Got arrested for inciting a peaceful riot

Now if you're going to lift a photo I screengrabbed of Kyle Snyder - why not pick THIS one?

Now if you're going to lift a photo I screen grabbed of Kyle Snyder - why not pick THIS one?

You know what makes me weary?  People taking credit, even if it’s in a  passive way (that is to say they don’t directly take the credit but they don’t ever GIVE the credit to the person deserving of it) for something that isn’t theirs.  In the blogging world this happens a lot.  Not as much as it used to but it’s still out there in various forms. (There was a time when there was a woman blogging about the Red Sox and she liberally “borrowed” actual entries or passages from entries of a handful of popular Sox bloggers and tried to pass them off as her own.  The Red Sox blogosphere came down hard and this woman was harassed into having to write her own stuff or stop writing altogether.)

Writers take their work seriously, even if what they write isn’t that serious.  And it makes sense.  I can tell you that even for a quick paragraph or two here it takes me a while to get what I want out.  I put a lot of thought and work into whatever I write.  Most people do.  But writing isn’t the only important part of most blogs -  (I know a lot of you know what’s coming next) – photographs are a huge part of what makes many blogs successful.  (I say many because there are plenty of blogs that don’t use photos and just report what they want to report but there are MORE blogs that use photos as well as words to illustrate their point.)

It seems a lot of people are under the impression that if you can find it in a Google search it’s yours to use.  I’m not here to even try to discuss the legalities of using the work of other people without giving credit.  Let’s just focus on the integrity of someone willing to pass off someone else’s work as their own.

But first, here’s the obligatory, “This is going to be a long one, folks” warning.

I’ve shared this story before but I’ll share it again.  Back when people used MySpace as much as they now use Twitter and Facebook, someone clued me in to a MySpace page that they were convinced was the “real” page of pitcher Lenny DiNardo (who was, at the time, still with the Red Sox).  Now a post about the assholiness of people who create fake Twitter/Facebook/MySpace pages will come someday but for now I’ll just say I was skeptical as I always am.  She sent me a link and it was a private page only showing a picture of Lenny – and not a very good one (another issue I’ll bring up in this post) with a caption on it that said the photo was “property of Lenny DiNardo”.

Now this was a picture of Lenny bending down on stage at one of the Hot Stove, Cool Music concerts and guess who had taken it?  Me.  I politely messaged “Lenny” and told “him” that, in fact, the photo was MY property and unless “he” wanted me to report him to MySpace for creating a fake page “he’d” take it down immediately (are you stunned to learn that I never heard back from  “Lenny” but that the photo was taken down a few hours after I sent the email?).

Now the real Lenny DiNardo can do whatever the heck he wants with any pictures I’ve taken of him (which I also mentioned in my message to “Lenny”) but some anonymous person pretending to be Lenny?  No.  No. NO.

But worse than the random, anonymous person who might put up a photo somewhere online and not credit where it came from is the well-established people in the blogging community who think nothing of using photo after photo that they didn’t take themselves and not giving any credit for it.  It’s dishonest and, in many cases, illegal.  Yet it’s not something that many people ever think twice about doing.

I’ve been blogging for a long time (and when I started, I did the same thing with photos until I realized I was unintentionally not giving other people credit for their hard work) and this is the one thing in blogdom that really hasn’t changed.  Go to your favorite sports blog right now and look at the picture on the front page.  If it’s an “official” blog (like through NESN or the photos will be property of that entity (it’s worth noting that credits all their photos while NESN doesn’t).  But if you go to the average blog not sanctioned by any professional connection to the sport it is covering you’ll find plenty of photos with (probably) no credits.  Some people throw credits in a  paragraph and write something like “All photos taken from, NESN, ESPN, etc…” but even that is mildly dishonest.   I know what goes into formatting a blog and its entries and one of the most simple things is adding a caption to a photo.  Is is so difficult, while you’re posting, to slip a “Photo taken by” credit underneath it?

Most, though, don’t even post a catch-all credit paragraph.  Most just pull photos and slap them onto their blog.  I don’t think every blogger who doesn’t credit their photograph sources is wicked or purposely trying to take credit for someone else’s work but I wonder how people who have been doing this as long as many bloggers have haven’t, at some point, thought “Maybe I should credit the photographer here”?

Again, without getting into the legal aspects, it’s pretty simple:  You wouldn’t steal someone’s words and pretend they were yours so why would you do it with a photo?

Bloggers, if I’m being fair, aren’t the only culprits.  There are plenty of people on Facebook and Twitter who will posts links to photos that they have saved from another source and write something like “Look at this picture” making it seem they actually took the picture not that they stole it.

Back to “bad” photos for a moment.  Last year, in an effort to add a photo of Kyle Snyder at Spring Training to a blog entry of mine, I screen grabbed a photo of him pitching during a game.  Now, screen grabbing is an iffy thing on many levels.  Most grabs aren’t that great but, technically, we’re grabbing from something we don’t own.  I feel less concerned about a grab as the still isn’t really anyone else’s work UNTIL it gets grabbed.  Having written that, it was a terrible shot.  If I remember correctly, I took it with my cell phone off of my mini laptop at work and the feed was terrible so it was grainy and faint and it had the score going across the top of the screen that I couldn’t crop out without scalping poor Kyle.  But because it was only for my personal blog, I posted it.

This week someone actually used that photo on their blog entry about Kyle re-signing with the Mets.  Also announcing Kyle being back with the Mets, another blogger used Kelly O’Connor’s fabulous photo that I posted yesterday.  Now, really, I don’t care if my screen grab didn’t get credited, but finding it right after finding Kelly’s photo being used (by someone who stole ANOTHER Kyle photo of hers last year to announce Kyle’s original signing with the Mets) just made me a bit angry.

On a side note, here’s a tip:  If you DO decide to steal a photo or two, even lousy ones, maybe you should make sure you don’t lift them from arguably the most fervent fan of the person in those photos, eh?  I’m relatively sure I’m the only blogger who writes about Kyle Snyder on a regular basis.  You had to figure I’d come across your blog entries eventually.

When I was at I brought this subject up and here’s what seem to be the two biggest issues (based on discussions we had):  One was the price – see if you’re lifting a picture from AP or Getty Images or anywhere that has paid the photographer for the photo, you should, in theory, have to pay for the photo as well.  No one does.  No one.  Which is why many advocate just captioning photos with, say, “Taken by Brita Meng Outzen of” just as a courtesy.  On the occasions I do this I point out that I used the photo withOUT permission.  Again, legally, I’m still in the wrong but I feel at least the attempt is being made.  The second issue?  Many photos online have already been stolen so many times without credit that by the time the average blogger finds the photo it is almost impossible to track down who took it.  While I understand the issue with my first point to the second I say “too bad”.   Find another photo or take one yourself.

There has been the occasion that I’ve posted a photo I had no idea how to trace and added “If you own this photo please contact me and I’ll credit you or take down the photo”.  Oddly enough, this actually has worked.

I was contacted once by a very well-known, local photographer who asked me to take down a photo of theirs that I had used recently (this was a while ago and for reasons I can’t remember I didn’t credit the photographer, even though I knew who it was,  except to say it wasn’t  mine).  I emailed the photographer back and apologized and took the photo down immediately.  I got a return email telling me if I credited the photographer I could use it – and thanking me for being so considerate because this photographer had contacted many bloggers (the photo was very popular for a time) and had received nasty responses and, in most cases, no response at all.

As most of you know, one of my best friends is one of the best baseball photographers out there (and she’s not even professional) yet any time I use one of her photos I not only credit her but make sure people know that I used the photo with her permission.  She’s never asked me to do this, it’s just a courtesy that I think any adult could figure out would be worth their time to offer.

There will always be crossover in blogging.  Especially during periods like Spring Training when there are only so many stories to be told.  And I get that sometimes a photo is the perfect crowning touch to a blog entry (even if someone else has already used the exact photo).   In many ways the blogging community IS a real community.  The Internet has a way of making strangers feel like they know each other well because of their shared interests.  So if you’re part of my community I would expect a little consideration.  I don’t see why it has to be such a big deal.

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