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Is it OK for Other Websites to Use Your Copyrighted Images?

by Clint Watson on 3/31/2011 10:19:32 AM

This article is by Clint Watson,  former art gallery owner/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should follow Clint on Twitter here.


There have been several articles lately on FineArtViews and around the Internet about visual art and copyrights.


In this post, I want to look at a different but related practice that falls into what might be considered a "grey" area.


I've discovered a type of company that engages in the practice of "scraping" artist websites and taking their images.  These companies store the artists' images on their own servers and use them in various ways to serve and profit from their users.


Now, if you're a strong copyright proponent, don't get upset just yet.  Let's consider the pros and cons of these actions.  There are some benefits to the artists.


Here are some of the pros:  The legitimate companies that engage in this practice do credit the artist as the copyright holder.  They also do link back to the artist's original website.  So whenever a user on their site is looking for a certain type of image, there is a link back to the artist's website which could, in theory, send visitors back to the original artist's website.


Now let's look at some of the cons:  The companies don't ask for permission to use the images.  They simply take them.  They do have a very technical and detailed way of "opting out" buried in the fine print on their websites.  When these companies show these images on their sites, they also often show related images from other artists.  These related images could be the artwork of your competitors.  They also try to profit from the images, not by selling the images themselves in any way, but by placing advertising near the scraped images.  No percentage of any advertising revenue is ever shared with the original artists, the copyright holders.  To make matters worse, many of these companies also do the same thing with artists' blog posts and make advertising dollars from your hard-written content without so much as a thank you.


Copyright, in some instances, can be an extremely difficult issue and the line of what is "fair use" and what isn't can get blurred.  This appears to be one of the more "grey" areas, since these companies are not directly selling artist's images, are not making prints of the images, and are at least giving proper attribution and a link to the original artist.


The bottom line in this case is that there could be some benefit to the original artist, but the company doing it might also make revenue "around" the artist's content without sharing a cent.  I guess if there is a benefit, it depends on how much these companies encourage their visitors to actually leave their sites to visit the artists' sites directly.


I really would like to get your thoughts and feedback in the comments.  In fact, I'm not going to "out" the names of these companies in this post, I want to get your thoughts on these practices first.


Are you OK with this practice?  Do you mind if other websites take your images and use them on their site (as long as they attribute and link to you)?  Is it OK if they make some revenue on their site by using your content to draw visitors (but not sell your content directly)?  Does linking and possibly sending traffic back to you make it OK?


I look forward to your feedback.




Clint Watson

Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

FASO: Want Your Art Career to Grow?  Set up an Artist Website with FASO.
FineArtViews: Straight talk about art marketing, inspiration - daily to your inbox.

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BoldBrush Contest: Monthly Online Painting Contest with over $17,068 in awards. 

Daily Art Show: Daily Show of Art that reaches thousands of potential collectors.

Backstory: About Clint. Email EditorTwitter. Republish. ]

Related Posts:

Copyright Rules the Throne: An Art World Prince Fails to Prove Fair Use

When Copyright Infringers Become Victims... Part 1 - The Corporate Angle

How do we protect our copyrighted images on the Internet?

Copyright Registration: Protecting Yourself as Well as Your Collectors

Protecting Copyrighted Images Revisited

Topics: copyright | FineArtViews 

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Without my written consent, which should be solicited from me in advance then scraping my content (be it art or written words) is stealing. Try doing that with content from a newspaper or other online publication and you will find that they will enforce their copyright. Scrolling down to the bottom of this website I see a copyright statement along with the words 'all rights reserved' and that should be taken seriously on all websites.

This scenario you describe doesn't sound like a "gray" area at all. It sounds like these sites are stealing content, full stop. How would you argue that it falls under "fair use"? Are they reporting news? Creating parodies?

Whether the artist gets any benefit out of this theft is another issue entirely. If someone steals one of my images and links back to my web site, and this link brings in lots of new collectors and I make lots and lots of sales, I'm very unlikely to complain about the theft of my image. I'm likely to be very happy about it. But that doesn't change the fact that the original act was illegal. Without permission, it's theft.

Strange that you try to categorize some of these sites as "legitimate." Unless you're leaving out some important details about these sites, none of them sounds legitimate.

Clint Watson
Jul - I used the word "legitimate" to refer to the ones that DO attribute and link to the artists, there might be others that don't do that. Maybe I chose the wrong word.

Interesting your position - your position seems black and white - it's theft, but it's OK if you benefit? Seems like theft is theft. And if you don't complain when you get a benefit, then you've set a legal precedent and will have a hard time complaining when the next guy does the same thing.

I noticed fair use has a provision that says, "The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work" These companies are not doing anything that I think hurts the potential market or value of the artworks. In fact, like you said, if you get a lot of benefit they might be able to argue they actually helped the potential market.

Having said that, I had a thread previously with another artist who felt that if she couldn't control what her artworks were displayed next to that she felt it hurt her market. So in this case, she would have no control how her art was presented on the other site.

Clint Watson
Forgot to add, for others who might join this thread. If you're interested in the law governing fair use (and want to read how frustratingly vague it is). It is here:

Patty Hankins
I am NOT ok with people stealing my photos and using them without permission - even if they do provide a link back to my site. If I catch it - I immediately file a DMCA complaint.

I license many of my photos for commercial and editorial use. I decide if a requested use is one I'm comfortable with. If I'm not comfortable with something - I refuse to license my photos.

When people steal - I have no control over how my images are used.

I'm currently dealing with some thieves who have created posts with photos from around the web around a specific topic. The pages with the photos are full of links to pornographic sites. As far as I'm concerned - having my photos used to draw traffic to a page promoting porn - hurts the value and image of my work.

Clint Watson
Patty - but there might be a difference - did those sites link back to you? and attribute you as the copyright owner?

Let's say the same scenario but they link to you, attribute you and don't link out to porn but out to very reputable things that you would enjoy being associated with. Would it be OK then? Seems like you're saying that it would NOT be OK even if it was all "good" unless they got your explicit permission. Would you file a DMCA complaint if your images were taken without permission, but you genuinely *liked* what they did with them?

Who decides if what it is associated with is good? The artist or the person who has heisted the artists work? What happens when the artist is of one religion and an ad of another religion is posted with the work?

There are so many possible offenses I can think of that have nothing to do with porn.

Without permission is simply theft.

There is no gray area here... if someone scraped all of the content from this and other FASO sites and gave a small attribute at the bottom of the page stating the original owner was FASO would that be ok? What if they profited highly from your written words and all you received was a small attribute? And what if the link was broken in the attribute?

I have had it happen to me several times and each time I catch them I send a cease and desist, not just to the thief but to their web host and any other responsible party I can locate.

Stealing is not acceptable no matter how it is wrapped or how pretty the bow on it.

Jim Oberst
I find nothing wrong with this practice. I'd appreciate the PR. On my websites I have the following notice: "All images on this website copyright 2005 - 2011 by Jim Oberst. All rights reserved. These images may be published on other websites only with attribution to Jim Oberst". I'd hate to limit opportunities for my images to be published beyond my sites.

By the way, I subscribe to your blog via RSS in my email and the "read more" link never takes me to the article. I have to go to the website and then find the article. Something's broken somewhere.

Clint Watson
Christy - When I said "good" - I meant the artist would think after the fact that it was good. You're saying it is STILL not acceptable - even if you liked what the 3rd party did with your images? Also - I never said the attribution was small and the links are not broken - they always work and sometimes they do send traffic to the artist. Sometimes that traffic turns into sales. Does that make it OK?

There are only a couple of issues I'm asking about:

1. DOes the attribution and link (large and working) make it OK?

2. Is it OK that any revenue they make is NOT shared with the artist - but that revenue is not directly from the images or text they scraped?

Clint Watson
Jim - I think your policy is very reasonable - your stating that they can use the images to your benefit and stipulating the terms. We do the same thing with our republishing terms. If someone breaks your terms you can issue a DMCA takedown, but otherwise you're letting the online economy flow naturally.

I'll look into the rss thing - we've recently moved our sites and still working out the glitches on some stuff.

Clint Watson
Here's an example for everyone in this thread: This is an example from my company, not from the ones I'm talking about in the post (although we don't generate revenue from the following example....yet).

We have a newsletter called InformedCollector. We feature artists that we like daily and email information and images about those artists to over 5,000 collectors.

We scrape the images and bio from the artist's website and we use them for the purpose of promoting the artist.

Most artists features have huge traffic spikes to the orignal artist's website and newsletter signups (on the artist website) when we feature them. Many have shared sales they made with us, which we take no part in.

Are we stealing? Many say "stealing is stealing" period. Maybe we are. Our position is that it takes us a lot of time and effort to do it - we're not going to add another step. We're not going to ask written permission for each and every artist in advance. We assume if it's online the artist wants people to see it. We're also not going to work around right-click disablers. If you "protect" images that way, we simply won't feature you, we'll move on to someone whose made it easier for us to share their artistic gifts.

I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm really trying to get a feel for what people think.

Is what we're doing OK with you?

Having said all of this I want to emphasize this was just an example, our little project is NOT related to the companies I mention in the post, they scrape content on a really big scale and profit, usually on an equally big scale.

No, it is not ok if permission was not solicited and given.

Obviously Jim is giving permission directly on his website, thus for Jim's art, it is ok.

It only takes a moment to contact an artist and get permission.

I license some artwork under creative commons in an effort to share with others. I am also a web developer and have contributed code and content to open source projects. I do this knowingly and with permission.

I also sell some artwork and products; for those items I would expect to be asked for permission.

Yes, all of the links both in the RSS and in the emails sent with followup comments are broken. That sort of proves my point about how easy it is to have broken links and to not be able to follow something back to it's origin.

Not everything on the web should be or is intended to be free. We all have to eat and support ourselves. My art is how I survive, thus anyone else using it (as packaging or filler content) is potentially taking food out of my mouth and that is not ok by me.

Clint Watson

Fair enough. I would add, it often takes much more than a moment, much much more. Simpler to move on. Companies that are larger in scale could never try to contact each artist individually. As a web developer I could also argue that if you're not blocking your images in robots.txt that you've already given implicit permission for them to be scraped. Also - yes, links do get broken, but the companies I talked about are on top of that the links are NOT broken. That's a strawman example as a reason to say it's theft.

I can also add at this point that some of these companies *have* had court decisions allowing some of their activities under fair use, so it may not totally matter if we agree if it's legal or not......

I'm curious, since you are a web developer, do you block images in robots.txt to prevent 3rd party spiders and bots from accessing them?

I'm with Jim. If someone wants to illustrate their blog with a painting of mine, as long as they attach my name to it, that's cool.

About two years ago, a person in Portugal started a blog where they researched paintings of people reading. Each day they posted a new painting they'd found and enjoyed, along with a few words of their poetic thoughts. It really started a nice chain reaction.

And have you looked at Thomerama?
--somebody's blog of their favorite contemporary paintings, one a day. I did the RSS feed thing for it just so I could enjoy it too.

Which brings us to the nice part about the FASO stat counter--pretty easier to track down who's giving us referrals--that's how I found Thomerama.

Later, Cooper

Clint Watson
BTW - I fixed the link in the emails that reads "click to reply to...." thanks for pointing it out. Still need to look at the rss feed.

Yes and no as to blocking. I'm not that worried about it as I do not rank up there at a level where folks are going to rip me off (as of yet).

For the websites that I build for artists and attorneys, yes, I do block them but a robots.txt file is not a guarantee by any means. In fact, it generally is a red flag to say there is something in that directory that is potentially worthy of theft. Kinda like saying "hey, you see this here file, please don't look in it". Curiosity and all of that.

Some cases have been won, but some have not. Ask Mr. Fairey about fair use. Attorneys are expensive. Lawsuits are expensive. On both sides.

I was pretty sure you were already doing this (scraping) from the tone of your responses here.

That is a shame.

I will be unsubscribing from your site feed.

Clint Watson
Cooper - that's a neat blog.

It's kind of a double-edged sword. If you require in writing permission up front, most people wouldn't take the time to do a blog like that.

But if you allow blogs like that - you might get some people scraping images to promote porn.

My view is that it's better to allow the "good" implicitely and then try to police the "bad" after the fact, instead of penalizing the "good" up front. Other people feel the other way though.

My main point is though if you take the "theft is theft" point of view - then you have to enforce it consitently. That means a DMCA takedown for every single violator - no matter how "good", no matter how big. Otherwise you set a precendent.

Clint Watson
Christy - we are not the company I was talking about. Our "scraping" is very minimal and usually the artists we feature DO know in advance we are going to feature them and have agreed in the terms of entering our online contests.

I am not trying to defend scrapers. I'm trying to point out that the "theft is theft" must be applied equally.

I'll share another hint. Most people who cry "theft is theft" on their images also practically *beg* us to help them get their content "scraped" by several of these companies. Many people get really upset if such companies stop scraping their content.

There's no need to unsubscribe, this is FineArtViews - all kinds of views about fine art. My view is not necessarily the right one, and many of the other writers here likely have different views.

Debate and disagreement are healthy.

Lee Ann
Wow! I'm really surprised to hear the vehement "absolutely never share my art with anyone" opinion! Because let's face it, percentage-wise, I've met more artists than any other profession who can't be bothered to check emails. And if permission can't be granted at the speed of light, someone else will be featured. Why miss out on the publicity of those who are giving credit where credit is due? Take down those who aren't, by all means. Seems like a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face, to me.

Lori Woodward
I see my artwork images online if I do a search for that subject. Whether others scrape my images for their use is currently not worth my time to pursue.

Before the Internet, painters in China took magazine ads and copied the works and made prints without the artists' permission. Not much could be done about it.

Just today, I learned that a past art instructional article of mine was reprinted in a major art publication. I knew nothing about it, but I did go ahead and sign an agreement that gave the publishing company rights to my written work and the images to make money off them forever without giving me another cent. I decided to do this because it's free advertising for me.

Whether my work gets put on porn sites, whether it is theft or not, is not something I concern myself with because I don't have the time, power, lawyers or interest to pursue the intruders.

By making my work easy to download/steal, I have gained more recognition world wide then thousands of dollars of advertising could do for me.

The way I see it, when I post my work online, I'm pretty much asking others to "come and get it". If I don't want anyone to scrape or steal images, then I probably shouldn't have a website or post them on Facebook. BTW: I get more visits to my website from Facebook than any other source.

Thanks Clint for asking. For some reason, my gut says that using someone else's photos for their promotion is worse than using an artwork. I'll have to think about that one.

@Lee Ann who said 'never share my art'?

I said do not scrape art and content off of my website without asking me.

There is a huge difference between promoting an artist and stealing their content for profit.

The original post here was about the act of scraping from websites without permission.

If an artist is such a bumbling fool that they can not manage to respond to a quick email asking permission then go ahead and move on to the next artist. There are thousands of artists who would say yes with lightning speed. If only they were asked.

At the same time, if no one asks you, and you never know about the promotion then you can not cross post or return the favor. I blog, I am on FB, Twitter and several other social media sites. If my art was promoted and I was aware of it I would gladly return the favor.

Making it a one way street doesn't seem to be in the best interests of anyone involved.

Saying you don't have the time to ask is like saying it isn't worth your time. If someone wants to promote my work then I should hope they feel I am worth their time.

"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." -Karl Marx

Lee Ann
Ok - fair enough calling me on the "never share my art" statement. That was extreme.

But I would agree with Lori - if you want to be very strict about control of your images, you should probably not put them on the internet. The internet is what it is. Or watermark all your images. Viewers that you hope to reach will not get a good view of what you can do, but at least no one wants to scrape an image with a watermark smack in the middle of it.

I think it's also fair to point out that there is precious little connection between someone's abilities as a artist, and their computer savvy (or even access). Who wants to scrape a crappy painting just because the artist jumps on every email?

And one other point - use Google analytics and you will know whenever someone scrapes your content and gives you credit. If they don't give you credit, they aren't likely to be the type to ask first anyway.

Lee Ann
I meant Google alerts, not analytics

George De Chiara
I'm finding this thread pretty interesting. About 6 months ago I did a vanity search on some of my artwork to see what turns up. I was socked to see where some of my images and information showed up. Most of it seemed like what you are talking about Clint. Lots of ads around the content. Most also had links back to me, so I didn't really mind too much. One thing I found that really surprised me was how many of my ebay auctions where listed off of ebay. My guess is this is someway to make money with ebay for ending people back to the site. Either way it didn't bother me since it meant more people where finding my auctions.

Lisa Dale McKnett
I think the same copyrights apply to artwork as photography. The copyright is assumed on conception and creation and does not have to be protected by blocking the access. It is a known, the rights apply and should be requested to copy. I have seldom had a case where when I asked for a photo to paint did they say "no" and always gave credit to the photographer or model with a written request. There is not a difference here. It will most likely be welcomed if asked and seldom argued . It takes little time to ask and is a courtous thing to do. It is simple Etiquette that is required.
As long as we are talking about getting the coverage of notice of artwork and sharing without charging, I would not mind being used to get the word out.
I saw the guy who started Twitter on TV. He was asked to go on Martha Stewart and share the Twitter news. It would be cool if you were on that show like he did and take your FASO thoughts to a public show and share a recipe with her about your sucess of helping others. That would get people to visit the FASO website and buy art.
Art and the making of art should be shared nationally, like recipes and guests on talk shows for relief of societies pains and boredom . Art and buying art shoud be popular enough for the artist to afford the frames and then can be affordable to those who want to buy it. Good art should be in every home, like "a chicken in every pot".
Most artists like me, don't mind publicly sharing thier art.
It is an honor to be among the better artists featured here and attract better buyers. They get a free ride with the best of the best.
Art is created for the visual experience isn't it? Why would anyone object if asked properly, there will be a good reason for answering "no". Perhaps they have sold the rights even though they own the painting still.

(how hard would it be for your experts to put spell check on this box?)

Lisa Dale McKnett
Oh in addition: I also see that the Feds have an opinion on this, that is why the law is written and copywrite warnings are posted.
See how much easier it is to take the time to ask.Avoid a scandal. Stay within the boundaries of the law.

Lori Woodward
Oh, while we're on the topic... when I look at my stats, I often see that folks came to my blog as a result of someone else re-printing my blog on their site. FAVS has this setup.

The other artist does not ask me for permission, but there is a link back to my site. I actually enjoy this. The miraculous thing about having good content or work is that it can get around the entire world in a day with social media.

Yeah, I realize this hasn't got anything to do with those who make money by stealing my images, but it's just an example of how what's posted on the web is going to get passed around - that's if it captures attention.

Lisa Dale McKnett
my comments got cut off on the right margin, or is that something that changes after your editing cylce?

Clint Watson
Lori - speaking of facebook - they scrape without your permission all the time. Maybe Zuckerberg should be calling to get permission? If someone "likes" a web page with one of your images, guess where that image goes? Yep, sucked into the Facebook beast. Don't think that not having like buttons will stop it either because there are browser plugins to allow you to "like" any page.

Lisa - we might do spell check, however, if you use Chrome or Firefox, they have built-in spell checkers anyway on text boxes.

I have to add that I've checked a few places from artists here and on past threads and guess what? Their images are already scraped and on other companies servers as I outlined in my post. It's not something I'm worked up about, but it's evident that even though some may want to to be different, companies generally aren't going to call for permission to use images in this way. Most of the companies I've looked at would respect a robots.txt block. Scammers of course will ignore robots.txt.

I see the source of those images coming from all kinds of places - the artist's individual websites, online galleries like fineartamerica and redbubble. I'm sure some from FASO. Like you said Lori - I think the reality is this: if the image is online it's going to get scraped and used.

I'm not sure much can be done about it, but I did wonder how people felt about it. And it's evident that lots of people don't like it at all.

Lisa Dale McKnett
Here is a cut of the bottom line on copyright as per quoted in the guidlines you gave us to link to:

Copyright protects the particular way authors have expressed themselves. It does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in a work.

The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission.

When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of fair use would clearly apply to the situation. The Copyright Office can neither determine if a certain use may be considered fair nor advise on possible copyright violations. If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney.

Lorraine Khachatourians
Interesting post, as just today I received an email from a web site that seems to do this, asking me to provide an image they can put with the link to my site. When I looked at the site, it looks like some kind of dating site, not an art site that it claims to be. It says it is a 'social media art site' and has a search function by age and gender. ???? So I emailed them back to let them know I wasn't interested. However, who knows what they will do.

Clint Watson
Lisa and Christy - you are correct of course that asking permission in advance is the safest, advisable thing to do. And as we grow, I feel our editor will likely have to add that - we don't really "scrape" much at all anymore as will nearly always now feature artists who win in our contest and the right to reproduce images is in the terms of entering the contest.

However, that last bit is the rub "unless it would clearly full under fair use"

I'm pretty sure at least one of the companies I have in mind has already gotten a court ruling that it *is* fair use, so, legally I think they're going to be protected no matter what. And that sets a precedence, of course.

I would like to get a response from Clint to my question (in light of the copyright statement at the bottom of this site) if it would be ok for some entity to take the written text and images from this website and repurpose them somewhere else with the best of intentions and with a link back here? And I mean take all of the written text and all of the images without any advance permission?

Also just to be clear Fine Art America and Red Bubble are opt in participation. I sign a contract with them to have my work appear there. It is not taken without consent and shouldn't be implied in any other way.

Moshe Mikanovsky
Isn't Google scraping everyone's images and written word too? It is not only Facebook. In order for the Internet to work, everyone are scraping everyone. Google does not put any credits on the images they show on the search result, "just" the link.... OK, so maybe this is an extreme example since everyone want to be scrapped by Google right? If you think about it, it is exactly the same thing! They put adds (AdSense) at the top of the search result, they make money off it, and they show to the end use your images....

My opinion is that it is NOT a theft, and that if you think it is a theft, you should not be online. It might be a grey area like you suggest Clint, and maybe there are some moral issues as well in the schema of making money, but if they don't reprint it, don't make money directly off the image, give you credit and send links back to you, I see no issue with that.

If someone doesn't want it to happen, either don't be online, or put a very specific statement on your site.

When I started blogging I read this good post by Dan from EmptyEasel "Art Blogging Etiquette 101: General Rules for Linking and Using Images":

Just my two cents,

Lori Woodward
The way I look at it with artwork is that I make my money when someone buys the work and puts it on their wall. The sizes of my images online are small - 600 pixels on the widest side, so the most anyone can do with it is use it online for other purposes.

They look pretty pixelated when printed in anything larger than a 5x7 format.

I've yet to find my paintings used on an advertisement of any kind... except on American Artist publications (where I was an author). They never ask, nor notify me when my work goes out to promote one of their magazines. Legally, they are using my image to promote sales without my permission, but I only stand to benefit from it.

Paying for ads is extremely expensive - I love it when someone publishes my work online - especially if they give me credit, which so far as I know, they have.

When I start feeling like I'm losing control or having my images online damages my reputation in someway, I'll address the issue then. In the meantime, scrape away.

Google is not recommending art to collectors. Google is listing searches.

From what I have read here (and please correct me if I am wrong) the intended use of gathering this art and about page information is to recommend to collectors.

Which brings me to another point... if there isn't time to consult the artist, then how much time is spent determining if the art is legitimate, and or if the art is of quality.

If that isn't done then you might as well just send your collectors straight to Google images. What is the point of a list of art that hasn't at some point been reviewed for any type of criteria or standards.

Honestly this whole thing is just really bothering me. As an artist I have the right to promote my art just the same as a gallery would promote me. I should not have to hide my art in an effort to keep someone from taking it and using it under the guise of a legitimate business.

And who wants to be promoted based solely on the basis that your art was easy pickings? What does that really say?

Promoting the artists who enter the competitions/ contests here is a far better criteria and one I can applaud. It shows the editor of this site has taken the time to consider the content and is sending to his/her collectors art that they regard to be of worth.

@Moshe I do not think that Dan is advocating scraping websites. In fact I am sure, considering how popular his site is, that he has had a few run ins with scraping himself.

Again, a single instance of promoting artwork because you love the art or because you are a collector or fan is a whole different ballgame than that of scraping content.

And as to go ahead and do it now, but when I am famous later then I deal with it, isn't an answer. Even in the case here where Clint is trying to do the right thing we as artists need to say no without permission. Once you become famous there will be no going back and as Clint said letting it go is as good as setting a precedent.

The internet is changing things in good ways too. Many major stores have had to cease selling goods manufactured in China due not to a lawsuit, but due to an outcry from the artist community when it is shown the art was stolen and manufactured without consent. Social media can be a powerful tool to stop large companies from looking the other way when copyright is being infringed on.

Clint Watson
Christy - to clarify what I meant. I have found images from Redbubble and FineArtAmerica hosted on another site - scraped from those sites. Same could happen if someone shared a FAA or redbubble page on facebook or other social media. My point is the images are going to be used and shared.

Clint Watson
Moshe - I think you might have just "outed" one of the sites I had in mind :-). Google does indeed scrape all of our sites. Christy - Google scrapes the text content and images off this site all the time - and they profit handsomely from that practice. In fact, knowing that it's going to happen, we simply have republishing guidelines that allow anyway to reprint full articles, but we require a link back to us, and a few other things outlined on the republish page.

Search for "artist websites" sometime and see me and all my competitors - and all our scraped content, and sometimes images. Google didn't create any of it, we all did. Now look at all the ads - none of us get any of that revenue. We're all attributed and linked to though.

There are many other sites that do this of course, but Google's one of the biggest and a good example. If "theft is theft" then those who feel that way should be up-in-arms about Google scraping their content. And should actively block Google. Google exists to make ad revenue first and send you traffic as a side-effect. BUT if it's OK for Google, then it logically means it's OK for others too - if they're providing a beneficial service. We do something on a tiny scale at where we highlight articles about art.

I think it's good to think deeply about the extreme cases to understand our positions. If someone wants to control their online content completely then, fine. But do it consistently - and that means dropping out of search engines and image searches. And, indeed, some online companies HAVE blocked google and decided they didn't want them profiting from their content.

Moshe Mikanovsky
Amen to that Clint, we are on the same page ;-)

Christy - Scraping is not the issue and whether it is to sell or promote their artwork it doesn't really matter. It is just a technical way to do the same thing. Dan was writing about using other artists' images in your blog posts. I have done it myself many times on my own personal art blog, and I never requested the artists' permission. I always gave them full credit and links, and sent them an email afterward telling them that I have featured them in my blog. No one, to the exception of one artist, had an issue with that. The one exception was actually a photograph that I took, with the permission of the said artist, of their tent in an art festival we did together. They claimed that the picture didn't represent their artwork well and their hanging system. Fine. I had no issues with that. I immediately removed the image from the posting.

Let me give you another, more extreme example. Let's say your name as an artist becomes your brand, and you might even register it as a brand name. Would you require everyone mentioning you to pay you or to get permission to mention your name? What if someone mentioned you in their blog post, and therefore get a peak in their visitors, which in return might give them some new clients? Do they have to pay you something for mentioning your name? I doubt it. Yes, it might be much more extreme than grabbing an image you made and publishing it. And maybe their SEO will increase just by mentioning some famous artists and putting their artwork in their blog. But as long as they don't profit directly from that artwork, and they give credit”¦ well, did we say grey?

You mentioned a good point ”" that it depends on the volume. One time because you love the art is OK, but scraping is not. Who can determine the line between the two? If I do it 3 times is it OK? 10 times? 100? What if its 100 artists that I love, one painting of each? Does a machine (software) has to be involve to make it wrong, or can I have an army of people scraping the images one by one?

Grey? :-)

I am not a lawyer though, so again, just my opinion.


Brian Sherwin
The articles I posted recently to FineArtViews about copyright were focused more along the line of those who desire limited-- or non-existent-- copyright... and why I don't agree with it. Some of the statements that have been made by the free culture crowd alarm me.

If copyright were limited to the point of offering no protection-- or if copyright were dropped all together-- artists would be at risk of being disenfranchised by indviduals and corporations. In that respect-- Google, or Yahoo! for that matter, could easily lay claim to images and profit in other ways than just 'around' the image. Again, that is if copyright were limited or did not exist.

Do I have a problem with Google 'scraping'? No. Do I have a problem with artists such as Shepard Fairey and Richard Prince infringing on copyrighted images they find online or in books under a wide interpretation of 'fair use'-- and making millions from it? Yes.

Clint Watson
Brian - you and I are on the same page. I think what Google does is pretty legitimately "fair use" and they properly attribute the copyright holder. And even point out that images may be copyrighted.

What you wrote about was artists "stealing" other artist's works and incorporating them without attribution into their own. That's a whole different thing......and I agree a pretty clear violation of copyright law.

There are, or, at least, were shades of grey though to what Google does - and they have been in court over it. I will try to dig up the ruling where they won the right to keep cached copies of web pages and link to it.

Brian Sherwin
There was a case that involved a woman who filed a lawsuit against Google because her images showed up on Google image searches and so on. She lost that copyright infringement case. It is kind of hard to prove that Google has hurt your ability to profit when Google has gained so much exposure for you-- and has not made profit off of the images directly.

That is very different than a case involving a famous artists exhibiting art that has infringed on your copyright at a high profile gallery-- earning over $10 million from images that involved well over 90 percent of the copyrighted image. That becomes a clear issue of profit-- not the spreading of information.

That said, I should point out that there is no magic percent as to what is copyright infringement and what is not. You can get nailed for copyright infringment for having used just 1 percent of a copyrighted image-- though in that case the copyright owner will need a really good lawyer.

Brian Sherwin
There was a case that involved a woman who filed a lawsuit against Google because her images showed up on Google image searches and so on. She lost that copyright infringement case. It is kind of hard to prove that Google has hurt your ability to profit when Google has gained so much exposure for you-- and has not made profit off of the images directly.

That is very different than a case involving a famous artists exhibiting art that has infringed on your copyright at a high profile gallery-- earning over $10 million from images that involved well over 90 percent of the copyrighted image. That becomes a clear issue of profit-- not the spreading of information.

That said, I should point out that there is no magic percent as to what is copyright infringement and what is not. You can get nailed for copyright infringment for having used just 1 percent of a copyrighted image-- though in that case the copyright owner will need a really good lawyer.

Brian Sherwin
Also-- if the spreading of information, images and text, is news related it is generally acceptable under copyright law to do. That is something to consider.

Did you read the above article???

This is what it states and what I am responding to:

"In this post I want to look at a different but related practice that falls into what might be considered a "grey" area.

I've discovered a type of company that engages in the practice of "scraping" artist websites and taking their images. These companies store the artists' images on their own servers and use them in various ways to serve and profit from their users."

It is about scraping.

I never said anything about being paid. I said where scraping is involved it is pure theft and I would expect to be given the opportunity to say no!

It requires an entirely different level of jerk to misquote me and ignore the first few paragraphs of the post and attack someone out of turn.

Newspapers sue people all the time for using more than an excerpt of their content. I know I used to run several websites and was responsible for kicking the issues to our legal department.

However, for anyone who doesn't care or doesn't mind, or even wants their content used without their knowledge or consent then scraping is fine with me.

Just don't scrape my site because I will hunt you down, your ISP, your web host and get an attorney and sue you!

Every search engine aggregates content. Are you going to advocate that you and BoldBrush block every single search engine in existence?

Many of us are unhappy with many of Google's practices. I for one abhor the lie they told us all about privacy only to turn around and begin using it for advertising dollars with their local search and Google places pages.

But you grabbing artists content isn't justified either.

In fact, if you think Google is so wrong in what they are doing why don't you drop out of the search results?

You asked a question, I as an artist gave my answer. That it doesn't fit with your agenda is your problem. Please do not make it mine. It only becomes my problem if my content is scraped.

The reason I said it was different if a person decided to promote say a particular artists painting was because it implies that they have a vested interest in the piece. That they have made a choice to tell the world about something that they find worthy.

To have it done by a machine, well, unless scraping scripts have moved into the realm of AI, it means nothing. Absolutely nothing.

It means you have a website and you have content on it. And it means someone scraped it. How, in what way, does that become a recommendation to a collector?

The entire premise that these scraped images are used to promote the artist to collectors is hogwash if the art wasn't vetted in some way.

I could simply scrape 100,000 websites, create 100,000 bogus free blogs and change the names all up and then watch for them to all get scraped. Completely scamming the entire premise. If no thought, if no consideration, if no vetting is done then what could be dumping into that scrape is totally worthless crap.

By the way, it happens everyday to the search engines. It's called link farms and link dumping.

I could replicate my own art onto 500 free websites. It would not take all that long for the search engines to catch on to me, because they have built that type of vetting into the algorithms. But I bet I could mess up lesser scrapes (such as Bold Brush) for a good while before they figured it out.

I could paste the art of the masters under 100's of fake names, only to watch it get dumped into Bold Brush's collector email and turn it into a laughing stock.

Trying to beat the system by subverting the simple act of making contact, of getting to know the art and the artist is silly. It is NOT what art is about.

Clint Watson
Christy - whoa, lets back up here a second. I want to be clear: *I* do not have a problem with Google's scraping and caching. Therefore, since I don't have a problem with it, I don't block them.

But *you* and several other people have said that scraping is "theft"...and "theft is theft." Period. And I am not saying that you're wrong. Perhaps is *is* theft. (and perhaps I *should* have a problem with it).

I am merely pointing out that if your position is true, that it is theft, then Google is stealing from you. And you (and others who hold your position) should block Google. And, if you don't block Google, then you have an inconsistency between your stated position and your actions, and you are weakening your argument and giving other people who want to scrape you the green light.

You can't turn a blind eye to theft with one party just because they're big and then cry "foul" when someone else does THE EXACT SAME THING. Too late at that point. You pointed out earlier that newspapers protect their copyrights strongly. And, indeed, some newspapers have gone so far as to block Googlebot. I think they're making a mistake, but I have to at least respect their consistency of logic. They took the position that it was stealing and they blocked everyone, including Google.

I think the part of copyright infringement that most people forget to think about is damages. Just taking somebody's material is really not enough to be considered infringement. It might make you mad if I take your images or content, but it's hard for that alone to constitute infringement. You have to show that you were damaged in some way. If I scrape your images, print them out, frame them and sell them, THEN you have been damaged. If I scrape them and store them on my ipod because I like to look at them, then you have NOT been damaged and there really is no infringement (I am not a lawyer).

THAT is why Fairey's case and the others ones Brian has written about have merit - there were REAL damages to the original copyright holder. And that is why, I think, Google's actions are not infringement. Not only do their actions not damage your copyright, they might make it more valuable, in most cases at least.

By the way, here's the link that court case that ruled Google's caching (scraping) policy as "fair use", and sets a precedent that makes it fair use for all the rest of us too:

Here's a summary of the ruling:

*The plaintiff's conduct (failure to set a "no archive" metatag; posting "allow all" robot.txt header) indicated that he impliedly licensed search engines to archive his web page;

* The Google Cache is a fair use; and

* The Google Cache qualifies for the DMCA's 512(b) caching "safe harbor" for online service providers.

Here's a link to DMCA's 512(b):

Clint Watson
Christy - as a follow up I just want to add, although we clearly have different "takes" to a degree on this issue, I want to add that I really do appreciate your participation and I do understand your concerns. "Iron sharpens Iron" and I really wanted to hash out different points of view on this issue, thank you for presenting a lot of arguments for your point of view.

I also want to add, I *Love* how passionate you are about art and protecting artists and their rights.

Phil Kendall aka Meltemi
No I'm not OK with it. But I cannot either stop it, or afford to employ the copyright laws of the UK against the perpetrators as they are often based in very distant countries which may not have the appropriate home-basedlegislation either. So sadly I have to treat it as "free advertising". It may not be the image that I would have chosen but it does often direct people to my website.

There is one single problem with the idea that I consider Google to be scraping my content.

I opted in.

I have Google Analytics on my website and so do you. You see I wanted to rank well on their search engine (right along with all of the others). And the fastest way to get indexed by them is to use their analytics code as well as Google Webmaster. And to create a Google places page. Oh, did I mention I know a thing or two about SEO?

When you opt in for analytics you are asking to have your pages crawled. And agreeing to it.

Anyone bashing Google as a scraping tool should first make sure they haven't opted in to it in the first place.

I appreciate that you asked the question even if you did so as an after thought.

I don't appreciate your take that because I may have opted in for other things it means I am forced to opt in to your process.

And I don't think that what you are selling in this post and it's comments is in the best interest of artists or your collectors. As I have already discussed on Facebook and Twitter.

But I appreciate the opportunity to get to post my comments and to debate an issue that is near and dear to me since it many times means the difference to whether or not I purchase that next canvas, those paints, those brushes, or any of the others expenses I must meet in order to make that painting you seem to think you have the right to use at your whim.

I do not consider what Google is doing to be scraping because I consider Google to be an aggregate for search. Your newsletter is NOT an aggregate for search. If you want to be the Google of art, then you need to take a different tact.

People pay large sums of money to rank high in Google's aggregate search results for a reason.

You should try an opt-in way of getting art. Many artists would flock to your door and beg you to list them and their work.

And you could say you got your content legitimately!

Win / Win

And Brian also opted in to Google. In a bigger way than I am since he is using their FREE blogging platform. All of his content that he is writing, including the comments left by his visitors is actually owned by Google. Kinda funny actually!

Michelle Basic Hendry
This is quite the topic. I have been reading - and sharing Brian's and Katherine Tyrell's (Making a Mark) articles on issues of copyright and questionable practice. In the end, I think my opinion is based pretty much on intent. Why are you using my/someone's work?

My blog feed was being unethically scraped by a couple of sites and in my fury, I turned my feeds into excerpts, so that unlinked scraping would provide no viable content. Question is, in protecting myself from a couple of not so above board people making a few bucks from advertising next to my content, am I losing all those people who can no longer see my images without fully linking to my site? Including e-mail subscribers who can no longer read my posts from their e-mail and must open a browser? Tough call. I am still on the fence and still have excerpted feeds blocking my images.

What is the scrapers intent? They are being opportunistic and my content is filler. It's unethical, but I am not sure there is malice - I am not likely their target and their profit percentage is most likely miniscule. Someone truly interested might seek me out. I don't like this, but I am not sure that I can have it both ways in terms of good site visibility. If I am being scraped, maybe I am doing something right? Hence my fence!

From what I have read on the Prince case, the intent of the 'artist' is profit excluding in both name and remuneration the person whose art was the basis for their 'art'. That is theft and I would be inclined to say malice. I will not condone the use of my work to make somebody else money under these conditions. The amount of work that goes into my, perhaps, obscure paintings of obscure places is tremendous. If you want to use it, I want credit and cash or the option to say NO. Think of it as royalties. While in the graphics industry I was a regular user of royalty based and royalty free stock photos. I would never expose my clients to unlawfully used imagery. Everybody gets paid, either once or with every use depending on the conditions.

Finally, if somebody wants to share my work on their site with a link - I am all for it. I would just love to know because then I will more than likely share their link too. The intent is to share the love here and if it helps the other person's blog become more popular, then I get to benefit from their interested traffic too.

So intent is everything. At least that is my - somewhat long winded - opinion....

Clint Watson
Christy, this is obviously a touchy subject for you, I will attempt to address your points because some of them need addressing and some of them seem to be turning into attacks rather than points of debate.

1. robots.txt is how you opt-in to google search, not google analytics or blogger.

2. You are wrong about opt in and google. If someone throws up a site, google will scrape it period. UNLESS that person add blocks in robots.txt. That is OPT OUT, not opt in.

2. Google has fair use to scrape unless you OPT OUT with robots.txt - a court has already ruled that - that ruling extends to other online services.

3. I'm not forcing you to opt in to our process, I'm not asking you to, and you haven't by participating here. My point is the internet has evolved to be OPT OUT not opt in.

4. You said "you seem to think you have the right to use at your whim." That's not a fair statement. We're discussing this, at least I thought we were, you seem to think I'm trying to defend the practice so I steal people's art or something, I'm not. Don't get mad at me, I've never scraped your content and don't intend to. We do not steal other people's art period. In fact let me break that out:

5. We do not steal other people's content. Period. Please don't accuse me of that. Thanks.

6. I'm not "selling" anything in this post. I'm saying that people who say "theft is theft" about scraping don't understand the full picture of what is happening online. I am NOT trying to "sell" it. Let's end that train of thought right now. I'm pointing out what is happening, and that there is little difference between google taking an image and random blogger taking it (both with proper links and attribution).

7. Although I'm not "selling" anything, I will add, what I am discussing in this post might NOT be the best thing for artists and collectors. Don't shoot the messenger please. I brought it up because it is something that a lot of people are concerned about.

8. Christy - please drop the newsletter example, that was an example from earlier....before I wanted to say I was talking about Google. We no longer scrape for the newsletter and haven't in years, so it's a non-issue. This discussion is about scraping online. I will add though, some of the artists were so pleased with the traffic they got from our newsletter (much more than they ever got from "SEO") that they would gladly pay "large sums of money" to have us send another one featuring them. I think you're trying really hard to defend Google but to somehow retain the ability to say the practice is wrong. That's a difficult position.

9. How about this example instead, and we may actually do this: If someone starts an "art search engine", that person can scrape your site right now legally, unless you block it with robots.txt. If we ever do it, let me know if you want the bot name so you can block it with robots.txt.

10. Just beause you consider google not to be scraper but an "aggregator" vs. what other people do? That's a distinction you've decided to make. But there really isn't that much of a distinction between Google and thousands of other "aggregators" other than scale.

11. We do get our content legitimately. No one has ever accused us of not getting it legitimately. Ask Brian or Lori - I send them checks for the articles they write.

12. Not sure why it's funny that Brian uses blogger. Brian never expressed any issue with Google scraping his content for search results and making adwords revenue off of it. I think it's more ironic that people with websites who cry foul when a random blogger takes one image are sometimes also engaging in SEO to try to "entice" google to scrape all their content.

Thank you.

Lori Woodward
Yes, indeed Clint does pay me for the blogs I write for Fine Art Views. Back in 2007, he came across my blog and asked me personally if he could reprint some of my posts on his Fine Art Views' newsletter.

SURE was my answer. Then after a time, Clint asked me to come on board as a regular writer, and I was thrilled. He pays me, but he puts the content out to artists for free. The blog titles get picked up by SEO, and Clint gets more artists to know about what services he offers.

Clint has put my name on the map and paid me for it! Who could ask for more than that? He's a fair guy, and he pays a bunch of people to put great content on his website and blogs. He offers one of the best freebee places on the net for artists.

Beyond that, he's brilliant and has a heart for artists. I've never known him to lie or cheat.

Unfortunately, instead of discussing the virtues of other companies, this thread has taken a turn to making personal accusations. There's no win/lose interest here. Clint was just asking what artists think. He's not guilty. If he was, he wouldn't have asked the question.

OK.... back to painting - but it's been interesting.

Lori Woodward
Oh, just to clarify. Clint did not pay me for copying my blog content (which he asked permission for) before I became a regular contributor.

What makes social marketing work better than the old ways is that if your work is good, it can reach people all over the world in no time at all. Many organizations have copied my content - some asked permission, others have not. Do they make money off of my content? YES, it gets people to their site and to buy their services or artwork. Do I make any money from their printing my work? Only in the case with Clint do I make income.

BUT! My career is growing at a phenomenal rate - both for art and writing. If someone happens to dishonestly steal my stuff from time to time, I guess that's the risk I take to get known world wide. There will always be dishonest people.

However, the benefit I get from sharing has helped me be able to make a living online. Without Clint, no one would know who I am, and now everywhere I go, artists know me as "the blogger" and then they say, "I thought you were much taller."

I read Seth Godin books, and he says (essentially) that it's a waste of time to try to protect anything on the Internet. Things will settle out in the long run, and the truly devious activity will become apparent. What most companies out there are doing is in no way devious, but actually helpful to artists. As someone said earlier - it has a lot to do with intent.

If I though Clint has any intent to hurt artists in any way, I'd quit and write for myself, but I really enjoy working for and with him.

Carrie Turner
As the editor, I rarely weigh in on the comments of our posted blogs. Mostly because this isn't a forum for *my* opinions, it's a place where our readers can have a voice and can have healthy discussion and debate. I agree with Clint, iron does sharpen iron.

That being said, I'm getting a little offended by some of the comments that keep getting repeatedly made about how we obtain the information we send out in some of our newsletters.

One of our newsletters that seems to be in question here most consistently focuses on the winners of the BoldBrush Painting Competition. When entering this competition, the artists are asked to review the rules of the contest.

For the record: In the rules of the contest, it states on our rules page ( that ALL entries (not just winners) will be displayed on this website. Each entry becomes part of the public, historical online contest catalog and will not be removed at a later date (rule 11).

It also states: By entering this art competition, you are granting us a non-exclusive perpetual license to reproduce images of your artwork (on this website and in our newsletters...with credit and links to you, of course)(rule 27).

Finally, it states: By entering the competition, you agree to abide by all rules (rule 30).

Sounds pretty cut and dried to me.

In addition, not only are we alerting them that their images will be in use, the artists who are going to be featured also receive an email reminding them that they will be featured and to please update their information (if necessary) in their competition control panel.

We do not steal information from other websites to use in our newsletters.

We do not scrape articles or blog posts from other writers or artists.

Our regular contributing writers are paid for their work and before they become regular contributors, either Clint or I personally has the conversation with them about how they'll get paid and exactly what we expect from them in regards to earning that pay. No one is in the dark.

On our submissions page for guest posts it specifically says: If your article is published on FineArtViews, we will link back to your web site and/or blog using the URL you provide.

You will retain the copyright to your original article. By submitting the article, you are granting us an unlimited license to publish your article on FineArtViews and to send the article to the FineArtViews newsletter list. Your article may be sent and/or published more than once.

Again, letting the viewer know exactly how their content could be used.

I'm not sure why the debate has become so personal and targeted but it's great to see a topic that our readers feel so strongly about.

I'd ask that before any more accusations get made or untruths spoken, you stop and think about what you're saying...

Clint founded this company and all it's entities. I know Clint to be a generous, honest, and compassionate man. He's also brilliant and savvy both in the art world and in the "geek" world, so I know the level of thought that goes into all of the functions and features we offer.

It would never, ever occur to Clint, myself, or any of the staff here to be unethical or shady in our interactions or job performance and the accusation that we would do so, hits way below the belt.

On a closing note, I can honestly say that I have scads of emails EVERY DAY from artists--some asking, some nearly begging--to be included in our newsletters.

What I don't ever get are emails from those featured asking for us to remove their information.

I think that says more than anything.

@Clint I love numbered lists :)

It became an attack when Brian jumped into this post and called me a liar and said I was out to 'get paid' among other things. And since I now know he is in fact being paid by this website makes it all make a little more sense.

1. robots.txt can and is ignored and abused. It is in no way a fail safe. It would be naive of me to think that because I put a text file on my server that it means someone desiring to scrape my content will adhere to it. The use of a robots.txt file is a standard... it isn't a rule. A robot does not have to adhere to it, it isn't enforceable.

2. Google is opt in for me. I am not against Google or Bing or any other search engine that aggregates my site for the purposes of search. Where did you get the idea that I am against that? A viable search engine is my friend, not my enemy.

3. When you make statements such as:

"It might make you mad if I take your images or content, but it's hard for that alone to constitute infringement."

You have a way of wording things that gives me the feeling you feel a certain amount of entitlement. No I don't think you want my content... I think you want all artists content. Hence scraping.

4. It is a fair statement since you want to scrape artists websites and use their content as you see fit and as you determine is in a 'good' way. I base that on your own words in the post and in the comments.

5. You are the one who said that you did indeed, in the past and possibly today, scrape content for your newsletter to send to your collectors. I did not make that up. And further down you say you may indeed do it again (see #9).

6. This blog is supposed to be about art marketing. Thus you are selling your websites ideas on how artists can market, you are also selling your brand. Believe me, you are selling something if you are online running a marketing blog. And yes, I believe you are working very hard to explain how your past and potential scraping is morally or ethically right. There is a very large difference between Google and a random blogger. And I happen to be ok with both of them. I am not ok with your idea of how you would go about scraping under the circumstances.

7. If you intended this post to be about how you or your firm feel Google is not in artists best interests then you should have written it that way. Instead you posed it as a question about a tactic that you may take up and wanted to know how artists would feel about it.

8. Ok, although you brought it up I am happy to now ignore the entire newsletter subject. So if not for a newsletter what are you now intending to use scraped content for? An art search engine?

I could not care one wit about how much traffic an artist got from your newsletter. I thought you wanted me to drop the newsletter angle?! I do not have to defend Google, I opted in to them. I do not want someone who isn't a search engine aggregating my content.

9. There are plenty of art search engines out there already... good luck getting top dog in that niche!

10. Yes there is a distinction between Google and (for instance) your website. A huge distinction. And I am not about to start bashing Google here. Google is not doing anything different than Bing. I am not about to start bashing Microsoft either. That would be a whole different post topic.

11. You said you were in the past scraping sites for content without permission. Yes, I now realize that Brian and Lori are on the payroll :)

12. You should take the time to read Brian's blog, including the comments on it. I did. Brian is using a free service that at the whim of Google could disappear his online 'home base'. In fact the same can be said of his Facebook presence as well. I pay my cold hard cash for my web presence. I am serious about my business and have invested in my online presence. And I am not getting paid to write this either.

Again, do not put words in my mouth. I never cried foul about a random blogger taking an image.
I never cried foul about Google indexing my website. I never cried foul at all. I simply answered the question you posed here as to how I feel about content scraping that I did not opt in for.

One final point since you are so focused on Google and their 'scraping'. If I were someone who had a website who did not want Google to index it there are more and better ways than a robots.txt file to stop them. It is called .htaccess

As for your robot... lol I'm not really worried about it. If you scrape my content and I find out about it you will know it was without my consent. Intent and all that.

Look, I don't know you from adam. I am not making personal attacks against you. I only called Brian a jerk for attempting to put words in my mouth. And frankly I stand by that characterization after having read his blog.

Maybe you do have the best of intentions, maybe you are creating rock stars such as Lori. I don't really know because my 'evil plan' is not to become some rock star artist. Nor do I want to become a rock star writer. I just do not want to have my right to ownership over my paintings taken away from me in a big way nor in small little ways that erode what little rights I have.

Now, because this has really turned into a huge and lumbering conversation that is so tangled it requires a numbered list I am not going to continue to comment. Also I think you should hear from other artists... preferably ones that are not on your payroll.

If I am specifically pointed to I will respond but otherwise I think I should give the floor over to someone else and bow out of this discussion. I have a painting to work on which is far more interesting to me than whether to scrape content or not to scrape content.

PS: I am certain with the number of comments and the heated discussion you have gotten rather good traffic out of this conversation so there is that benefit!

Lisa Dale McKnett
all the picture links work but mine. Is there a problem with my setup?

Lori Woodward
Clint didn't create me as a rock star... I'm not a rock star, and if I stop blogging, I'll be forgotten soon - the nature of the Internet.

What made me popular with artists is my own content. Clint recognized the quality and asked if he might pay me to write for FAVS. I own the copyright, but do not reproduce these same blogs on my site - out of courtesy. Although I probably will compile them into several ebooks where I will hopefully make money

I don't think Clint's getting much attention from these comments. Too technical for my taste, too convoluted. This artist is rather bored now. I wouldn't be surprised if others are too.

Hi Carrie!

Lisa Dale McKnett
There are usually deeper issues when someone gets angry about a subject like this one. Perhaps they had a bad past dealing with copyrighted material.
Just for the record, I am not upset in the least, since I like the exposure FASO gives the artists.
I was just adding my two cents as a response to Clint's request and felt that he needed people's opinions to make a particular thing happen for what he is trying to do to improve this site.
My husband (physicist geek computer designer) also asks me things of this nature. No response might be lack of caring for his question.
I am just stating that if you ask first or clearly spell out the rules like in the Bold Brush competition, no one is surprised when the artwork shows up as promotional material.
What needs to be said that first the artist submits the piece of choice that he/she would not mind being selected.
I get a little nervous if some of my weaker pieces get promoted outside of my website. Those weaker paintings are there on the website as bargain deals (priced accordingly) and I would not like them on the advertisement promotional engines to represent me as my finest works. Maybe this is why people get upset, if they see thier worst paintings selected as a promo piece.

Lori Woodward
Lisa, you made an interesting comment about not wanting your weaker pieces used for promotion... that got me thinking...

When I used to do outdoors shows, I noticed that my body of work tended to be judged by my weakest work - in other words, people would wonder why an artist who could do something really good, also did this "only kinda good" work. One of my most successful artist friends suggested that I never show my weaker work because it does not instill confidence in my work for the collector who considers buying it.

I'd never thought about this in terms of the Internet - my older, and possibly less professional work stays online and goes, "who knows where". Perhaps I should be more careful about which works I post since I may not have total control over who sees it.

It's like having a show booth that extends to the world - puts things in a different light for me.

Lisa Dale McKnett
Hi Lori,
In respons, I say "Yes indeed" not showing bad paintings is best. As I was writing this I was thinking which pieces to take off my website on FASO. All of them by my standard of today.
But then I noticed that if FASO selected the weaker pieces, so who liked those or was it a random choice?
I often like the pieces that have more sentimentality and not ones that sell.
So far, I have noticed that the pieces I would never buy myself, sell most frequently.
So, now I am not sure if just painting my best, is the best thing to do and show it anyway.
I guess today I decided if they like the sloppy fast painted pieces, maybe that is a sign that I should paint that way. More like Fechin less like a tight thinking and needing to show it all in case the viewer is stupid. "Less is more" as they say.

Lori Woodward
Lisa, as my friend Monique used to say, Let your collectors wallets tell you what to paint next. She has made over $100K/year for well over a decade, and she was the first artist to teach me a great deal about how to market my work.

But as an artist, it's important that we communicate our unique visual story.. as well, and just do the best we can with it. Depending on how much you need or enjoy the income, you can determine which way you want to go.

It's no sin to do what pays the bills if you enjoy it. It's difficult to judge one's own work, but each artist needs to get good at judging their work objectively before putting it out for display. Sometimes I find an art savvy and trusted friend to help me decide.

Well.. this has turned into a different discussion here. Perhaps I should post a question on BrushBuzz and go from there?

Betty Pieper
The initial article seemed provacative....little did I know! When I scrolled down to see the LONG list of comments I almost opted out, but then I decided to invest the time to read in total. At the point the editor jumped in...perhaps advisedly...I still thought it was a tempest in a teacup relatively. I'm 72 years old and an avid painter. HOwever, despite starting on an old B/W TV screen and an Atari with all DOS commands, along the line I've have been left in the dust. I have little idea about what scraping is or isn't - and this did not help much to clarify. aI would love it if you all got back to some basics...which might be sophisticated even for more saavy people...cleaner distinctions between Google search functions and more examples of the "good" and "bad" extremes of scraping, more explanation of the opt in/opt out, more effort to make technical terms manifest for the left-behind but hopefully talented people such as myself. I do
thank you for the newsletter which is free and for the content, and for the opportunity to see passion and caring alive and well...even if it doesn't always see eye to eye. Maybe guest editorials can indeed foster more pointed and informative discussion. I'm not ready yet but I hope others will take you up on a chance to put forth their ideas in that format.

If a person posts on their site something like, "I found this artist I really like; take a look at her work!" and then includes a link, that is fine with me and I think reacting negatively would make enemies rather than potentially clients. However, if they are just using my work to illustrate their website, that's not cool at all. Sometimes they could be doing the latter while trying to make it look like the former. In all things we often have to choose our battles wisely.

Betty Pieper
Write another comment . . .

Clint Watson
I admit that I wrote the article a bit provocatively and some of the first comments were quick to jump in and say that "scraping" images is wrong.

However, I wrote it that way on purpose. Here's why: if you read that article it is a near perfect description of Google. Granted, it was a description that made what they do sound "bad", but if you took that list and implemented it as a business plan - you would get something that looks like Google.

Now, many people don't like the idea of scraping and we've gotten off-track and heated back and forth comments etc.

Nothing anyone is going to say is going to change my mind. People can go down side tracks and attack us personally or try to see evil motivations that don't exist but that doesn't matter.

But here's the bottom line and I'll stand by it: What Google does is scraping without advance written permission (other than the implied permission of a robots.txt standard). They take copyrighted material and use it to make money for themselves but they don't directly infringe the copyright and they DO credit and link to the original content. And if people accept it from Google, then they must accept it from anyone else who does it in a way that has proper attribution, links and doesn't damage the copyright holders value. If someone does that online, it's not a copyright violation and you can't get upset about it without also getting upset that Google, Bing, Facebook, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex and a host of others do the same thing. Scale is not an excuse either. It's not "acceptable" just because Google is big, and "inacceptable" because Joe Blow's art blog is small. IT'S THE SAME THING.

My goal in writing this was people to understand that "ideas that spread, win" as Seth Godin would say. By LETTING people take and share your content and images WITH PROPER LINKS AND ATTRIBUTION, you get much more exposure and coverage. If you get a number one ranking in Google for a high traffic search term, you "win" (ideas that spread win and all that). BUT if you get a front page feature on Jo Blow's art blog because he LOVES YOUR ART and shares it with his readership, you also "win." And frankly, even though we don't do it any more, those artists whose images we took to feature in our newsletter WON because we did it. Heck one guy sold several paintings from the newsletter we sent WHILE THEY WERE IN TRANSIT TO HIS GALLERY. The Gallery got a phone call from a guy with a credit card number and they HAD NO IDEA WHAT HE WAS BUYING because they had not received the paintings yet.

Ideas that spread win.

I was hoping that some artists might think "aha, it's OK to let some JPG files go out into the world and send people back to me."

Of course the other route is to try to control distribution with a iron fist. Ask the music industry how that route worked out some time.

So, while it's gotten heated, thanks for getting me to the point to bang out this comment, when I edit it and clean it up it will essentially be a good starting point for my follow up post where I reveal the "evil" scraping companies of Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Facebook, and many others.

Thanks everyone.

Lori Woodward
You're welcome Clint and thanks for taking the time for further explanation.

Betty Pieper
I hope you have no angst over the word "provocative" because I meant it in a good tone, making people think and get involved. It's also interesting that you mention the music industry, Clint. Our daughter worked in that hornet's nest years ago and I wondered if you might want to make a parallel. I look forward to your upcoming article. Just don't forget that at least a few of us out here need some solid delineations, definitions and examples. Thanks to all who are educating me!

Michelle Basic Hendry
I am really hoping my comment was not interpreted as a criticism because it was directed at something else entirely.

I think my definition of scraping must be different or I have interpreted the term to only apply to the hostile version - not something I would ever apply to Google, or Facebook much less here.

Scraping to me is when a site that exists for no other purpose but to take content from other RSS feeds so that has any content at all in hopes of catching advertising clicks. The feeds and the content on the sites are often unrelated or worse. The content is NOT linked, nor is the creator given any credit. This is what I have been victim of and spent time trying to curb.

That kind of activity is impossible here because the whole point of FASO and FAV is to promote artists and help them to promote themselves. As an art lover as well as an artist, it has been THE source for great advice and I have found a lot of beautiful work and websites I admire as a result. If this site scrapes, then, please, scrape my site!! ;-)

Again, intent is everything. Keep up the great work Clint!

Brian Sherwin
I'm late on responses-- thought I would mention the following though. When it comes to copyright the two key factors that establish copyright infringement involves distribution and profit. So you could say that Google is 'distributing' image. However, legal precedent has already sided with Google on that matter-- not to mention that most lawyers won't take on a copyright infringement case unless it involves profit. By profit I'm not talking about a few bucks-- most won't take on a case like that unless it involves substantial profit made directly from the use of the image... using the image on merchandise and so on.

Christy, you are misinformed by suggesting that Google owns the content I publish using Blogger. Even if that were implied in Blogger's TOS it would not hold in court if they were to try and sue me for posting my articles elsewhere. TOS are rarely supported in court in regards to ownership in that manner-- what they do is protect the service, in this case Blogger, from being sued for what users, such as myself, post-- or from being sued by me if, for example, they mention my blog on the main page of Blogger.

Even if a site implies in their TOS that posted/uploaded content belongs to them-- think about some of those issues with Facebook and DeviantART-- it has no legal grounding... and I base that off of what attorney's in NY have told me. I could have a site and state in the TOS that anyone viewing the site must give me the deed to their home-- does that mean they really have to hand over the deed to their property to me? No.

Christy-- furthermore... I'm not sure where you thought I attacked you. You say, "It became an attack when Brian jumped into this post and called me a liar and said I was out to 'get paid' among other things. And since I now know he is in fact being paid by this website makes it all make a little more sense."-- can you explain where exactly I called you a "liar" or mentioned anything about you being paid? Look at my comments again-- I was referring mostly to the two recent articles I posted on FineArtViews.

Christy, you also said, "You should take the time to read Brian's blog, including the comments on it. I did. Brian is using a free service that at the whim of Google could disappear his online 'home base'.". I realize that-- and I'm not sure what your point in mentioning that is. I'll maintain a personalized site when I want to. For me, my 'home base' is the recognition I've received over the years. Also, I have copies of every article I've posted online. So even if Google were to shutdown Blogger I could simply re-post my articles elsewhere-- or use them on my own site if every I desire to have one.

You also said, "In fact the same can be said of his Facebook presence as well." And I am not getting paid to write this either."-- Christy, I realize that Facebook could shutdown at anytime as well. Back when Myspace was 'the bomb' I helped maintain a group that had over 50,000 members-- a presence that is worthless now that Myspace is not as popular as it once was with visual artists. I've actually warned artists about that issue.

You also said, "I pay my cold hard cash for my web presence. I am serious about my business and have invested in my online presence." Christy, are you suggesting that I'm not serious about my career because I don't have a website and because I use social networking? My investment is my skill as a writer-- I'm a career contract writer. I do think that having a personal website is important-- especially for artists who are actively selling and doing so independent from galleries. That said, as a writer articles on my blog-- and blogs that I've written for, including FineArtViews-- have been mentioned on some of the most influential media and art sources online: Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine... the list goes on. In time I may have a personal website devoted to my writing-- or I may just continue to write for other... or do both.

As for Clint-- he is a stand up guy. Trust me, I've worked in this business for over 6 years now... mostly with social art sites... and I can tell you first hand that many art site founders are in this business for the wrong reasons. Most are founded by individuals who have not been active in art-- one I worked for was co-founded by a Wall Street businessman who would probably not know a Van Gogh from a Picasso if you placed two images in front of him. Clint was in the business of art prior to founding an art-related site. In that sense, I'd say that he honestly cares about artists.

You imply that since Clint pays me that I write whatever he desires-- you are very wrong. In fact, I know that Clint does not agree with every opinion that I write about on FineArtViews. Thus, if you think that what I write is based on his views you are mistaken.

Ok... you say, "I only called Brian a jerk for attempting to put words in my mouth. And frankly I stand by that characterization after having read his blog." Again-- exactly how did I attempt to put words in your mouth? Furthermore, after reading my blog what exactly did you find on there that you feel is a personal attack against you?

Brian Sherwin
Nevermind-- I guess she dropped out of the debate. Did anyone actually go to Christy's website?

She has it protected by a "secret code"-- and is thinking of placing all of her content online as a video in order to protect herself from copyright infringers. Erm... video artists who use appropriation could easily 'borrow' that content as well. There is no 100 percent safeguard to protect your images, or videos for that matter, online.

If you want the "secret code" you have to ask her... I can tell you right now that the art writers I know won't bother asking-- they will move on to the next artist who catches their eye.

Copyright is important-- I have a long history of advocating for copyright. Copyright infringement is a concern-- it is a reality we must all face. However, becoming creative isolationists is not the solution. If she sticks to her guns on the "secret code" method I will personally contact her in five years for an interview to see how well that method has paid off. Wow.

I like Clint's reference to the music industry and how well controlling distribution with an iron fist worked for them. As soon as they manage to shut down one copier, two more appear.

As artists doing marketing via the net, I think concentrating on the defense will fail in the end. Our time will be spent watching our backs to see who's out to get us. Ask yourself what that will do for the painting productivity AND quality. The best defense is a good offense.

Marsha Hamby Savage
The conversation here has been very interesting reading! I can see there are heated opinions about the scraping of someone's site or blog.

I would "feel raped" if my work showed up on a porno advertising site or a site I had an opposition to for some reason. I would "not feel raped" if my work shows up as a result of someone feeling it needed republishing because they truely wanted to get more views for that person or it illustrated a point in a good way.

So, I think I must be willing to accept the consequences of the bad use, if I am willing to accept the consequenses of wanting to have my work shown by those that like it. Funny sentence, sorry!

I enjoy reading posts that mean something to me. I enjoy seeing other artist work that holds some kind of fascination for me. There would be many of those things missed if they were not republished sometimes on sites such as the FASO blog and newsletter. And, when artists republish something because they feel it has merit and want to get it out there to their constituents.

I have been "guilty" of republishing some posts I see here, and from other sites. But, I do adhere to their rules. I also enjoy corresponding with the person that wrote it and know they see a benefit to why I have reposted it.

My thought is if you put it out here on the internet, then you must be willing to deal with the good and the bad.

Sharing is different than taking for the sole intent to profit without permission.

Too many artists are commenting here that it is ok because there may be an implied positive result for you. The US Copyright Office disagrees with that thinking.

Go here and read the recent presentation given by Maria A. Pallante, Acting Register of Copyrights
and presented to
the United States House of Representatives
on March 14th, 2011

You can also watch the webcast from a link at the top of the report.

Brian Sherwin
Christy, concerning Brushbuzz-- all of the links I post are from art bloggers who have 1.) told me upon my request that they are OK with me doing so. 2.) are bloggers or other sources who have long stated that they are OK with others distributing links to their content.

In fact, if you follow Fasobuzz on Twitter or my Twitter account you will discover that the majority of those linked on Brushbuzz are thankful and publicly show their appreciation. As far as I know there has never been a complaint from anyone-- only appreciation. If someone were upset we would simply no longer include links to their content on Brushbuzz upon the owners request.

I read the article you shared from the US copyright website-- which one could suggest you contradicted your extreme view with by sharing-- and it clearly states that Pallante is targeting the distribution of unauthorized materials. As mentioned, all of the links provided on Brushbuzz are from bloggers who have said they are OK with it or bloggers and other sources who have stated clearly, either by specific Creative Commons license, blog post, or page, that they are OK with people linking to their content. Again, I'm certain that FASO would comply if a blogger or other source asked us to no longer include links to their content.

You mentioned concerns about images used throughout FASO earlier in this debate. Authorization is a key aspect of Boldbrush that you appear to be missing. For example, if you had bothered to read the rules of Boldbrush you would have read rule #11 / ALL entries (not just winners) will be displayed on this website. Each entry becomes part of the public, historical online contest catalog and will not be removed at a later date. and rule #27 By entering this art competition, you are granting us a non-exclusive perpetual license to reproduce images of your artwork (on this website and in our newsletters...with credit and links to you, of course). Authorization is clearly established.

You also need to consider the following-- a 'rogue' website would not care if someone sent a "take-down" request-- which Pallante makes clear. She also suggests that 'rogue' website operators are hard to identify. You've been communicating with the founder of this site directly. Point blank-- FASO, and the services related to FASO, are not 'rogue' as you are implying due to your past comments within the context of this debate. In fact, if a copyright concern did arise the owner would be able to contact us easily in order to request a "take down".

Pallante also makes it very clear that the situation is delicate because the last thing the copyright office needs to do is inadvertently 'capture' good faith actors, as she puts it. Furthermore, she is in no way suggesting that every website that shares links is a 'rogue website'. In fact, I'd say she is talking more about sites, such as the vast number of pornographic websites, that earn millions per year distributing copyrighted content with a subscription fee involved... those sites are clearly 'rogue'.

The statement by Pallante also makes it clear that the "remedies for the rogue website problem cannot unnecessarily jeopardize the efficient operation of the Internet." -- if Google were limited as you seem to feel should be-- or if everyone were forced to use a 'secret code' to view content-- I'd say the efficient operation of the Internet would be overly jeopardized.

In some ways this can be good for you if the website gives you credit for the borrowed painting and links back to your site. I was shocked when I first found one of my paintings used on another blog. They did list me as the artist but no link back to my website. This is a tough question, but if they aren't making money by using your painting it does give you a chance to spread your name and paintings to many more people. More sells??

Mollie Erkenbrack
Hi Clint,
I have found some of my artwork used on other sites a number of times. I have mixed feelings when I see this since they didn't contact me to ask permission. I've only fought one instance at this point, when someone put a piece of my art on their site and did not give me credit for it and even RENAMED IT! Tha really upset me and I contacted powers that be to have it removed. I've found my art used on a site with Serbian language and translated the site to find that they were using it to illustrate a poem they had written. I've seen it on other language sites also that I couldn't get translated. I found it on the site of a young artist that was collecting images of certain types of paintings she and her friends were into. That didn't bother me so much for she credited me with the work and it pleases me to think I might inspire young artists. I've found my art used on a number of other sites too. I think it's futile to try to control all of it and it's a risk we take in putting our art out there to a degree. Right now, the only time I will probably fight it is when I feel they are truly abusing the practice.
Thanks for your great articles.

Wow Clint. Looks like I'm a bit late to the party here. Just got the email to my inbox this morning, so I'll go ahead and add my two cents.

First, we have to ask ourselves what our goals are in creating art. Is our goal to make money? Or is it to create art that enriches the lives of others?

This really cracks me up. I mean, when you paint a painting, how many people do you want to see it?

Just one?

Unless you're a strange critter, I'm guessing not. You want the whole world to see it.

How many people can buy that painting? Just one.

So the only way for more than one person to view that work is for a lot of people to look at something they don't pay for.

Now, whether that happens on your own domain or someone else's is sort of beside the point. Who cares? It's the Internet. If someone wants to pay hosting to put your artwork on their own domain, you're not going to die. In fact, it won't hurt you in the least.

Ok, but what about scraping content? Oh, now that's a scary thought.

Or maybe not.

The only reason this should upset you is because they might outrank you in Google. But Google's algorithms punish content farms and reward those who publish it first. So from an SEO standpoint, you're cool like that.

Ok, to cap up. If someone puts something you've created on their site, the net result is:

1. More people see your stuff. You tap into a new set of eyeballs.

2. You create value for that audience. They walk home happier.

3. Nothing evil happens to you.

Final question: should they attribut you? Well, that's certainly nice. But it's not going to make or break my ice cream.

I just want to make sure: if you want to refer to an image, linking to a site with the image is allowable, right? I've on occasion wanted to discuss something about an art image, so I create a link that sends the viewer to another site that contains the image.

Clint Watson
Kim - yes you can always link to an image on another site. I was talking about sites that download the image and server it from their own servers, but that also link back to the original source with a credit.

Martyn - not sure if we're on the same page, by "attribute" I mean credit the original artist and link to the original source (the artist's website) - legitimate sites (like google) would certainly do that. If someone doesn't do that (provide proper attribution), then technically I think it WOULD be copyright infringement. Whether or not is worth it to pursue it at that point, is, of course, up to the copyright holder.

As an artist who mnakes a living from his art, and who has this happen to him let me assure you it can be a nightmare.

When someone "scraps" your content it can and will end up anywhere promoting anything. It can have a very detremental effect on your career as well as sales.

Who cares if they credit you back if upfront they are stealing potential clients, or they are causing "irreprable" harm to your business.

This anology of "credit back" is no different than a person stealing your idenity and saying but I'm improving your credit rating, that might be true in the beginning but it very rapidly snow balls out of the credit to the harm side with you left holding the proverbial bag of c..p

Stealing is the taking one's possesion(s) by another without permission. Our art and our website is our possesion and "scraping" is stealing period just because they give attributes later that is like locking the door after the robber has stolen the loot.

Sandy Askey-Adams, PSA
Thank you Clint and everyone else...

So much interesting information, complicted and simple,,,,with varied opinions.
I will have to find more time to read through all the comments..but right now..For some reason, I have developed a headache. Whew!

Right Clint. We're on the same page. :)

What I'm trying to sort of get across is, who cares if people break copyright laws and steal your stuff? It's happened to me, and never hurt me.


Clint Watson
Kevin - since we've been playing the "devil's advocate" on this issue some - let me ask. You say "scraping is stealing, period" -

are you OK with Google "scraping" your text and images?

(that's exactly what they do, a search engine bot is just a fancy word for "program that scrapes")

John Gnotek
There is no grey area here. Copyright is very clear and specific. It's only offenders that claim a grey area.

A work of art is automatically the right of the creator once in a tangible form: a drawing, a painting, a digital image.

These companies can NOT take just take an image and utilize even if they do credit the rights, link back to a website, whatever; not without PERMISSION first. One can be, and should be, sued for such practice.

The grey area is in news editorial or educational purposes.

The rule is, if it's not yours, don't touch it. Not without permission first.

I've witnessed people making a living just sitting perched, watching for copyright violations of their work; then they go in for the kill. It usually ends up being settled out of court.

Clint Watson
Well Martyn - you're probably the most laid back of any I've talked to. I'm pretty laid back but if someone took my images, didn't attribute and used them in a way that I didn't like, I would probably try to get them taken down. But you're right, it's unlikely to cause any real issue to your career unless the perpetrator is actually making fake prints and selling them or something. (in which case you'd have a dollar value to sue for :-))

Clint Watson
John - I'm sorry but there is grey in copyright.

Google takes images all the time (with a link and a credit to the source). They HAVE been sued. ANd they won. The court ruled what Google does is "fair use" - which means there are other cases where taking images will be considered fair use as well.

I agree with you that one SHOULD get permission first, but lack of permission will not automatically mean infringement. It depends upon how the image is used and if there are damages to the copyright holder.

Virginia Giordano
Clint - Technical question, I didn't receive this post in my email on 3/31 - the one I got was Respect Your Collectors, that happened another time. Are there 2 email lists? Let me know how I can receive all posts. This is fascinating especially with so many comments. - Thanks

Lori Woodward
Clint, I have a question then. If my online images are low resolution (I make them 600 pixels on the longest side)... is it possible for anyone to make a decent print from these?

I figure there will always be those who copy my work and some may even try to sell the results as their own paintings, but I'm not apt to try to control that.
With low resolution images, I don't bother with watermarks.

Lori Woodward
OK, here's another question I have. Perhaps it was answered earlier, but I'll ask again anyway.

What kind of damage can others do to me if they scrape images or content from my website? What's the most obvious way they can make money from my website images?

Wow. This one just keeps going and going. Are we possibly blowing the whole issue out of proportion?
Yes, we have to be alert to the evil ones out there, but if we let them become our focus, then we lose from that as well.
A while back I got an email from "Hotfrog" about my status update. A palm reader from California, who somehow managed to have the same name as mine, had "adopted" not just a painting, but my whole website. A quick email to Hotfrog staff, and she was gone. I found it kind of ridiculous, a little bit humerous and wrote her off as a crazy. What would I have gained by "going after her" and "locking up" all the images on my website, and "secret coding" everything? I'd have lost the real value of being on the internet, the spreading of information about my work.
Speaking of work :) time to go paint.
Later, Cooper

Clint Watson
Lori - what google does is "scrape" your content and then run ads next to your content. They've built a multi billion dollar business doing the same thing.

What a lot of other "scrapers" to is take content and make "spam blogs" or "content farms" and then......just like ads next to your content to make money. Sometimes, the stolen content can rank above the original.

The funny thing is that everyone's OK with it when Google does it but gets mad when other people do the same thing.

The IRONIC thing is that Google themselves created the spam problem by creating the Adsense program which lets site owners run Google Ads or their sites. If Google would kill Adsense, they could eliminate a huge amount of spam and kill tons of content farms. OF course that would affect their bottom line. So, in essence, Google is doing a subtle dance - talking a good game against scrapers, spammers and content farms......while their other hand enables them and implicitly endorses them. Unfortunately that "don't be evil" motto isn't working out so well for them......

Clint Watson
Lori - here's an example from the art world. Go to google and search for Richard Schmid: schmid

On the right hand side are ads, One for Amazon, one for (not sure what that's about), one for some place called Google's making money of Schmid's good name!

Look at the top site, it's Richard's site, with snippets of his content that has been scraped. Click "cached" - whoa there's richards WHOLE HOME PAGE scraped onto another site (is that copyright infringement?)

Now look down in the results - there's a bunch of Richard's images - again scraped from various sites by Google. Wow - Google sure is getting a lot of milage out of content they didn't create!

Everyone who says "stealing is stealing" should be up-in-arms about that.

I, personally, am not saying this is a problem and I *personally* don't consider Google to be infringing Schmid's copyrights.

I thought this was a good illustration of how scraping can be "good" and also a good illustration of how Google makes money.

They are not posting your content to another site, not an apples to apples comparison.
In your description another site, I take that as a business entity selling or promoting a specific product, is coming in to take the content to either up their ability to pitch their product using your image/content.
This gives the impression that you the artist either approve or endorse whatever that other company is doing.
Google is not only doing with your permission you know when you submit that they are going to do it. Big difference.

Lori Woodward
Do Content Farms normally give credit and links back to the author? I guess I'm a little more worried when it comes to my writing than images. Not sure why.

Have you had your content 'stolen' by content farms, Clint? You don't have to answer that, but I'm curious.

I'm thinking a couple of things: if my paintings are so obviously my style, then someone who saw one on another site (for their use) might recognize it.

I doubt my artwork would be scraped unless it was pretty darned good. If it was scraped, is it damaging enough to my sales to go after the person?

For years, the Chinese have had entire factories copying paintings from magazine ads and selling them - even through galleries. I saw one in a NH gallery in from a Chinese painter that was copied from an ad I saw in Southwest Art... this was about 10 years ago. I pointed out to the gallery owner that it was done by a well known artist in the US. The gallery owner thought it was an original by a Chinese artist...

But I realize the topic is a bit different here... it's about using our images for making money - for free. Kinda cuts into the licensing biz for online products.

Even if it is wrong, stealing and against the law - can we do much about it? Should we waste our time pursuing it, or let it go?
Sorry, so many questions.

I just went were you directed Lori, what i saw was where Richard's works are available for sale, that would indicate to me that: 1. Richard or his publisher, is very aware. 2. Endoresd the ad since both his name and image is in use and is being used to sell - his - products. 3. not being used to endorse someone else's.

Clint Watson
Kevin, 2 things:

1. regardless of the "impression" - if you read what I wrote it's a near perfect description of Google's business model.

2. Umm, GOOGLE *IS* another site - another site that has your content. (and *is* selling another products - advertising over which you have no control)

It most certainly *is* an apples to apples comparison. That's what I'm pointing out.

Google does not do it with your EXPLICIT permission. They will take your content even if you don't submit it. (I never waste time submitting btw - they will find it anyway). Permission is IMPLIED if you don't block bots with robots.txt. And if you DON'T block bots, then other websites that have scraper bots may also safely assume permission is implied (this has been held up in court): no difference.

I will admit it is a tricky position for those who want to take the position that all scraping is stealing but somehow want to exempt google. You can't logically do it. saying it's not the same doesn't mean that it's not: it is.

Now remember - this is predicated on the scraping site linking back properly and crediting the original artist and making revenue off an ancillary side product (not selling the scraped images). If another site does all of that properly, it is doing nothing different than google. As soon as another site takes out links and attribution, then there is a difference and it starts to cross over into infringement.

Lori Woodward
Looked at the Google search for Schmid and see what you're talking about. Richard knows about all of this. You can buy his books directly from his website for less than on the sites with ads.

There is an artist in France who paints copies of Richard's paintings (I understand he does a good job) and then signs them Schmid. Richard says, so what? He's been dealing with thieves all along and now there are better ways for companies and people to use your paintings for their profit. I happen to know that Richard doesn't worry that much about it. He has his own lawyer and has the money to pursue these people if he wanted to.

I guess if I want to see how my content might be used by others, then I should start doing some searches and see what comes up. Then I can decide whether it bothers me.


Lori Woodward
Keven, as far as I can tell, the prints and books that are being sold through the ads are those people have purchased in the past. The images are older prints that were originally sold through Greenwich Workshop - a limited edition print company.

So these all look like secondary sales, and even if the print or book is "new" it is a secondary sale - and higher than you can buy it from Richard.

BTW: I guess I'm scraping because I used a step by step example of a demo Richard did for a blog on my website, and didn't exactly ask his permission. I guess I should ask just to make sure he doesn't mind.

People post his demos on Facebook, their blogs and websites without Richard's permission. I guess this is really stealing to get hits to our own websites. In fact, Richard Schmid is the 2nd search that brings people to my website - first being Lori Woodward.

So, I'm guilty too! However, when I use other artists' images, like Daniel Keys and Michael Godfrey's for educational purposes, I get permission.
OK... I gotta go paint now - so I can get those images picked up by Google ;-)

Clint Watson
Lori - scraper sites don't usually link to the original - they are usually "true" theives. To my knowledge I haven't had content stolen but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened. I have seen content farms with crappy content outrank us on searches where our content is a lot better.

I should clarify something - there are "scraper sites" and "content farms" - they are sort of different (although there can be overlap). Scrapers simply steal content - usually through an automated process. Content farms often do create their own content (or at least they try to re-write content that they "steal"). Content farms usually just have shallow, crappy content - just good enough to rank in Google and to plaster ads next to the content.

Google recently cracked down on content farms by changing their algorithm. However it wasn't a perfect crack down. If they wanted to really kill them, they should remove all sites with google ads from their search results - that would kill most of them (but they don't *really* want to kill them because content farms are profitable to them).

Here's an example search "how to sell art": to sell artandpws=0

Look at the 3rd result from ehow - that's a content farm. That's one of the better ones and that is a really, really shallow article.

Now, here's an article from page four of Google search results that I wrote:

Now you tell me - who's a better source for artists to learn to sell art? a content farm written by a writer who made about $3 for the article that was written specifically for the purpose of advertising?.......or a guy who owned a gallery for 11 years and sold millions of dollars worth of art?

I should add, our article used to rank higher (right below ehow), we recently moved a lot of our content and that is temporarily hurting our rankings, but we always had a hard time ranking above the ehow content farm on that search and that's just.....sad.

There are millions of examples like this, but this is a sort of tangential discussion to copyright.

Carol Schmauder
Wow! This seems to be an explosive topic. Thanks for the article, Clint. I have mixed feelings about this and I guess I concur with Lori that before I form a solid opinion I would have to do some searches and see what I find.

Clint Watson
url to the search broke, here's a better one:

Lisa Dale McKnett
I was wondering what my husband who has many patents and an internet hosting business would say so I forwarded Clints question. Here is his answer:

It is fundamental to the web that there is a difference between linking to a page that is publicly available and copying the content of the page and displaying it as your own. Google links to many pages on the web and includes the URLs in their search engine. Google also displays snippits of content, which is generally protected under fair use doctrine.

However, it is clear that the copying of copyrighted work without permission, with or without proper attribution, is a violation of federal copyright law. As I said, Federal copyright law does provide for something called a fair use doctrine, which generally covers excerpting a small piece of a literary work, etc. and using it in other content, such as a review or critique of the work.

The issue of “winning or losing” is irrelevant. Joe Blow may be able to use images to the extent that they fall under the fair use doctrine. If Clint wants to use images as he suggests, then what he needs to do is obtain a license from the artist which is clearly defined and agreed to. Generally, web sites do that by providing a license agreement at the time you sign up and stating that you agree to the license terms by the act of uploading the image. Once the license terms are spelled out, you can either choose to upload images and grant rights or not. Also, of course, if he uses images in ways which are not covered by the license terms, he would be clearly in violation of copyrights.

I think his attitude of typical of the person who thinks that if he can get his hands on it, he can do whatever he wants, and that is clearly not the case. Just because you can buy a copy of a book does not give you the right to post the full contents on a web site, even if you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the author benefitted or “won” by your act. The point here is that it is the decision of the copyright owner, not the decision of whoever happens to be in possession of the material.


From: Clint Watson via FineArtViews Blog by FASO []
Sent: Friday, April 01, 2011 3:15 PM
Subject: RE: Is it OK for Other Websites to Use Your Copyrighted Images? (Clint Watson 's comment)

Clint Watson commented on:
Is it OK for Other Websites to Use Your Copyrighted Images?
I admit that I wrote the article a bit provocatively and some of the first comments were quick to jump in and say that "scraping" images is wrong.

However, I wrote it that way on purpose. Here's why: if you read that article it is a near perfect description of Google. Granted, it was a description that made what they do sound "bad", but if you took that list and implemented it as a business plan - you would get something that looks like Google.

Now, many people don't like the idea of scraping and we've gotten off-track and heated back and forth comments etc.

Nothing anyone is going to say is going to change my mind. People can go down side tracks and attack us personally or try to see evil motivations that don't exist but that doesn't matter.

Esther J. Williams
Wow, trying to read all these comments about scraping is time consuming. It explains all those statistics I see on my FASO site by some company going through each and every page. Sometimes they hit my site on a daily basis. I wondered who they were.
I just want to add that whatever I put out there, it`s not in my control anymore after I click submit. So, since I have seen my work on other people`s sites and they do give me credit, I am okay with that. We need to make sure what we upload is at least the highest quality of art we want to be known for and if it isn`t we will be known for that. My time is toon precious to be concerned about what is where. I need to focus on painting.

Absolutely under no circumstances is it okay to "scrape" any of my work from any of my websites! It is stealing, however they try to cover it up, even if it is linking back to my site.

Esther J. Williams
In my last comment I meant to type my time is too precious to be concerned about what is where.
Broke a nail yesterday and I hit extra keys.
I did hear about a site called is one is really concerned about who is posting what about you. Bye!

John Gnotek
It doesn't matter what Google, Microsoft, Facebook or any other 800 lb gorilla gets away with, it doesn't make it legal, right, or moral”"and should not be used as a precedence. Poor advise Clint.

Even if a thief is making money by printing someone else's art, there can be great marketing value in its use. If YOU don't care if someone steals your intellectual properties, that's your business, but that doesn't make it the norm, nor should it be advised as such. There is NO VALUE in allowing someone else to steal your work!!!

Folks the laws are pretty clear. For complete and ACCURATE info, visit:

A good primer is:

"Copyright exists from the moment the work is created."

"Can I copyright my website?
The original authorship appearing on a website may be protected by copyright. This includes writings, artwork, photographs, and other forms of authorship protected by copyright. Procedures for registering the contents of a website may be found in Circular 66, Copyright Registration for Online Works."

Also see:

Or just Google "copyright"

Michelle Basic Hendry
That is the thing that I take issue with - content farms or scraper sites with NO attribution. I have been victim to the latter. More than once. And I know it ended up hurting me and my SEO. That is why my RSS feeds are now abbreviated.

Wallace Hugh Connolly
In reguardsto others useing my Art.
I personelly have no problem with it, it is boardering on flatery and I would feel thankful others have use for my imagies. Gosh knows I have used others imagies while learning my Trade.

It makes me feel good when I see a piece of my art hung someplace along my lifes path.

I have given away many images trying to salt the pond. We might as well put our best foot forward
and use all the marketing ploys we can invent, to
our advantage.There is more to painting then painting.

In the Trenches
Wallace Hugh

Lori Woodward
Clint thanks for taking the time to give further explanation and links to those searches. I'm learning a lot.

When I do searches, I often see ehow content pop up, but I'll usually go to the place - whose name and reputation I recognize. When I googled "How to sell art" just now, your article came up first in the top box and the ehow article was much lower. I'm wondering why.

Also, when I research a topic, I usually read 4 or 5 posts and print out the one that makes the most sense to me. I just skim over the "watered-down" content and go for the 'gold".

Even if Google ranks these other sites higher on the list, I don't think people spend a lot of time reading them or remembering who wrote the content. If they skim and move on, my guess is that their ads don't get much attention either. Most reasonbly intelligent people want to go to the known source of the information. Lack of quality will die out.

Clint Watson
Kevin - that richard schmid example was just an example of how google works - how they scrape content and how they make money - it doesn't change anything I'm saying or prove otherwise.

As an aside, I do however, doubt that Richard has any kind of direct endorsement agreement with

In any case, it doesn't change the fact that Google scraped Richard's site and is making money off of it.

Which *I* have no problem with, but some people would claim that doing such things is theft.

By the way it's not just google, there's bing, yahoo, yandex, baidu, facebook and a slew of other smaller players - they all do it.

Clint Watson
John - you need to read the section on on "fair use" I linked to it further up in this thread.

I'm not sure what "poor advise" I'm giving. I'm not ADVISING anyone to do anything - or to take content (in fact If anything I have said several times that you *should* ask for prior permission if you're going to use someones content) - I'm just telling you how it is:

Sites exist that take your content and, depending on how it is used, it is not always copyright infringement.

Clint Watson

Of course, not attributing the original artist is copyright infringement - I have said that over and over on this thread - that is ancillary to this discussion.

However, Google does more than just use snippets and link to URLs - they take your content completely and store it on their servers - Images and text.

Here's your home page served right from Google, not your website:

Many sites do this, some big and some small, and it is not always copyright infringement and may be ruled "fair use" even for the small players.

You said, "If Clint wants to use images as he suggests, then what he needs to do is obtain a license from the artist which is clearly defined and agreed to."

I don't know what you're referring to there - I don't know that I was stating that *I* wanted to use images, I was asking for artist opinions on other sites that do so.

Clint Watson
Lisa - as a follow up to the idea that the web is built on free links - check this out. A man was ARRESTED for simply linking to copyrighted material:

That case sort of represents the other side - a very STRONG interpretation of copyright. If that case holds up then it's likely that what Google does to link to some sites would be illegal (although I doubt that case will hold up in court but I am certainly not a lawyer).

Lori Woodward
Interesting: I just googled "paintings Acadia National Park" - several of my paintings' images were shown in the list under IMAGES.

Putting my cursor over the image, it linked to my blog or webpage.. or someone else's webpage where I have given content with permission.

I like it... probably won't make them or me any money though.

Clint Watson
Michelle - with NO ATTRIBUTION it is clearly theft and infringement - I 100 percent agree.

Clint Watson
Paulette - OK - same question we've posed to others that take the "stealing is stealing" stance - are you OK with Google scraping your images and your text? because they do unless you block them.

Clint Watson

Sorry, just re-read your comment "It doesn't matter what Google, Microsoft, Facebook or any other 800 lb gorilla gets away with, it doesn't make it legal, right, or moral"

So are you saying that it is wrong that they do it? (even though they get away with it)

If so, then I commend you sir, because at least your position is consistent. I applaud you more if you block search engines because what they do isn't "legal, right, or moral."

Now, I don't *personally* agree with that position and I don't block search engines, however, I can respect someone who defends his beliefs and is consistent in them.

Greenwich owns the rights for any print that they produce for Richard, please see the bottom of any piece printed by any print house that belongs to another artist. I have negotiated these type of contracts with at least two other printers and had negotions with Greenwich. Depending on the contract they are entitled to sell seperately, and the artist is due a royalty if he is smart, or if he negotiated away his rights...oh well sucks to be him. In all of the contracts that I was presented with it clearly spelled out what type of advertising the house would be involved in and it always included the internet as well as secondary sources that they, (the printers), sell to. As to the book issue once the book is in print as long as the contract has been paid by the publisher to the author any secondary sales do not have to credit the author the author recieves his credit in the publishing.

Clint Watson
Lori - in image search the images LINK back to your site but they are served and stored on Google's servers.

Here's one served off of google's domain:

Clint Watson
Lori - OK here's a google image search with ads, none of those artists are going to see a dime of that revenue:

(again not saying it's wrong - just saying it's exactly what I described in my article)

Betty Pieper
Well, you said you wanted feedback! You got it,
Toyota... Interestingly some people fall into the 'taking without asking' is stealing camp whether or not it benefits the victim and others seem to judge almost totally upon whether the benefits outweigh the risks for them personally. All are influenced by our collective
ability to do anything about it in any event.
What I like is your implicit spirit of raising a larer issue...frankly what we don't know CAN hurt us. I think your examples are critical to this discussion and I wish you would do another article...starting with examples and definitions of scraping, then going into copying, print sales, and changing of images. Also, what proportion of visits to our sites
are search engines, etc. Maybe not deal with the money making revenue aspects of the search engines for now; people love capitalism and entrepreneurs. That can be yet a third article.
Betty Pieper

I am not sure that I understand you correctly, are you saying that you as an artist or your immediate family are entitled to secondary sales on work that you have sold to some one else? If that is the case why isn't the Picasso family either blocking every sale or reaping the benefits. This is getting a little off track, but your work becomes public domain if after you pass your heirs do not renew the filed copyrights 21 years after your death. Any sale of your work by another party does not result in a copyright violation if you sold it to that other party first. This goes double for prints as long as the sale was a legitimate sale of a licensed product you are not entitled to any other proceed than what was negotiated in the beginning.
Now I'm done and back to painting.

Lisa Dale McKnett
I am just saying, "please take mine all you want, I give permission as long as I get to be in the chosing of what gets used".

Sometimes we need people to watch over us and I believed FASO does provide this in the service we signed up for. Thanks Clint. Interesting conversation, I too need to go update my images and paint new ones. Great Blog!

Lori Woodward
Thanks Kevin for the explanation about publishers.

The particular print I saw was sold out at the publisher years ago. It was of a white house in snow.

Richard created his own publishing company when he produced Alla Prima, and now he publishes all his own books, Videos and prints. He got tired of dealing with other publishers. He doesn't make limited editions, and has literally made a fortune by self-publishing. He does sell through West Wind Fine Art, Village Arts of Putney, and his own website. His daughter Molly runs the publishing side of the business for him. (Stove Prairie Press)

Richard's videos have indeed been pirated, and resold for far less money online. I know he had his lawyer involved with that but don't know what came about with it.

But this is slightly off the subject... so I'll sign off for today. Great discussion, Clint!

Lori Woodward
Hi again... Kevin, I just saw your last comment.

Nope wasn't saying that. I thought that copyright ends 75 years after the artist's death; did that change recently?

Secondary sales of books or artwork - even when the artist is alive gives the artist no compensation at all. Probably a conversation for a different thread, but many galleries are selling pre-owned works by living artists right now, and the artists are finding themselves in competition for sales with their own past works.

Yep, I've got to get some painting in today too!
Thanks for your contributions.

Lisa Dale McKnett
Oh we fixed it so that it goes straight to FASO now that old website has not worked for many years since I signed up here, and now I understand why the link was not working. When I signed up for FASO I didn't change the link to set it up to go to FASO (since I have my own domain name.) It works now. I hope other artist who have thier own domain names realize this also.
That being said you can see I do not have the background in computers, and do not want to keep bugging my husband for help, that is why I signed up for FASO and it works just great now. Thanks

Lori Woodward
Clint thanks for the links again. I've certainly learned a lot this-go-round about a subject I'd never previously considered.

I'll need some time to mull over my thoughts, but at least now I know enough to keep an eye on the situation. Thanks!

Brian Sherwin
With any business there is necessary evil, if you wish to call it evil. In order for the Internet to function-- to be a viable aspect of the market-- Google and others have to be allowed to spread content with ease. Not to mention that I don't think Google is doing anything wrong-- which court precedent shows based on rulings in the past. I support copyright-- but I also understand the need for an information driven Internet.

I've seen an individual imply in this debate that 'secret codes' should be the norm-- and have found others, by doing Google searches, who feel the same way. I don't think becoming a creative isolationist is the answer. If every site were to block Google and other search engine sources-- and utilize some form of password protection over all content-- people would simply stop using the Internet.

It continues to be brought up so I feel I need to set the record straight... using the secret code was an April fool's joke and specifically targeting this discussion. My website is in no way using a secret code to access my content.

Please do not attack me or attempt to shame me for this comment.

Donna Robillard
Reading the article, plus all the comments, did take a while, but it was very informative. I realize that when something is posted on the internet, all the world does see it. There are some who will do some illegal things with what they see, and that is a risk we take when we put something out there. It would be nice, wouldn't it, if everyone were honest and respectful of another's work - and at least give credit where credit is due1

jack white
I can't resist to get in on this. I have been writing about art marketing for over a dozen years, probably longer. I want others to spread what I write so together we may can help the art community. I do get paid, but that is not the reason for my writing. I feel like I have a commission from my Lord to slay the tons of art myths in our industry. The myths are like demons set to steal the soul of an artist. I know of no group of people more deceived about the truth of marketing their work than artists. It's really sad to see so much miss information.

I constantly see pieces of one of my six books or 12 years worth of monthly articles pop up in others writing. The only person to ever give me credit is Lori. (thanks Lori). She didn't have to, because she knows my position about helping others. The copyright of my words are of no concern. The truth of the matter all of us learn from others.

As my old coach used to say about football plays, "The secret of originality is your ability to hide the source you found it."

I'm much more concerned about China knock-offs. A few years ago Mikki and I spent a week in Hong Kong visiting the art factories. We were in one shop that produced 250,000 original oils per month. A few small shops turned out some amazing copies. We visited one studio, 15'x15' with 14 artist. They had a 8" board attached to the wall they used to mix their paints. They taped the blank canvas to the wall and slapped up paint. I purchased a 30"x40" for $10.00. It was an amazing piece of art. I may have shown it to Lori when she visited our studio. She is right, we saw stacks of SWArt 4' high in several stacks.

Today they have the Internet to lift images from. Several times artists friends have sent us China Websites with all the images Mikki had posted. The site lifted our images and even used our numbering system. They offered to paint them for $20 and up.

We were at their mercy, so I used some Texas thinking and wrote the company an email. I told them we are protected by the International Copyright law and that we would sue them $50,000 per image. Which we can. That is the law. In every case they have written a letter saying they are sorry and taken the art down. We indeed could sue for that amount, but we would have to hire an International Lawyer and spend $100,000 to take the case to court. And still might lose.

By the way putting water marks with big COPYRIGHT across the image doesn't help. The artists in China can still paint your image sans the water mark. They are not like someone with a desktop printer. They print a 5"x7" and paint a 30"x40".

Only by the goodness of others would we know our images are being stolen. There may be some China sites right now with our images.

If artists making stationary and such wants to use an image we always give them permission. We have allowed several beginning artist to copy Mikki's work as a way to learn to paint.

Why have a Website if you are going to block access? We have had our Websites since 1996 and have seen amazing growth in the number of Websites. We have found we still have to rely on brick and mortar galleries for most of our income. Mikki's blog is read all over the world and many days by 2,000 readers. It's rare when a blog leads to a sale.

Many think art galleries are vanishing. The weak ones are. Art galleries will continue to be the front line for us with hopes of earning a living with our craft. Maybe online one day, but not just yet.

Worry about what you can control. Leave the rest to God. jack white

Clint Watson

You are absolutely right - the China knock-offs are a big problem. REAL copyright infringement is a big problem.

That's amazing that you got them to take down the knock-offs - and a great source of inspiration that something CAN be done against people who really do infringe an artist's copyright.

We all have the same goal - we want artists to be able to make a living doing what they love. That's my goal, that's your goal, that's all of our goals on this thread.

Now this debate has gotten a bit heated. That is because we are all passionate and concerned about this subject. That's OK. But we need to be very, very careful not to turn against each other when wolves like those guys in Hong Kong and China are literally and truly stealing from artists.

I do want to do a series about copyright issues (and Brian has done some already highlighting things like the Fairey case), but I wanted to start with an extreme example of what Google and other sites do and explain why I don't think what Google does is copyright infringement.

I might be vilified by some for that position, some feel that any "scraping" of an image off an artist's site is copyright infringement. I was trying to use Google as an extreme example (since most artists would never want to block Google) to show why ALL scraping is NOT copyright infringement. Some "scraping" might be a good thing, if it helps you spread your art and build your career without damaging your work or reputation.....which is exactly the reason everybody WANTS Google to scrape them.

Maybe not everyone agrees with that stance. IF they don't agree, that's OK. If the courts ever decide that scraping with proper attribution and no damages is copyright infringement, then legitimate sites that do that without malice to the artists will have to stop....including sites like Google. Contrary to what some might have thought on this thread, WE (FASO) won't have to do anything differently because we do NOT scrape other art websites' images.

So, we all want to help and protect the visual arts, so please if we're going to spend our precious time and energy fighting for visual copyrights, let's please make sure we go after the people who are truly hurting us.

Clint Watson
Jack - to clarify something. My last comment - the first part about the Chinese Knock-Offs was agreeing with you. The rest of it was more general - it was not directed at you. I probably should have done two separate comments. Sorry about that.

Donald Fox
Just read all this in one sitting (did not see the original post from several days ago) and am still processing the profuse content. There seem to be reasonable arguments, beneath all the counter accusations, on both sides. Some topics do push people's buttons and one slightly off comment can get the ball rolling in a different direction. Here's a thought, though. Suppose an art reviewer prints a review of my art show and includes an image of one or more paintings without prior contact of me. Suppose that image happens to be placed next to an ad for lingerie, liquor, or anything else I might find objectionable including someone else's art or craft. Have I given implicit permission to the press by virtue of going public with my art? Aren't they making money from me without first asking me? Isn't there the possibility of someone going to the show because of the publicity? Do I complain to the newspaper or take them to court for copyright infringement? I know it's kind of silly, but the media have certain leeway in dealing with information, don't they? If we're getting “free press” from a search engine or website, is that similar to print media except on a bigger scale? Just asking.

Lori Woodward
BTW: Jack, you deserve the credit for my first hearing about the Chinese rip-offs. It was after I read your books that I saw the Chinese oil painting copy of an American Artist at a NH gallery.

Sheila Psaledas
I feel strongly about other people scraping artists' images for their own use. Although they are giving a link to your site, I really doubt that they all strongly encourage viewers to go to your link. Unfortunately, there's probably nothing that can be done about it.

dorothy siclare
Hi Clint, the other day I got an email stating they were from Wikipedia how they loved my website and work ( preying on my ego ) and requested that we exchange links from Wikepedia.
I did not say yes or give permission. I did say....tell me more about it. That is all I said.

A few days later I got another email stating that they had shared my address with their best sponsor,

I responded with another email stating that I had not given them permission to share my address with anyone and to please get back to me immediately.

Well that was about 5 or 6 days ago...and I haven't heard a thing.

I was flattered, annoyed and scared. Makes me realize how vulnerable we make ourselves being on the internet and sharing our info with "the world".

Barb Stachow
Wow, did you ever stir the soup with this one! I am OK with people using my itmes if they link back to me, not sure if anyone ever does that but it's there anyways. If they take a photo or ppainting of a place and just copy it, but not every little detail, I believe that voids the copyright anyways.

Bonnie Samuel
What an interesting "discussion". And I have to admit, that I'm on the fence after reading many responses here, but leaning toward "no, it's not ok with me." But I'll think on it....

If it is your own photo I don't think that is coping. I had to take the photo using my own judgement what and how to snap it. Photo is an original too.

Gayle Faucette Wisbon
I'm late to this conversation and I admit I haven't read every response yet, but most of them.

I just noticed the mention of some of the print on demand sites. Just thought I would point out that many of those sites have affiliate accounts. So anyone can open up a print shop online or use a blog to link to your images and earn a percentage of any print sales. Sites such as, Allposters, Imagekind and Redbubble have affiliate accounts.

I, personally, appreciate the additional exposure and don't have a problem with that. I started my own affiliate blog a few years ago, mostly with Allposters. However, I've sort of lost interest in it. But anyone can do that and place Google ads and anything else alongside your work. Just thought I would point that out, in case anyone was not aware.

I've had some problems with stolen images with the Chinese sites, also. One of them ignored my request to remove my work and another one complied immediately. I signed up for Google Alerts a long time ago and perform searches periodically, but I don't stress over it.

Also, I came across a reverse image search tool some time ago called TinEye. I don't think it locates every image, but it's just another tool that could be helpful -

Betty Pieper
What an interesting post, Gayle. The business of anyone being able to do affiliate accounts is news to me. I had been asked to upload images to India and figured that it was to make prints with the goal of selling...perhaps undercutting
the website print costs. But perhaps it was more
what you are telling us about. The only problem is how do you have any control of the quality?
Well, I guess not getting paid would also be a problem!

Gayle Faucette Wisbon
The printing is still done by the print company the artist is signed up with. The person with the affiliate account just earns a percentage by referring others to the site.

In addition, Fine Art America also sells artist prints on Amazon. Allposters even sells artist prints on ebay. Imagekind and Redbubble have their affiliate programs on a site called ShareASale. Just bringing this up because they don't really make a point of telling you all that when you sign up.

Sheila Psaledas
Good point Barb. There are always those who might copy our works. If I wonder about this I try to take it as a compliment. Positive feelings are better than negative ones.

dorothy siclare
I told myself I would start painting at 9 this's now 11 and I am still reading these comments....It's important stuff. Just this week I got two such requests and I really don't know what to do. I have no legal background and my knowledge of how the net works is scant. So there is a need to follow this through but I also am extremely tense right now and not at all in a "good place" to start painting. I belive I keep my head in the sand, more than I realize. But perhaps that is why my work elicits comments like " your work makes me happy", "your work is uplifting", "your work is beautiful and healing". I worry sometimes that I am not in tuned to all the current news and events. Perhaps I would be painting much darker pieces if I did. Any thoughts?

Betty Pieper
Thanks, again, Gayle for the clarification and information on affiliate prints! I'm glad i hung in on this lively discussion; I learned a lot from everyone.

Man that was a lot to read at once.

If you are at all worried about copying, you shouldn't go anywhere near the internet.

A basic tenant of the internet is that information is not located in only one location so as to provide redundancy in case of a failure in part of the network.

This means that copying is built in.

There is a difference between reality and utopia.

Reality is that everything on the internet is copied.

Unfortunately this makes the debate an academic exercise.

But I can sympathize for those seeking utopia.

Hey Brady, well said. We all knew it, but no one wanted to say it out loud.

The other group needing sympathy are those doing mass quantities of reproductions of their work. If somone wants a copy, do you think they really care WHO made, or much less, authorized the copy? It's still just a copy. And print on demand only makes it easier.

Bonnie Samuel
So interesting-I've certainly learned from this loooonnnnggg conversation. Brady makes a good point, as have others on the topic of using the internet and the concept of user beware. Copying and misuse will happen. I don't like someone stealing for sure, but sadly that's the marketplace today.

Write another comment . . .

Clint Watson
I know this thread has been dormant a while, however, I thought some that followed it might be interested, since it's related to copyright issues - a European court just ruled that Google's practice of scraping, caching and linking to content is a copyright violation.

Google infringes copyright when its services link to newspaper sites, Belgian court rules:

Thank goodness the article I just linked to wasn't in a Belgian newspaper or I wouldn't have been able to link to it......good grief.

Frantically, I just ran an image search on Google to see if the new European copyright laws would apply to that. Luckily, a reference source is safe.

Thanks for this post. I just found my work on another website, albeit with credit and a link, but no permission. Although I appreciate the publicity, it's the lack of an email asking for permission that irritates me most.

Sheila Psaledas
This problem leaves me shaking my head. I think it must be nearly impossible to keep track of those who do this. Anyway, another problem that bugs the heck out of me is people who walk around outdoor shows taking pictures of the artists' works. Last year at a show in Keene, NH a lady approached my panels at the side of the tent and started shooting pictures with a nice expensive looking camera and lens. I immediately asked her if she was with the newspaper and wanted to do an interview. She said no, she just liked the painting and swifly left the area. what can you do aobut this? Has anyone else had this problem at outdoor shows?

jack white
Sheila Psaledas,
I want to answer your question on people taking images of your painting at shows. In the digital age of phone-cameras it's difficult to protect your images. A lot of booths put up signs, "No Photo's Please." Some show promoters set in their rules no photographs. This is really true in craft shows. An artist comes up with a neat craft item and the following year it's in all the trade show rooms as being made in China. China has agents traveling to craft shows looking for the next hot item. You might try the sign route next show. If you see them taking photos, flat out tell them no photos...they are not buyers anyway.

The more my writing is copied and spread the more artists learn some real truths about marketing art. As you know a great amount of things written are myths and have no true value. In fact they end up hurting artist move forward. When a myth is passed on it prevents artist from leaning the truth. Our industry is filled with useless lies.

Well said...and said and said. People worry about too many things they have no control over. We are never worried about some artist copying Mikki's work. They can take photos of her painting and not match her brushwork. Take it as a compliment someone would want to copy your work. The Good Lord knows all of those reading this comment has copied someones work...Monet, Manet or some Master. The reason they built Museums...was for artists to be able to copy great works. If you don't want to have your images lifted then close your website.

To the Rest:
Make art like mine and no one will want copy you.


John Gnotek
>>>>it's the lack of an email asking for permission that irritates me most.<<<<

I agree”"and most often a simple email is all that is needed. As a matter of fact, I will testify that most often all is needed is to give notice to receive a nod and permission.

I have a virtual art gallery and I create a virtual, multimedia art exhibit to get some buzz for the gallery called Detroit Rock N' Fashion: A Virtual Art Exhibit.

Eight artists from my gallery are involved in Detroit rock and/or Detroit fashion. The exhibit includes over 150 works of art from these artists; 14 songs from eight bands drive it; over 300 photos from 40 photographers adorn it.

Most the images I got from the artists Facebook pages”"with "their" blessing”"but the proper way is still to get permission from the photographers, pro or not. And that's exactly what I did, and no one has refused. A couple haven't yet answered my Facebook messages or emails, and these I still pursue. It would be very easy in this very busy world to "beg for mercy" after”"if you get caught”"than to ask for permission beforehand. But that is NOT the proper way. Sure one can do that, but it's not right (or legal).

Now the real kicker is, many who I have asked "are honored" and appreciative that I asked. Instead of possibly pissing someone off (by being legal or not), I have a host of people who support me, this effort and are willing to help me in any way they can. "If you need any help (i.e. permissions, names, facts, figures, phone numbers) let me know," Jim Edwards, singer of the Rockets.

My point from the beginning is, one, it is illegal to just take images without permission. Two, it is improper. Three, the benefits of doing it properly exceed just the legality of the issue.

Brian Sherwin
Sheila, if the event is open to the public-- say at a public park-- and the organizers don't make it clear that photograpy is not allowed there is not much you can do about people taking photographs. In that situation the photographer has every right to take photos based on the constitution since it outdoors and on public property.

If the people in charge do things right they will have signs making it clear that photography is not allowed during the event -- and will have some form of security to make sure of this.

During outdoor craft/art fairs I have seen artists protect their work by having bug netting around their booth... the idea being that if someone takes a photograph from afar the netting will make the image basically worthless. Just a thought.

Nice site John

jack white

I've seen the bird netting. It's a pain. I think it hinders art sales and the only reason to be in the show is to sell your work. Never add anything that distracts from your work. Just post a sign. The sign works and if not tell them to get out.

I also don't agree that shows in public parks are free game for your art being photographed. The art is copyrighted and we have the say over who can take images of our work. Where you are doesn't override the copyright law. If I was on the street holding my painting, no one has the right to take an image of my art without my permission. It's my property. So is the image.


Donald Fox
Placing an image on a website is publishing just as a painter publicly exhibiting a painting is also publishing that work. Professional photographers know that publishers will not accept a photo for publication without a signed model/third-party release of anything in the photo that is not the property of the photographer. The ease with which an image can be placed on a website often short circuits the legality of the action, fair use notwithstanding. Informed people won't do it without permission. Most other people probably never even consider it an issue.

Robert Satre
via have worn me out!!!!

Please do us all a big favor and just take your art to the park, promote and sell directly
any piece of ego you would like to trade for
any amount of barter you can get and leave the rest of us out of it...O.K.?

Thankyou very much already...whew!!!

This conversation happened 27 months ago Robert.

Since then we had the entire Pinterest fiasco and the Instagram is selling my images backlash. I think it all just shows that I was right. If you want to take that car parked on that car lot down the street and drive it about you might want to ask permission first :)

I will be hanging 10 of my pieces in a local art walk in two weeks. I intend to barter them for cash to feed my ego indeed.

Wish me luck!
~ Christy

In case you have been under a rock for the last 2 years along with Robert...

The Pinterest fiasco:

The Instagram backlash:

The Instagram retractions:

Clint Watson
Christy is right that this thread is long since dead, so there's no need to reopen this discussion.

Nobody's earlier statements have been proven "right" or "wrong" by the Pinterest and Instagram fiascos and nobody on this thread is going to to get people to switch sides. Some people see copyright as "theft", some people see it as a separate area of the law called "copyright law" that is distinct from "theft" (For what it's worth: The current laws on the books of our nation define "copyright" as a different area of law than "theft").

So, since we're not going to change each others' minds and this thread is over two years old, I'm closing the comments.

We do cover copyright issues from time to time on this blog, so, please, feel free to comment on more recent copyright articles as we publish them.


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