degree you’re also asking for trouble – even for small, low rez files. Most people who are going to download and print, like this author, aren’t necessarily savvy enough – I think – to be able to or want to spend a lot of time removing a significant watermark. They are opportunists, “impulse” downloaders who find something they like and download it because it’s available and easy to do.

      There are others, however, after commercial gain, that just might take the time to remove a watermark.

      Low-rez + small size (< 640px) + significant watermark = better protection.

      The NYT should not have run the story as is without adding significant information about copyright infringement and the diff between creative commons and “all rights reserved”. Bad press.

  4. oh. my. how did that pass her editor’s desk? seriously?

    it seems she’s amended the article & plans another to address the issue of copyright infringement. i hope her sources ROAST her.

  5. Yep. very sad that a ‘journalist’ would suggest that it’s OK based on her understanding of copyright. Agree w/ Trey – how did that pass her editorial review?

    Unfortunately, I see it likened to stealing a small piece of bubble gum from the big jar at the convenience store. Takking that one small piece hurts no one really, but how can anyone defend that make it OK to do.

  6. This is why I never, ever put anything except low-res files on the internet. Someone, somewhere will always feel that the fact that you made it available is permission to rip it off.

  7. People always talk about how the public doesn’t understand copyright but here we have a writer who doesn’t and it’s the public who has to set her straight in the comments.

    • @A Photo Editor, but she’s with the NY Times, so her ignorance, to me anyway, is not surprising.

  8. Kinda sad and yet funny in a, well, sad way. Some people look to these folks as the place for information that is solid or at least factual… errr…

    This got through the editors and the other folks internally. Question… could the daffy lady be speaking about CC, the organized attempt to remove the creator from any kind of ownership? Under CC she is fine… even encouraged to do such things. But I don’t see that mention in her post.

    Wait… hear that squeek? That’s the bar being lowered again. And again…

  9. while i don’t condone the blatant endorsement of someone using someone else’s work as a free accessory, it is important to point out that the topic of intellectual property usage is a hot and controversial one indeed. on the flip side, as a music producer and photographer, I see little harm in someone acquiring the work of an artist via means of a public forum (i.e., the Internet) and applying its use in a personal way for no gain. if art touches, moves or inspires- then the artist has done his or her job. keep in mind, you stone-throwers, that the creator of such works is just as complicit in posting their work and is (hopefully) well aware that once it’s out there, it is no longer 100% their own.

    seeing people leave self-righteous comments using words like ‘disgusting’ and ‘absolutely crazy’ to describe such practices should start with their own back yard. i’d be hard-pressed to find out that they’ve never ever “borrowed” the work of others to benefit or enhance their own lives in some tiny little way. people in glass houses…

    • @brian,
      The internet is not a public forum. That’s like saying the planet is a public forum.

      If she looked at a picture then tried to make one like it to put on her wall she would be borrowing from the images. What if one of the photographers sells prints for a living? Is that not stealing then?

      • @A Photo Editor, i disagree that the internet is not a public forum. i would like to think that the photographer who sells his or her prints for a living is smart enough to not post large, high-res images on the web that are easily reproducible. if an artist makes a high-res image available online in a public forum (i.e., Flickr, Photobucket, etc), then they are just looking to get ripped off. it’s out of their hands once it’s been downloaded. yes, absolutely- it IS stealing, but this holier-than-thou attack on joe-the-downloader is fruitless. it’s just a way to blame somebody. it is the responsibility of the artist (especially if the artist makes a living off of the work) to safeguard his or her own work. (e.g. thumbnails, watermarks, low-res quality images)- a no-brainer really.

        even when posting a small, 72 ppi image you are always going to have the novice appreciators of art/photography who will download and print such a low quality image- not knowing the difference, and be content in their ignorance. so what? the true connoisseur will have no problem paying the photographer for an original print. water seeks its own level.

        i have first hand experience with having my own musical and visual works slip into the endless abyss of illegal downloading, P2P sharing and bootlegging. (i use music as an example here, as it falls under the intellectual property category also) i’ve had the very bread and butter ripped from my mouth. trust me, i’ve bitched and moaned about this problem myself. i’ve lobbied for improvements in protecting works and have partnered with digital music distributors by proposing solutions and ideas to combat the problem. in a recent study, it was reported that approximately 95% of digital content is acquired illegally. it’s an ongoing work in progress. for every measure you take to fight it, there is always a new counter-measure to circumvent it. finger pointing and yelling “shame on you” is not a solution. all it does is blow off a little steam.

        and for the record, Sonia Zjawinski IS an idiot.

        • @brian,
          I want an internet where property is respected just like in the world where I live. Just because I park my truck on a public street doesn’t mean you can take it (this example has been used a million times but I still like it).

          I strongly disagree that nothing of value and nothing of high quality should be put online to prevent thieves from stealing it. It’s a simple matter of enforcing the laws. I also know first hand that finger pointing is a solution. Sonia’s boss is probably thinking about firing her.

          If you want an internet where everything is low rez and tiny fine. I don’t.

          • @A Photo Editor, comparing a digital image to a tactile object such as a truck is a moot argument. you would still protect said truck via an alarm, steering wheel cuff, what have you. and while having a Utopian high-res internet that you call for sounds nice, it is not reality. unfortunately, it is not a simple matter of enforcing the laws. the very laws you want enforced are themselves in a quagmire. they are still in their infancy and nobody knows what’s what, therefore nobody knows how to really enforce them. it’s pretty clear that the current model of digital copyright protection law is in disarray. any impending (and well-deserved) pink slip that Sonia may have coming is hardly going to make a dent. it’s a micro in a macro. it’s not like she blew the whistle on classified information. all she did was be a dumb ass.

            • @brian, comparing a digital image to a tactile object like a truck is not a moot argument. both are actual things that have value. i have a truck & i lock it’s doors when I get out. yet, someone broke into it and took out the stereo. i don’t see that kind of theft and Sonia’s kind as any different at all.

              • @Trey Hill, i agree. theft is theft. no argument there. but if you, as the owner of your truck left your window down, i.e., leaving your vehicle vulnerable, and someone came along and helped himself to your radio- you would be a part of the equation that allowed such a theft. even so, there is a system of law in place that allows you to call the police, make a report and potentially get your radio back. no such wholly workable, enforceable law currently exists for intellectual property. the argument here is about the responsibility of the artist/owner– not theft itself.

                • @brian, the argument is ABSOLUTELY about the theft.

                  in the US, the act of original creation secures an artist’s copyright. all i have to do to “lock my doors” is create something original. that’s it. i have fulfilled my end of the bargain. it’s up to everyone else to make sure they don’t steal it, which, as it turns out, isn’t very difficult.

                  i don’t leave my windows down – figuratively or otherwise. and even if i had, tempting a thief with easy access doesn’t acquit them of their guilt.

                  i’m actually in shock that someone who creates beautiful & commericial work, like yourself, is attempting to argue that if copyrights are infringed, it’s the artists fault.

                  Sonia was flat out wrong to print images off Flickr without the permission of the photographers. i think you agree with that, so i’m not sure why you’re attempting to pin the blame for her theft on the photographer.

                  • @Trey Hill, i’m sorry if it wasn’t clear. the thread starts to become convoluted after so many posts. i am not saying that it is the photographer’s fault. no way. all i am saying is that it is in the photographer’s best interest to protect his/her own work as best they can by means i suggested earlier–despite the total non-immunity that exists on the web. however, don’t act surprised when your high-res image you posted on a photo website is obtained and used in ways beyond your control. it’s like waving a t-bone stake in front of a starving dog with no intention of actually letting the pooch have it, then blaming the dog for yanking it from your hand and chowing down.

                    it is utterly fascinating– the naivety that fuels the pearl-clutching shock when we learn about work being stolen off the web…like it’s something that just popped up yesterday. i point this out strictly as an observation- not as devil’s advocate. Yes, Sonia was wrong and qualifies as the figurative aforementioned “dog”. I get fuming mad when I hear stories like this–people freely luxuriating off of the hard work and labor of others.

            • @brian,
              It’s true. A digital object can be reproduced infinitely so stealing one hardly matters in comparison to physical objects. But, just because a percentage of the population are thieves doesn’t mean we can’t force compliance for people who want to remain good citizens of the internet. The rampant narcissism we’re experiencing is simply a trend that will eventually die. I have high hopes that people will value their reputation online just as they do in the real world. Quite possibly facebook is a place where your reputation gains you access to things that could be easily stolen but aren’t out of respect for the authors.

              • @A Photo Editor, i too am equally optimistic that social networking will evolve into a space of respect and enforce protection of its user’s content :)

          • @A Photo Editor,

            I’m with you about respecting intellectual property, however your analogy is a bit off and your reaction is a bit extremist.

            In the majority of cases, nobody is being *deprived* of their property when an image is printed from Flickr because the primary user base of Flickr is amateurs and the professionals who do post work there are, for the most part, not making money from selling 4×6 prints for personal use.

            I’m going to go on a tirade here because I’m frustrated with the lack of understanding of intellectual property, even in the creative community, and also because the weather outside sucks right now and I have nothing better to do than wait for the rain to clear a bit.

            So, here’s a better analogy with your truck:

            First of all, the internet IS, for the most part, essentially a public space. It’s more like an unattended parking lot than a street though (privately owned, but nobody is monitoring who’s there or what they’re doing), but in order to keep things moving forward, let’s stick with the street analogy. It’s a dirty, busy, crowded street with lots of traffic and lots of uses.

            If you park your truck on a public street, it doesn’t deprive you of anything if someone uses your bumper to tie their shoe (as long as they don’t scratch the paint or have gum or poop on their shoe sole). Is it disrespectful of your property? Yes. Would it be preferable to ask you before doing so? Sure. Is it a capital crime? No. Someone is finding a use for your property without depriving you of your right or your primary use of that property. Does this make you unable to hop into your car and drive it away? No. The shoe-tier would probably just mutter an apology when they realize they’ve been caught disrespecting your property and shuffle along down the street (or maybe they won’t even realize they were doing anything wrong, in which case a snide comment from the truck owner is in order, but not a full-scale fistfight).

            What if you make your living with your property and this damages that value? This is why people generally don’t feel it acceptable tie their shoes on the bumpers of showcars at car shows. This would damage the value of the property (this is also why people like, say, Richard Misrach or Andreas Gursky are not posting 30×40 print-resolution files for download on Flickr). This is analogous to why most people don’t park show-quality cars unattended on Canal Street. The car owner needs to understand the risks of putting their property out in public, even if the law is on their side. Use a little street smarts and common sense.

            However, for most professional truck users, none of this interferes with the ability to use your truck for its primary use (ie: advertising, editorial, commercially-used stock, etc.).

            Now, away from the analogy and back to intellectual property: there is a lot of misinformation in the comments above about a Creative Commons license.

            It does NOT deprive you of your property. In fact, it allows you to CHOOSE to allow people to use your intellectual property as long as they respect your rules AS YOU CHOOSE THEM (ie: no commercial use, no partial re-use, no full re-use, etc.). The one thing all CC licenses mandate is that you give attribution (credit). The right to control the use and distribution of your property (your “copy-right”) is still yours. If Disney or Coca Cola or Virgin Mobile improperly lifts a CC-licensed photo off Flickr then you can still sue them for copyright violation.

            Now back to Sonia’s wall of photographs: I’m not sure how many people would print out images for interior decoration scheme and include credits on the image. If she does do this with properly CC-licensed photos, then she’s in the clear. This probably is not the case though, in which case, she is still not respecting the rights of the photographer.

            Whichever way you cut it, it’s a bit draconian to suggest firing her (reprimand? YES) for obviously not having a better understanding of it than the majority of the population.

            • Oh yeah, in the truck analogy, Richard Prince is the guy who steals the bumper off your truck and hawks it on the street for 50x the price, along with the hubcaps and other junk he found.

          • @A Photo Editor,

            No this is nothing like stealing a truck. Stop comparing tangible items to files. If I take your truck, I now have it and have deprived you of it. I get the benefits of transport, you don’t.
            If you have a file on the internet and I download a COPY. The file has been COPIED, there are now two of the file, you have one and I have one. You have not been deprived of the file, or it’s function.
            If I copy or use a file in a manner that is not consistent with the law I am not a thief, I have not committed theft. I would be a copyright violator.

            • @Lewis,
              Copying photographs or text lowers their value and therefore deprives the owner of it’s full value.

              Is it not theft to make a copy of photoshop?

              • @A Photo Editor,

                It may or may not lower it’s perceived value.

                Making a copy of Photoshop is not theft. It may or may not be a violation of copyright. I can make a copy and it can be totally legal. I can make a copy and it can be illegal, however it still would not be theft. It might be software piracy, but not theft.

                • @Lewis, WRONG! copyright violation is theft because you’re depriving the owner of the income from that copy. if i copy and use photoshop, that’s one less sell for Adobe. therefore, i’ve stolen from their income.

                  if you copy and use an image of mine, you’ve stolen money out of my pocket. it’s really quite simple.

                  • @Tim, no sir I’m afraid you are wrong in this case. A pirated copy does not necessarily equal a lost sale. If a person is not capable of pirating a piece of software or a piece of music, they may choose to go without instead of buying it.
                    AAMOF there is a preponderance of evidence that suggests this is the case in a large number of instances of piracy/copy right infringement.

                    You can not produce concrete evidence showing loss if I was to print off a copy of a photo you published on-line.

            • @Lewis,
              That’s like going to a farm, STEALING the fruit from the tree, and saying that another copy of that piece of fruit will grow back and you and the farmer will both have fruit. I’m getting so sick of everyone assuming that we can just hit a print button and make money. A lot of creatives are falling behind on our bills and working for free basically because people just assume that someone else will pay us. It’s getting fucking old.

              • @craig laCourt,
                or what if the times just took the article she wrote and printed/ran it and didn’t pay her. their excuse could be that she still has a copy of said article so they didn’t hurt her…

                • @craig laCourt, How do you figure she wasn’t hurt by that? I certainly never suggested she could not be hurt by that.
                  I would agree if you said that is not theft however. It is copyright infringement, and likely breech of contract. It is not however theft.

              • @craig laCourt, Now that is just silly. That is not the same at all. When a file is copied you are not at any point ever for even a fraction of a second deprived of your original file or it’s function.
                Might it be immoral? Yes. Might it be unethical? Yes. Could it cause loss of revenue? In some cases yes it might.
                Can a sphere and a cube have the same mass and volume? Yes. This does not mean however that a sphere is a cube.

            • @Lewis, If I walked into a farmers pasture, pulled one or two plants, and then planted them myself, I would then have (essentially) identical copies for my own use. The farmer could grow more copies, and in a large field might not notice the loss of a couple plants. If my replanting and redistribution are successful, soon I would have no use for the farmer.

              • @Gordon Moat, NO. Seriously this is a piss poor analogy, look if you take two plants from him. You have, he has not. Period you have literally actually physically deprived him of property. You will never be able to discuss intellectual property in terms of real property until you have replicators. And then you will be begin to get the same fuzzy vague lines with real property that you have with IP.
                As far as producing your own product or content to not make use of another persons product or content that’s perfectly viable.

                • @Lewis, You are completely lost on this. Ease of copying should not be any grounds to justify taking intellectual property. Prime example: it costs little for a Chinese factory to make copies of Callaway golf clubs, which they then sell for a profit. While they did not physically take anything from Callaway, they are stealing and diluting their brand and products. Photography is MY brand and MY product; you take that from me, then you are diluting my business. If the law will not punish someone for that, then I suggest we start taking the law into our own hands.

                  • @Gordon Moat, I’m not lost, you just seem confused. I did not say all cases of copyright infringement are moral, ethical or right. Nor did I say that in the cases where it may not be wrong that it is because of the ease of copying.
                    The copying is what makes it DIFFERENT from stealing.
                    Get this, rape and murder are both illegal. Rape is not murder, nor is murder rape. Copyright infringement and theft are both illegal, but copyright infringement is not theft.

                    In your golf club example you are talking about a business profiting off of the current copyrighted R&D of another business. The law and most people would agree that is wrong. However if some guy machines a club for himself, copying Callaway’s design you are going to have a hard time convincing anyone that what he did is wrong. Certainly you will not convince anyone that it is actionable.
                    No one is advocating downloading your photos, printing them out and selling them for less than you charge to undercut you and profit from it.
                    As for your call for vigilantism, that’s a little hyperbolic don’t you think? If you are really tweaked out over the idea that someone might print out a copy of a photo you put on Flickr and hang it on their bulletin board, then for god’s sake don’t upload print resolution images onto Flickr in a public account. Seriously it’s called loss prevention, look into it.

                    • @Lewis, First off, I am not on Flickr. Second, the Callaway issue was an “actionable” item, and Callaway successfully defended their brand. Third, you are implying abolishing certain aspects of laws, and in a way that would adversely impact many creative people; I think that is well worth fighting against. Fourth, I am replying about the NYTimes, not someone using images as desktop wallpaper.

                      Now that those are clarified, let us address tangible property. Current international copyright law stipulates that created works must be in a tangible form in order to be copyrightable. Seems you have a problem of what defines “tangible” property, and perhaps a problem of ownership. Does the image not belong to my, despite that I created it? Does it instead belong to Nikon, Canon, Kodak, Fuji, Apple, Seagate, or some other company that enabled me to fix those images into a tangible form? What measure would you consider a “tangible” form, and why do you feel that way?

                    • @Gordon Moat, In law, tangibility is the attribute of being detectable with the senses. In criminal law, one aspect of an offense of theft is that the property must be tangible. To me that seems very clear, and I thank the attorney who just told me that.

                    • @Gordon Moat,
                      “Callaway issue was an ‘actionable’ item”, really? The fictional situation I posited wherein a single private individual machined a Callaway clone for himself, for use in his private collection? Because that’s what I asked about being actionable.
                      I didn’t ask about a corporation ripping off a design concept and profiting off of another entities R&D, because that is rather more outside of the gray area of copyright. Also it more than likely also violates some patents.
                      You will notice that a no point have I suggested it’s totally cool for me to copy your portfolio, reproduce it and go around supporting myself selling your photos. Nor has anyone else suggested that. That is akin to stealing, and would almost universally be considered unethical.

                      As for my attempts to tear down copyright law, please cite me where I said that. Because I would love to know what specific part of copyright law I said should be completely abolished.

                      As for talking about downloading a picture to be used as a desktop wall paper, that in point of fact IS something we are talking about, and there have been plenty here who have screamed about how immoral and wrong doing that is, that in absolutely all cases of technical copyright violation it is always wrong. There is no gray areas I am told.
                      That is where I disagree with them, I believe there are rights and wrongs, and some seriously fuzzy stuff in the middle.

                      I’m sorry, but why are we discussing the legal definition of tangible? I don’t think we have had any disagreement on that.
                      Here as far as I can tell are the differences we have. I think there are gray areas and that one can not broadly generalize that all technical violations of copyright are immoral, wrong or unethical. Further I recognize that theft and copyright violations are functionally different things, that can however in some cases produce similar or like results. You seem to think they are the same thing. Also I think there are flaws in copyright and patent law that often lead to abuse, even abuse against content creators in some cases. Others here, maybe you also, think the law is perfect in all it’s ways.

                    • @Lewis, you stated: “As for my attempts to tear down copyright law, please cite me where I said that” and then “I think there are flaws in copyright and patent law that often lead to abuse, even abuse against content creators in some cases.” Unfortunately, if you cannot read and comprehend your own writing, then we have no further discussion. If you don’t agree with the current copyright laws, then you have a desire to alter them. If fact, I could just repost what you wrote earlier, and it is clear to me that you do not agree with current copyright laws.

                      Your statement: “You will never be able to discuss intellectual property in terms of real property until you have replicators.” implies that you do not consider intellectual property to be real property. That’s why I posted the legal definition of tangible. If you cannot comprehend that, then you are hopelessly lost here.

                      I will guess that you will type one more reply, trying to be clever or twisting my words around, or simply dodging the issues. Ever wonder why you have no support here? Don’t go away mad, just go away.

            • @Lewis,

              There is a big difference between a copyright infringement and stealing an image via download for personal use. However, both rob a photographer of potential earned income. And both are wrong. Either be with us or against us.

              • @Steven Rood, no. Making inappropriate use of a copy of a work is copyright infringement. As soon as I copy a file of yours onto my machine and I delete the file from your machine you have something analogous to theft.

                “rob a photographer of potential earned income”
                the fifth word here is very critical. Potential, as soon as you bring that word in you are guessing. It might or might not be hurting you.
                If some kid who is not a wage earner prints off a copy of an image that he does not have rights to the image and tacks it up in his locker for some decoration, I would place serious doubt on any claims that he is hurting the value of someone’s product.
                It is possible but not likely. Even if it does somehow impact the perceived value of your photo, it is still not stealing. In either case it is probably copyright infringement.
                It may or may not be wrong depending on the case.

                As for your final line, what are you a Republican? What is this false dilemma bullshit? I am a photographer tho not as a primary income. I have had to enforce my copyright in the past when it was misused. Copyright law, tho broken and needs reform, does serve a purpose. I can have a different view with being anti-photographer or what the fuck ever you think the single other stance is.

                • @Lewis,


                  You may be a photographer. But you are clearly not a professional photographer.

                  When someone takes an image that robs a photographer of income that could have been earned from the sale of said image, that is stealing. Stealing of income. Whether editorially or for personal use. Whether potential or real.

                  You can indeed have a contrarian viewpoint. But that further removes you from the viewpoint of working photographers.

                  Enough with your semantics. Fight or sit down sir.

                  • @Steven Rood, no I am not a professional photographer, I said as much. Thanks for restating that as if it has any bearing on the value of my insight.

                    When someone copies an image file, in some cases it may potentially harm the perceived value of someone’s work, and may in turn then have an impact on someone’s income. I have never said otherwise. I will not say unequivocally in all cases that downloading and even printing out an image that you do not have copyright to is wrong or right. To do so would be the epitome of closed minded hubris.
                    Nothing exists or happens in a vacuum. There are many and varied situations and circumstances, you simply can not account for them all with overly broad statements like “(in all cases) downloading and printing copyrighted images is morally and ethically wrong”.
                    I may have a contrary point of view or I may have a nuanced point of view. There are more than two points of view.

                    Semantics, especially in written debate are important and even essential to proper communication. Make a valid counter-point to prove that copyright infringement is in fact the same thing as theft, or shut up.

                    • @Lewis, “There are many and varied situations and circumstances, you simply can not account for them all with overly broad statements like “(in all cases) downloading and printing copyrighted images is morally and ethically wrong”.

                      Yes you can. There are no situations that make it acceptable to download someone’s images without permission regardless of whether it is for personal and commercial use. It doesn’t belong to you. And because it doesn’t belong to the personal downloading the image without permission, it is theft.

                      You previously stated “Copyright law, tho broken and needs reform, does serve a purpose.”

                      Actually, it works just fine. The Founding Fathers were extremely prescient in their creation of these laws and they are turning over in their graves on an hourly basis.

                    • @Debra Weiss,
                      “,,,without permission regardless of whether it is for personal and commercial use.”

                      Should read personal or commercial use.

                      “…it doesn’t belong to the personal downloading”

                      should read person downloading.

                    • @Debra Weiss, you would honestly argue that it is immoral and unethical for a child to print out a picture of Mickey Mouse and colour it? Seriously? Because that is a case of someone downloading a copyrighted image for personal use. It IS a technical violation of copyright, it IS NOT theft. And I would argue it is not wrong or immoral.
                      There are many cases in which copyright violations are unethical and even immoral, but not all cases.

                      Is it wrong or immoral to photograph the Eiffel tower beautifully lit against the sky at night? It is immoral or wrong to sell the image if you think you captured a great image? Because according the SNTE, that light design on the tower is copyrighted. As such photographing the tower lit at night it a violation of copyright.

                      Yes copyright law IS broken. Copyright currently lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years. What the fuck is that?! Copyright should expire with the creator. We need to quit stifling the public domain. Public domain is a very important part of culture and art.
                      Do yourself a favor, Google “copyright abuse”, it can and does happen.
                      Copyright laws are not intended to create and enforce monopolies. They are intended to protect individuals investment in creative works, so that they may for sometime attempt to collect some profit from their invested time and materials.

                    • @Lewis, You can argue all you’d like. You seem to have a great deal of time on your hands. Where did you ever get the idea that it is alright to download items as long as they’re for personal use?

                      It is not illegal to photograph the Eiffel Tower at night. It is illegal to publish the pictures without permission. There’s a big difference there.

                      Having gotten paid a great deal of money as an expert witness in copyright infringement cases, it is unnecessary for me to Google anything in order to find out that copyright abuse exists. Again, you have too much time on your hands.

                    • @Lewis,

                      By the simple fact that you cannot see that copyright infringement is in fact theft, proves that somewhere a village mourns for their idiot. Write them a letter so they’ll know you’re okay. The rest of us will fight the good fight. The defense rests.

        • @brian, I’m always amazed at how much time people spend on the Internet yet how often it’s treated as’not the real world.’

          if I steal from a store I doubt the judge will accept “well it wasn’t chained down so I thought I could take it after all it’s just for personal use.”

          unfortunatly people do advocate stealing often because copyright is confusing. Perhaps flckr users should post “don’t steal, ask me first” messages to make it clear. Followed by the 10 myths of copyright site.

          • @Ari, i am not by any means sanctioning the downloading. i am simply pointing out that huffing and puffing over people downloading does not negate the reality that it is now, and will continue to happen. see my above reply to ‘A Photo Editor’ which elaborates.

    • @brian, Surely if someone is so moved or touched by a piece of art, at the very least they would have the courtesy to contact the artist and let them know? We’re talking about a website that has a button to message the individual artist right above the image. There’s no excuse for this.

      • @Brad Wenner, hi, see my reply to A Photo Editor

    • @brian,
      I see your point. Though, I don’t agree with people just taking art with out permission. I wonder how many of the people posting comments paid for every song on their hard drives?

      • @Pep, hi, see my reply to A Photo Editor

  10. They got the message — there’s an Update posted now, at the top of the article, in response to all the Comments. Says they plan to do an Addendum article in response. See — the Internet does work! But shocking that that article cleared Editing.

    • @MT, Hardly. The post was updated to compare printing photos from Flickr to Tivoing an episode of Lost. Double, WTF?

  11. I hope I run into SONIA ZJAWINSKI on the street.
    [Know Karate- & would like her job]
    p.s. Update=startled deer- caught in the headlites.
    [WHY no fact-checking prior?]

  12. I thought this comment by Flickr folk James Jordan was quite poignant:

    “Sonia Zjawinski’s next article: grab the salt, sugar and ketchup packets from restaurants to stock up your kitchen. They’re there to take, so why not?”

    When did it become socially acceptable and good journalism to advocate stealing/theft/the utter disregard for copyright law?

    WTF NYTimes??

  13. I guarantee you the second she had her work stolen or used without her permission she would come undone!

    I followed this link from Twitter and am not a photographer. It isn’t just photographers being stolen from, it is all types of people. I am a handmade artist and have had images of my creations “borrowed” from Flicker several times. It is awful to happen upon a site and find your images being used to promote services and products that you have no affiliation with. To make it worse you have a high profile person like this writer telling people it is okay.

  14. It is also up to the flickr user to set permissions and not allow for the original file to be downloaded….

  15. Back during the Hippy era there was a sign in a Head Shop in Pasadena that said “Shoplifting fucks-up your karma!” I think that also applies to the Internet.

  16. why do photographers put up usable, unmarked images on flickr?

    • @Tim,

      We do so to share with and learn from other photographers. We do so for the community on Flickr, not to help strangers decorate their homes at low expense. This author pays for the printer, the ink, the paper and the frames. The only one she doesn’t advocate paying is the person who created the very art she wants.

      •, understandable reasons. but, do those reasons outweigh the involved risks of having your work stolen?

        • @Tim,

          People who steal will do so no matter what. I limit strangers to small and medium size image and use Flickr’s tools to prevent them from downloading or right-clicking my images. Still, a screen capture works regardless of the tools implemented by Flickr. Until recently, I watermarked images with my name. I still found some of my images stolen by Russian web sites and they placed their logo over mine. It’s frustrating.

          On the other hand, how else am I going to get input from peers interested in similar topics of lighting, composition, or the myriad of other topics present on Flickr?

          The social aspects outweigh the risks associated with the occasional photo thief. However, I would not expect such infringement advocated by the New York Times. Why can’t she just recommend people print the NYT photos and see how well it goes over with the editors?

          •, that’s a good point. let’s bypass the NYT store and just make prints ourselves.

          •, those Russian websites and blogs are a HUGE culprits of ripping music off too. To levels you would not believe!

    • @andie,

      Figures, just goes to show, those who can’t, steal. She’s a loser.

  17. oh and note all her photos are ©all rights reserved…how about for some irony

  18. If you are uploading hi res images to a sharing type website such as Flikr you are going to get downloaded. I don’t understand why photographers feel the need to upload hi res images when lo res images would show your stuff.
    I think most pros realize this and the amateurs probably don’t care who does what with their photos. Most pros aren’t looking for validation among other pros, but are more concerned with clients validating their work by giving them assignments or licensing stock.

    I don’t like the writers advice and in fact, find it distasteful, but it is a new world and if you put something out in cyber space, someone, somewhere will eventually help themselves to it.

    At the very least you should have your ©Name watermarked someplace within the photo area. I have noticed that Facebook strips the meta data out of the photo which is very unfortunate, but if I want to play there then that is the way it is. Not sure about Flikr and how it treats meta data. Hopefully, if you are a pro you are embedding all meta data that is relevant to copyright and contact info.

    • @Mark Bolster, amen brother.

    • @Mark Bolster, well said.

    • @Mark Bolster, Flickr stores the metadata and doesnt stirp it..but Meta data is of no use if you can copy the image and then strip it off it?

      • @inanutshell,
        It’s useful because if someone does strip it off, that act itself is illegal and when you take the perp to court it would be helpful in proving your case. Look…I don’t want to play lawyer here, cause I’m not one. Just DON’T publish HIGH RES images online, watermark your images, take a chill pill, and worry about other things.

    • @Mark Bolster, correct.

  19. I just cancelled my Times subscription. The author of that post is a thief. Anyone who supports her point of view is as good as a thief. I am so sick and tired of people stealing from photographers. I do my part. I take legal action against all infringers. It will only get worse if photographers don’t register their work with the Library of Congress and then go after the thieves in court.

    Theft is theft. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you – you’re a thief. I learned that in kindergarten.

    • Theft is indeed theft, but how is making a *copy* of something belonging to someone else theft?

      There are still issues, of course — especially if you can prove that the copyer would have bought a print of the image if the free-copying option wasn’t available — but in the internet I know, the vast majority of illegal downloads are of things that the downloader would not otherwise have purchased.
      Copyright infringement is a really, really different crime to theft.

      One more thought: how is what Ms Zjawinski did any different from the hugely common (and totally accepted) practice of finding an image you like on the internet, and setting it as your desktop background?

      The only difference, it seems to me, is that the image has been printed onto paper, as opposed to appearing on an illuminated screen. Is this really a case you want to make?

      • @H. Grey, SO if I understand you – you seek to justify the actions of this thief in the following ways…

        1) You’re looking to make some distinction over the COPY – the law says that to make a copy is in itself theft. Read Title 17 of the U.S. Code. If you don’t like the law – try to change it. But in the US – you don’t get to pick the laws you want to follow without risking prosecution
        2) You want to make the argument that it’s common “(and totally accepted)” to do this like using a photo for a wallpaper. Ok so YOU may totally accept theft but I don’t. Using the photo for your desktop is against the law too. Now as to the commonality of it – let’s see. Prostitution, pot smoking and any number of other “common” acts are still prosecuted. Sorry – when you attempt to justify the actions of a thief you have no credibility.

        • @Scott Bourne, I’m not arguing law so much as… reasonableness. What you say about Title 17 may well be true (I don’t know, I don’t live in the US), but I’m more interested in any actual *reason* why making a copy of a file for personal use should be considered the same crime as theft.
          Theft is morally repugnant because it takes from someone else to profit oneself. To make a copy of something someone else has and has made available on the internet (whatever the legalistic confluence maintained by Title 17) inflicts no such hardship on the original bearer of the goods. They still have them. Why should these two acts be considered the same thing, when the effects they have on the victim are so utterly different?

          I feel like what Sonja has done is the same as making photocopies of borrowed library books for personal use — a practice which is totally legal, at least here in Australia, and against which I see no valid moral argument.

          I didn’t bring up desktop wallpapering to try and argue that the commonness of the practice alone made it justified — I merely thought that there was a fair chance that you yourself had grabbed a picture to use as your desktop (as pretty much everyone I know has at some stage), and that the personal example might give you pause before continuing to judge Ms Zjawinski as harshly as you are doing.
          But your position on this is a fascinating rabbit-hole — … let’s say a professional photographer takes a photo of a field, uploads a high-res version onto his website or Flickr (for public viewing, it should be noted) — if you make it your desktop background, you’re a thief, right?
          If you bring it up in your web-browser and leave it up for a few hours while you make dinner, are you also a thief? It’s decorating your room, after all — and in a suspiciously background-ish manner.
          What’s the time limit here? The photographer has uploaded the photo for people to look at, and assess whether or not they wish to buy a print — but is looking at it for more than a minute ‘stealing’ that pleasure? Can one not look at it at all? (… if not, then why on earth was it uploaded to a public website at all?)

          (I’d genuinely appreciate it if you could answer the above questions — the position that it is honest-to-god stealing to set an image found on the internet is one I’ve never come across before, and I’m quite interested to see how you justify its specifics.)

          Back on the larger issue: do you consider it stealing to write down a favourite quote from a library book (or from a user-uploaded poem on a website) on a piece of paper, keep that paper in your wallet, and to read it for strength and inspiration when you’re feeling down?
          If your answer is ‘no’, then I fail to see how you can condemn Ms Zjawinski — she is not pretending that she took the photos, she is not monetarily profiting from having them up around her house, and she is not stealing anyone’s revenue. She’s just creating a little domestic happiness.
          If your answer is ‘yes’, then I would ask… why? Who is the victim in the above scenario? What could possibly justify the same label (“thief” – with all the legal consequences that entails) being applied to the liquor-store robber and the guy with the quoted poetry written on the paper in his wallet?

          Seriously — what’s morally untoward about the poetry-quote guy?

          • @H. Grey, Since you’re not a US citizen how can you presume to have any standing in a discussion about US law? You offer nothing but straw dogs here. The silly examples you offer are not at issue here. Back on point – The columnist at the Times made prints of work she didn’t have a license for. She denied the photographer(s) income (thereby causing them loss) and potentially damaged their brand by making inferior quality reproductions. She did something she knows is wrong and you should to. If you use something that doesn’t belong to you – it’s wrong. If you can’t see that then you lack the basic moral judgment that I was raised with.

            • @Scott Bourne,

              A) As I mentioned before, I’m not arguing whether or not this action is *illegal*, I’m arguing whether it’s *wrong*. That is how I can have standing in the discussion.

              B) The examples were silly because your position logically leads to silliness. Displaying that connection was my point. You claim that the poetry-quote guy and the leaving-flickr-image-on-the-screen guy are “not at issue here”, but give no reasons why. They are analogous, and it is the responsibility of the position-holder to deal with the repercussions of his positions in analogous situations.

              So please: if it is stealing to set a non-CC picture found on the internet as your desktop background, is it stealing to leave it up in your web-browser for extended periods of time? You said that it is wrong to “use something that doesn’t belong to you” ~ it is neither irrelevant nor a straw dog to ask you what constitutes the “use” in that sentence.

              As for “denying the photographers income”, the only way she could have done that was if she *would have* bought a print of those photos if the downloading-and-printing option weren’t available. Reading the article, it seems pretty clear that this is not the case, and that it was the cheapness of the endeavour that led her to undertake it from the first.

              “Potential damage to the brand” is an interesting one — though I can’t see that it’s particularly relevant in this case, given that it’s the photos are up on her wall without any authorial citation or indication *what* brand (if any) the photo is beholden to.
              They’re just photos — and most of them, if her wall collection aligns even roughly to Flickrs general statistics, were taken by non-professional photographers who *don’t* sell prints.

              I should mention: I’m not 100% on Ms Zjawinski’s side… I see no ethical quandary with her decorating her house with found Flickr photographs, but I do think it was shoddy journalism to just assume that she was “in the clear” in all personal-use cases, and not mention the easy-to-locate details regarding Flickr voluntary Creative Commons participation.

              The nub of the economic question is this: if the photographer is smart, then he or she will have only uploaded a low-resolution version onto Flickr ~ so that people can see it, but still have to buy from him to get a high-quality print. This is basically what Myspace Music is: low-quality mp3’s offered for public consumption as a taste-test *while still* retaining the saleability of the (whole, high-bitrate, packaged) product.
              It’s worthwhile to note, moreover, that there’s nothing wrong (morally or legally) in burning a CD of songs off of a band’s myspace to listen to in the car. The songs were put there with the intention of them being heard (at a low bitrate). To argue that the difference between Ethical Conduct and Stealing is whether or not you have *transferred* the artist-allowed experience from the computer-speakers to the car-stereo (or indeed, the computer-screen to the wall) is — as you yourself pointed out — just kind of silly.

          • @H. Grey, you are pretty much right on with your thought process. Scott is talking out of his ass, he doesn’t answer your questions because he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

          • @H. Grey,
            Well on Itunes you get to listen to 20 seconds of a song to see if you like it. So maybe Flickr and Facebook et al. have a 20 second limit per image. If you want to view it for longer, you’ll have to rent it from Netpix –

    • @Scott Bourne, it is predictable that one can clickthrough to someone who vigorously defends their copyrights to find a something incredibly self-important; in this case, a collection of thoughts which is too good to be called a blog and has to be called an “online magazine”. Yeesh.

      • @David, ah so you need to resort to a personal attack on me because – clearly – you just don’t have anything of value to add. Talk about Yeesh!

        • I should also note that “David” is one of those brave souls who hides behind his first name – no link to HIS site or identity because after all, it’s MUCH easier to attack someone while pretending to be 10-feet tall in your mom’s basement LOL!

          • @Scott Bourne, I don’t have a site to offer you. I bartend/oyster shuck in Charlottetown, PE, study Economics and Philosophy at the local university. I’m 26, white and very easy to find in this town if you’d like to. I’m also 6, not 10 feet tall.

            Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the matter on hand.

            The point of my comment, as you missed it, is that it almost always follows that those who believe strongly in their copyrights being infringed by individual use are people who grossly overvalue their contribution to society (hence, your “online magazine” blog). If you find a legal difference between:

            1)Using a high-res photo from Flickr and putting it on your desktop background.


            2)Taking said photo and printing it for use on their wall.

            You’re so grossly concerned with your work that you have no context for how the majority of society (and the law, with respect to fair use) views the work that you do. You may take beautiful photos, granted, but not everyone is willing to pay you what you think your work is worth. Its personal worth, as protected by fair use, may be nothing at all.

            • @David, furthermore, the fact that you equate this as theft and not copyright infringement notes how out of touch with the world you are. Theft prevents someone from selling something of value; in this case, Sonja prevented noone from purchasing these works and simply placed them for personal view within her home.

              • @David, There’s nothing like the arrogance of youth. Who could be more self-important than a 26 year-old-kid, and a philosophy major to boot?

                There’s nothing in your comment that I missed. I ignored it because it’s specious. But since you want to elaborate – the value I put on my work is my business but it’s hardly only my opinion. If you’re talking about your attack on my blog – Photofocus has more than a million page views a month. Our podcast is almost always in the top 100 on iTunes and the advertisers who have been with me 18 months seem to think there’s great value there too.

                Now that we’ve established the big difference between us – i.e., I actually make something while your job is thinking that your college major is important enough that you decided to capitalize the word philosophy as if it were extra special important.

                The law – (again I’d bet money you and your lot have never read it) makes clear that the columnist violated the Copyrights of those who’s work she copied. I don’t care how the majority of society feels on this issue – but I am quite amused that an arrogant 26-year-old kid would presume to think he knows how the “majority” thinks. I do know something about the law since I have successfully, and frequently used it to prosecute thieves who steal my work. She violated the Copyright Act. Plain and simple.

                And the most obscene thing you said was this:

                “You may take beautiful photos, granted, but not everyone is willing to pay you what you think your work is worth. Its personal worth, as protected by fair use, may be nothing at all.”

                First – you’ve proven you don’t know a thing about Fair Use – this is not something that falls under the Fair Use exemption of the Copyright Act. Point me to one case that backs up your claim – okay – that’s a waste of time because there isn’t one. But my favorite part – because someone isn’t willing to pay me what I think my images are worth – you’re implying it’s okay to steal them? Did your parents teach you any basic morals at all or does being a philosophy major give you some right to ignore right and wrong?

                Stick to hiding behind your anonymous Internet identity and thinking that because you’re a philosophy major your opinion matters. It doesn’t to me.

                You feel free to carry on this debate without me. My position is clear. The columnist is a thief and if you support her position you’re as good as a thief.

                • @Scott Bourne, I mention my major and who I am because you asked for me to quit hiding.
                  Nevertheless, you seem fit to dismiss me based on my age and any other tidbit of information I give you, so needless to say, I’m not about to give you any more ammo.

                  I find this all rather ironic coming from someone whose weekly podcast name, TWIP (This Week in Photography) is a trademark violation.

                  • @David, Do you specialize in talking about stuff you know nothing about? I am not now – nor have I ever been the publisher of This Week in Photography. That is a podcast I have appeared on as a guest. Looks like you just can’t seem to get anything right so why not stop when you’re behind?

                    • @Scott Bourne, those who support those who are thieves are as good as thieves, so you say. You link to them and have appeared on the show.

  20. “Of all the artwork I have in my studio apartment (there isn’t a bare wall in the house), my Flickr finds get the most attention. Best of all, they were practically free! I use a Kodak ESP7 AIO printer to ink my finds on various sizes of photo paper and frame them in inexpensive frames found at Urban Outfitters or Ikea. The only thing I pay for is ink, paper and frames — peanuts, in my opinion.”

    a damn shame!

  21. If a writer puts a text on a website, am I allowed to print it to read it?

    Am I allowed to leave the printed page on my desk to read it when I want?

    Am I allowed to keep it in a folder, maybe even in my library, to read it when I want?

    • @Olivier L., I agree with your point of view. I think you could even glue the printed text to your wall. But then, why shouldn’t you do it with a printed photograph?

      I better stop my speculation since I might get accused for endorsing theft by the folks here…

  22. The next time I pop 50 cents into the NYTimes vending machine I’m going to pull all the copies out….after all if they don’t want me to take them all then they shouldn’t let me have such easy access. Just saying……….

  23. Reason #365 never to put unwatermarked high resolution images on a public “photo sharing” website.

    Flickr has been a filching ground for years. People never learn.


    • @ProPhotographer, but most people don’t mind if their uploaded hires image will get printed and put on a wall by someone, and in that case, it’s not “filching” IMHO. So your remark makes sense to pro photographers only, not general population.

      Amateur photographers, which are of majority in flickr, will lose nothing by uploading hires photos.

      • @peter, I’m not sure it’s “most people” that don’t mind. There’s plenty of gnashing teeth around on forums when a Flickr image is found being used commercially on the web without payment.

        It’s also likely that the majority of amateurs (i.e. non full-time pros) don’t licence images, but sell prints via SmugMug, ClickPic etc. I’m sure they would be most upset to learn that their creation is being used for free to make some interior designer and few dollars more.

        What I’ll never understand is how amateurs see no value in images. Why pay the same price for equipment as professionals to make really good images then let them be used for free?

        Ironically most of the posts on sites like DP Review moaning about the price of lenses or bodies are from amateurs who then don’t charge for their work.

        If they did, and let’s face it, the web makes it easy to do this, they could make a tidy sum on the side of their day job (which they also moan doesn’t pay enough…!)

  24. While interesting, all the commentary so far seems to miss the point: if you CC-license your work on Flickr, you are knowingly allowing your images to be used this way. Many do, including me.

    If you don’t want that, don’t do that. That simple.

    • @Ilkka,
      It’s clear there was no cc license involved. She could have just said look for images with a cc license only and this would have been a non issue.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        That was implied. You sure are whiny. Hence the “Library of Congress” references.

        You seem way out touch with your “theft” argument.

        • @gm,
          The Library of Congress image collection contains copyrighted material that has to be cleared before use smarty pants.

      • @A Photo Editor, my mistake then… It’s just that someone in the above conversation referred to downloading large resolution images from Flickr, which AFAIK is *not* possible unless the photog has applied either a CC license or marked the image as public domain.

  25. Love the use of the word “found” it’s like Columbus “discovering” America. It’s not enough that every design blog rips my photos off my site. Now I’m decorating some ones wall. Good Grief!

  26. writers in general have a poor understanding of the economics and the creative work of a photographer.

    It is a good think to be patient and educate them, as I would like know more about their needs and lifes as well (for example: why do brilliant people in their field of writing, as soon as it comes to visuals with near certainty suggest y the most klischee, obvious and even-my-grandmother-can’t-see it anymore – photoideas?)

  27. Couple of points:Many great arguments above.

    I think the context of time has to be considered here. Stealing someone’s property goes back to biblical times and the internet is how old? We have had laws in place to address these common infractions for hundreds of years. People run stop signs in my neighbor hood all day, why? Because there is no enforcement. How old is the internet?

    Second, tie that in with the ubiquitous nature of images on the internet, and recent decisions regarding actual value of actual professionally produced images, can you say Chris Usher,honestly the only way to not have your work pillaged is to make it either technically unappealing to reproduce for reproduction, pedestrian or elevated aesthetic, or simply not post it on “Public Forums”. And yes they are “Public Forums”, just like NPR is free on the radio, no one is forced to contribute.

    I believe that regardless of the feebly enforced rules that exist to protect copyright infringements, the product is being presented in an open atmosphere that directly diminishes the idea that ALL users must provide some form of compensation commiserate with the value the user garners.
    Addressing the NY Times is a good start, but eliminating some of the open windows and free samples at the candy store wouldn’t hurt either.

    From the Talmud: “If you have a mouse it’s the holes fault”

  28. How ironic. I’ve been using the Times to decorate the bottom of the litter box for years!

    • @Timothy Schenck, stunning work Tim!!

  29. […] my apartment, so I think I’m in the clear. Other people think it’s more complicated, and some are just pissed. Coincidentally, the Times photo editor is taking questions this week. Next, Zjawinski will also […]

  30. I was going write about aghast I was but Sonia is getting a pretty good beating in the response section article with an update to follow. Let’s hear it for common sense winning in the end!


  31. I see a great opportunity here. Obviously people are doing this and have been doing this for a long time. It fulfills a need. Why not have kiosks at places like urban outfitter, ikea – anywhere that sells frames – so people can directly purchase prints off of flickr to put in their cheapo frames? Everybody wins.

  32. I agree that this is definitely an interesting issue. Personally, I’m semi-torn on the topic; on one hand, the reason I started shooting photos in the first place was primarily to share the way I see the world with other people. On the other hand, it’s nice to get something back in return when people like your photos enough to want to hang them on the wall. I won’t throw any more fuel on, what seems to be, and already dying fire.

    Out of curiosity though, do any of you upload your original resolution files to flickr? I never have because of issues like this, but I wonder if there’s an upside to doing so that I’m overlooking. I’ve never quite understood the reason behind uploading the original unless you’re fine with people making prints. What other use is there?

  33. The article was a joke, but I’m very much looking forward to the follow up posts by the ‘legal experts.’

  34. this brings up an interesting side debate– with what looks like most respondents here being creative types, we often look at the work of others for inspiration. we all do it. it’s a natural part of the process. i myself have clipped and scanned images from books and magazines, gone to the library and photocopied images, type specimens, essays, articles- all perfectly acceptable-right? i have ALSO downloaded images, articles, etc. off the web from various sources.

    i then place everything into one designated folder that serves as a hub of inspiration that i refer to for a creative jolt or to get an idea. i don’t use this collection for commercial use, or even display any of it in my home. it merely exists on an external HD. BUT– i have also printed out images i got off the web and pasted them into sketchbooks and other self-made journals as an extension of my collection of personal resources.

    so, here’s the ethical 64,000 dollar question–does the downloading aspect make me a thief? if so, how is it different from photocopying or scanning content from a book/magzine (that i don’t own) in a public library? (inserting a quarter into the copy machine does not count as justification of ownership)

    • @brian, a good question. I believe reproduction in part or whole not covered by fair use is illegal. You don’t have to look very far into a book to find a warning not to copy it.

      I think many are missing the point. There’s lots of people attacking her practice but the real issue should be her telling others to do it without a grasp on copyright. We should take this as an advantage to educate and not take the RIAA’s method of beating people over the head. Since she has compared it to TiVo there is obviously a missunderstanding.

  35. I met with someone the other day and the subject of Flickr came up. I mentioned that you won’t find any of my work there and listed my reasons. Sonia Zjawinski gives me one more reason.

    The funny thing is that in a very similar manner, someone swiped one of my images and when I caught up with them, I threatened legal action until the person saw the error of her ways and agreed to publicly apologize on my blog (where I had been writing about my experience).

    Unfortunately, posting a picture on the Internet is equivalent to leaving your camera in the car. Don’t leave/post anything you can’t afford to have taken.

  36. All of this outrage is just silly. You might as well be outraged that the sun is going to rise tomorrow morning.

    The fact that what she does may, in fact, be illegal under current copyright laws merely demonstrates that the laws are obsolete and bear no relation to the way that people actually interact with “intellectual property”

  37. Yea, I wrote to the editors yesterday asking them how they let this article run when it blatantly advocates copyright infringement.

    this is the reply I got.

    “Thank you for your e-mail. The post in question has been clarified to note that this is a contentious issue, and we will be talking to legal experts to add further analysis. A follow-up post will be published on Gadgetwise to address the comments the post has generated.”

    this is what they added to the page

    “UPDATE 7:40 p.m.: Added sentences acknowledging the controversy surrounding the use and reuse of other people’s content on the Internet; also indicated forthcoming post that will address these issues more directly.”

    that hardly lets anyone know that what this writer is doing is illegal.

    I hope that they have a good followup on this.

  38. I borrowed an extra copy of the Times this morning from the machine in front of the cafe and left it for the other customers to enjoy..

    Hopefully someone will return it….

  39. I agree that this article shouldn’t have been run, or that at least it should have specified to only use Creative Commons licensed photos. But there is something I wonder about all you indignant photographers who have been calling names or even threatening violence:

    Did you pay for every mp3 on your computer? Is every font you have licensed? Have you ever torrented a movie, or copied software?

    Again, I’m not saying it’s not wrong, but I bet a lot of you angry folks are guilty of the same thing the writer is.

  40. This is why I don’t upload large files (low res, max 640px) and why all image files going to the web have a watermark in addition to IPTC metadata.

    I don’t care if people think watermarks are ugly, if they want to see it in all its glory, please buy a license or a print and you’ll be able to enjoy it watermark free to your heart’s content.

    For those not trying to make a living licensing their work, this type of thing is like water off a duck’s back. Who cares? For the rest of us it’s something we deal with every day. “Free is the new black”, to paraphrase.

    I’ll start allowing my work to be used for free when my power bill, internet fees, mortgage, grocery bill, equipment costs, gasoline and automotive costs and everything else is free. Until then, please pay accordingly.

    Thank you.

  41. @Mark Bolster,
    I agree to a certain extent..i never upload hi res images..and it is common sense that if you are putting hi res images out there on the web…chances are there will be copyright infringement..because the safeguards arent there currently to prevent and track down people who do that…or at least one should be aware that they are more vulnerable to theft of such nature..even though its illegal..

    There are clearly a couple of points/issues to be noted here

    1) No matter what…what the OP of the NYT article did was illegal
    2) We as artists should act with common sense… it is the same as if you know that a neighborhood of town is are taking a risk by going there…so be aware of the consequences..
    3) The industry as a whole should work on the technology ..that makes these copyright violations very to track down a photo and such..and i think to a certain extent popular sites like flickr should do a better job of making it harder to steal.. thats their moral rsponsibility as industry innovators..and part of the blame should go to them too..
    4) the biggest issue that i have with the article is that she is clearly advocating theft/copyright violation without giving it a second thought..its a shame that it comes from a reputed institution like NYT..even tho its a blog..a lot of people maybe actually buying into that thought process
    5) point number 4 raises another thought that i have had on many occasions..which is..the line between journalism and blogging at times is very murky…the poster probably posted that piece and it probably didnt get reviewed..just cos it was categorized as a blog…had it been a regular NYT article it probably wouldnt have made it…but since it has been written under the NYT banner..the lines between it being a personal post and sound tech advice is very blurry…i wonder if the same principles that pertain to regular journalism should be applied to mainstream blogs ..

    What do you think?

    Anycase , it will be interesting to see what the update to the post is going to be.

  42. I dislike where photography is now days……

    Considered disposable, undervalued, wallpaper and all this angst.

    Where the hell are we going with this folks…..

    Teach photography but you don’t shoot. Make videos about yourself signing books so some body in some forgotten corner of the world thinks you are important. Put yourself on Flickr, Facebook, A Blog, Other blogs so people can link to your random thoughts and read about your over developed since of importance.

    Take a moment and reflect upon life. Life is not photography. It is not your ego battling a 26 year old on Prince Edward Island. Life is life. to be lived fully. Not in front of a computer battling over something that is senseless.

    Yes the NYT writer was an idiot for suggesting stealing images for decoration.

  43. I agree with the complete inappropriate nature of her suggestion – it is clearly theft of intellectual property and wrong under all circumstances.

    It’s interesting – she now has more than 225 comments to her blog – 95% negative. Over the past three months she has not had 225 comments for all her blog post sput together. Most have only a few comments.

    I guess to some people being criticized and publicly scorned is better than being irrelevant.

  44. My images are on Flickr and Facebook and my own website for a reason – to promote my commercial photography business. In order to do that effectively, I need people to see my work. If someone prints out my images to hang on their wall – Great! maybe an Art Buyer will come by for a party one night. But better yet, maybe an agency creative will download my image and stick it up on her wall to look at as she works on her next job. That’s why I send out promos, after all. And that’s why I’m creating a downloadable pdf of my portfolio for my website. And that’s why I plan to send art buyers jump drives filled with high-res copies of my work with my permission, nay *encouragement*, to use in their comps.

    In order to make a living as a commercial photographer, I need people to see my work. I need it out there as broadly as possible. If someone takes an image and uses it commercially without my permission, I will most definitely sue them, and I do make sure to register copyright to images before they go up online, and to embed metadata so they can be tracked. Do I care if someone uses it for personal decor? Sure, in principle, but not enough to stop me from using these tools to reach ad agencies. But my business model is not based on microsales – 99 cents to put it on your blog – nor is it based on sales of fine art prints. If it was, then my images wouldn’t be on Flickr and Facebook.

    I think we’re getting too caught up in the legal mumbo jumbo, and not thinking enough about how fundamentally the internet changes the way we promote ourselves.

    • @Greg Ceo, “And that’s why I plan to send art buyers jump drives filled with high-res copies of my work with my permission, nay *encouragement*, to use in their comps.”

      This is truly one of the worst ideas I’ve heard in a long time.

      • @Debra Weiss,

        Agree and surprised by this plan. Greg is represented by a wonderful person in NYC. A rep who is liked and respected in the industry. I wonder if she knows or approves of his jump drive plan?

      • @Debra Weiss, I’m curious why you think it’s a bad idea?

        The spirit of my post is that the internet has fundamentally changed the business. For example, all images on Getty are available for comps for free or for very little money. On photographers’ websites, images can be downloaded for comps. As you know, Art Buyers do this in order to show creatives photographers’ work when a job comes up or when they are pitching a campaign to a client. Many, many Art Buyers and Art Directors are members of Flickr and use the site on a regular basis.

        The jump drives would only go to AB’s and AD’s that I know or have worked with in the past. I think of it as another form of a promo. Besides, if one of the images were used for any purpose but internal or a pitch, all of the images have the copyright registered and the metadata is embedded in the images.

        Do you think agencies will use them for a campaign without paying? Or that the revenue from comp usage is too high to give up?

        • @Greg Ceo, Besides being an Orphan Works nightmare in the making when they make a screen grab of an image(s) which will not have any metadata attached, you are offering up a dangerous perception of yourself by so willingly giving them something for free. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve worked with them or not. They’re not your friends, they’re people you do business with. There are never any guarantees that the photographer who shot the comp image is the photographer that will get the job. The idea that you would allow them to use high res images is beyond comprehension to me.

          Re: Flickr – it is not the policy of larger agencies to allow their creatives to hire someone from Flickr. in fact, agencies have lists of banned websites and Flickr usually leads the pack. And when art directors do want to use an image from Flickr, it hammers that nail in your coffin a bit deeper as they are more than likely dealing with someone who thinks $100 is a great price for their photo. By the way, Getty Images is in a much different position than the individual photographer and having witnessed what their business model has done to the industry, I would not cite them as a shining example of what to do.

          • @Debra Weiss, On my trip to Minneapolis last summer, Art Buyers from major advertising agencies were saying that they were using images from Flickr for Major campaigns. They were contacting the photographers, getting model releases and paying them industry rates for the use of stock, and they named clients–Big Clients. If you go to Flickr, sign in, and begin to input the names of Art Buyers and Art Directors, guess what, many are listed and they use the site daily. An Art Buyer, who is really a friend of mine at JWT in New York, tells me that the “Style of the Moment” is Flickr.

            I’m not using Getty as a shining example, but we can’t go back to 1995. The fact is that comps are being downloaded daily on Getty and Flickr and Corbis and from photographers’ websites. There’s no market for them now, so I lose no money by providing my images for comp usage.

            True, it is rare that someone who has shot the comp shoots the job but I still believe it’s valuable for creatives to have high res files for internal use – for comps, but especially for showing my work to an AD/client for a potential job. I want them to use and interact with and become familiar with my work. And when my work is shown to a client, I want it to look good. If there is an infringement, or the image is used in an ad campaign online without me knowing, the tracking software is getting better and better. Picscout or other software in the future will find the offender and I will collect triple usage fees and all legal fees if the copyright is registered.

            As for Flickr, social media is here and here to stay and there are ways to use social media to drive traffic to your website and stay connected. I don’t think we can just turn our noses up at it – we have to adapt to a changing world and use new tools to market ourselves. And this is especially true as the next generation of ADs and ABs, who grew up using these tools, move up the ranks.

            • @Greg Ceo, I’m very aware about the comp situation and that art buyers and art directors illegally download images daily. If you don’t understand why you shouldn’t supply high res files, nothing I say is is going to change that. However, you are setting a precedent that will very possibly impact other photographers and create one more battle to fight – or – it will just be a big waste of time and money. Also – supplying a jump drive as a promo will unlikely do what you think it will. Art buyers and art directors would never put CD’s in their computers. What is leading you to believe that they would even look at it?. The odds are it will be thrown out. If you want to send a promo, go get one printed. No one is going to tack a jump drive to the wall.

              Mmmm – those industry rates being paid for images on Flickr – which industry would that be – advertising or photography? I’d bet it’s the advertising industry’s idea of what an image should be worth.

              Regarding infringements – formulas such as “triple usage fees” is a ridiculously inaccurate and ineffective means of determining a remedy for copyright violation. And when Orphan Works is passed – and it will pass, you will no longer be entitled to statutory damages. Most photographers will never be able to pursue and infringement claim as legal fees will be out of pocket. Also, financial remedies will be curtailed.

  45. Never post anything there larger than 72dpi @ 6-8 inches and watermark everything……………

  46. Just read the followup to the earlier post by the OP of the NYT post,..

    i still cant believe that she still doesnt get it!!! well actually.. i think she does get it but hates to admit that shes wrong…so she makes a lame excuse and gets some lame legal expert who tries to make it fuzzier with even more antiquated example…
    unbelievable!! what a wuss!

  47. the NYT guy is right :

    as long as flickers and snapshooters post online their best hires pictures for free just tell me ONE good reason people should not profit from it.

    the problem here is Flickr was never designed with security and copyright in mind, i guess the owners don’t even know much about copyright, all they care is allowing people to post their holiday snaps in few clicks.

    why i never understood is why Yahoo who now owns Flickr doesn’t at least try to monetize all this gazillions of photos with some features similar to stock photography, merchandings, etc

    • @Sergey Molotov, About 6 months ago, Getty signed a deal with Flickr. I doubt whether Flickr gets any money from the deal, but of course, the terms of the deal are not disclosed. Getty knew, as do many in the industry, that Art Buyers were already sourcing from Flickr, tracking down the photographers and licensing the images. Someone was going to cash in on the images on Flickr as you suggest Sergey, and Getty is working on it.

    • @Sergey Molotov,

      “as long as flickers and snapshooters post online their best hires pictures for free just tell me ONE good reason people should not profit from it.”

      Ignorance by end users (photographers posting images on Flickr), does not make it acceptable or right for people to take that photo and profit from it.

      It’s a bit like me going to your web site, taking screen grabs of your photos and then selling them via istockphoto at web resolution sizes. Just because I could do it, does not make it right or acceptable.

      “the problem here is Flickr was never designed with security and copyright in mind”

      Actually, that pretty much sums up the internet and images, full stop.

  48. perhaps the same should hold true for the content of the NYT? hey, why not?!

  49. Don’t post your images at full resolution…


  50. This post started me thinking about Flickr in comparison
    to iTunes. I buy stuff of of iTunes all the time, I’ve never
    bought anything from Flickr. Why? There are several reasons
    but one good reason is this – we’re not encouraged to. Yes, you
    can download tons of stuff like podcasts, etc. for free but the
    meat & potatoes of iTunes – music & movies – is for sale.

    After thinking about this for a while and reflecting on how much
    money & time it takes to produce music & movies I started to
    wonder just how much a photo on Flickr might be priced at.
    Considering that many songs are 99 cents and movie rentals
    are around $2.99, how much can one photograph actually be
    worth? Considering the production value alone for most of the
    images posted and I doubt that they would clock in at around
    say 5 cents at best.

    When I took this into account I started to reflect on how much
    money has gone into the various photo shoots that I’ve been on
    and what the end result as far as what the intended purpose of
    these photographs was and it dawned on me why so many people
    think that images are/should be free. Why? Because they were
    made to be to be given away. Either in a brochure an ad campaign
    or on their web site, etc. Yes, the people involved in creating these
    images were [hopefully] compensated. But, the end user probably
    doesn’t know or even care to think about that for the most part.
    They see something that they like on a site like Flickr – et al – and
    they figure its theirs for the taking. Especially, if they’re not
    encouraged to purchase said item.

    For me, personally, I found the timing of this post to be quite amusing
    as I had just removed a large selection of images from Flickr and
    plan to remove the remaining images ASAP. Its not because I’m all
    that concerned about getting ripped off – even though that’s happened
    in other arenas since I’ve been involved in photography [over 25 years] –
    but because Flickr feels to me like some sort of visual gang bang. No, even
    with some of the great stuff I’ve found I usually can’t stand to be there
    for a more than a few minutes at best. Not exactly that type of
    presentation I’m looking for for my work.

  51. Sonia Zjawinski should be fired and punched in the throat. End of story.

  52. As a photographer/writer I think the photographers need to lighten up a little and look at both sides of this argument. Whoever copied and pasted the content from the NY times article at the top of this page has stolen intellectual property in the very same way. I am not saying either one is right.

  53. i guess the NYT had a statement on the issue here:

    “Flickr Images and Copyright

    Q. Do you endorse the view of Sonia Zjawinski that it is perfectly acceptable to steal copyrighted images from the Internet? Do you think it’s a good idea for The New York Times to seemingly endorse such views by publishing them? Or do you think it is as disgusting and outrageous as I do?
    — Rod Irvine

    A. I have received a number of queries about Ms. Zjawinski’s recent post on Gadgetwise, a New York Times blog about personal technology, in which she discussed downloading and printing Flickr images for use as home décor. Here is where The Times stands on the issues that have been raised about the post:

    We are strong proponents of copyright protection. The New York Times does not endorse, nor is it our policy to engage in, the infringement of copyrighted work. We apologize for any suggestion to the contrary.”

  54. Whew! How many times have I seen creative briefs with “stolen” (yes, it’s theft) pictures? COUNTLESS. You know, those circulated printed packets or PDFs that are, “only for in-house viewing so we can discuss the art direction.”

    How many times has an art buyer called to me to negotiate a fee for the above: MAYBE ONCE.

    So if the creative class continues to do this on a daily basis — find photos anywhere they can and print or PDF them for “personal viewing” — then why shouldn’t some gadget-hack writer who wants to decorate her pathetic world be able to?

    What else did you expect the NYT to say when called on the carpet? How many people will never again print a photo for free after this outrage?

    If you want to catch a thief to make yourself rest a bit easier tonight, head on down to your local ad agency or magazine art department and demand to see proof of specific license FOR THAT USAGE for every photo on every wall and desk in the building.

    Go on! Make this your #1 cause because photographers are going to shrivel up and die if you don’t.

  55. i think its cool so i had to run this website but i dont see wats so facinating about this anyway because i run it and it aint showin me what to do next so i wouldent know……. i think yall need to email me back and tell me whats this all about ok thanks talk to you guys later tootaloo……….lolo just playin guys its great and its fun lol i lie i is a cheapster wat could you guys do lock me up i dont think so cause yall dont know where i live so deal with it i hate all yall yall is cause people to get viruses…… just jokin sorry for wat i said ok later dudes n gus n ladies n gentle…..

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