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Legal threats for recommending art

Early last December, as the year before, I put together a series of blog posts, recommending as Christmas gifts various library and library-themed items for sale that I'd found on Etsy or other sites.

One post consisted of items purely for putting on the wall: decorative paintings and prints. In order to show readers the visual art I was recommending, I put an image of each item on the blog, along with a direct link to each shop below that image, allowing potential buyers to go directly to where each item could be purchased. People seemed to enjoy the post, and previous ones, and many commented that they were tempted to buy, or would buy, various items I'd selected.

This week, I received simultaneously a notification of a comment on that blog post, and an email, with the same content, headed "copyright violation".


Hello, 
Considering you work for a law firm I am amazed by your lack of knowledge on copyright!

The image of X in your post 'Deck the halls with...erm...pictures of books? is the copyright of X and you have not obtained permission to reproduce it.

If you wish to use it, please add a credit and a link to the original image at X or legal action may be taken.
Thank you.

Yes, it's always good to start an email with rudeness about my professionalism, that'll definitely get the conversation off on the right foot, won't it?

Now, as someone who shops a lot online, I thought that most businesses trying to generate sales of images online are aware that, in order to promote to others the purchase of those images, you need to be able to show them to the potential buyer first. It's a standard practice in any of the many thousands of dedicated shopping blogs to post an image of the product they're recommending, and a link to where to buy it. The only "use" of the image I was making in my post was to point it out to blog readers as an attractive product, and allow them to click on it to go straight to the retailers shop.

But, since they were unhappy with this approach to promoting their product, I immediately edited the post to remove the item entirely. It was also quite impressive that they were annoyed at me for not crediting the creator, when they themselves did not provide this information in their shop, making it impossible for me to do so. I had actually assumed that they themselves were the creators of the art, since there was nothing saying otherwise on their Etsy sale listing.

They also demanded that I link to their shop... which I had done for that image, and for every other image in the original post. So I was being told off for doing what I had done (linking to their shop), and not doing what it was impossible for me to do (name the artist).

Although, judging by the web address listed in the footer of the email, maybe it was their OTHER site I should have linked to, not their Etsy site. Erm,...what? They have another site?

I don't know whether they're somehow unaware that besides their main online site, they're also running an Esty shop, which is where I found the item, and which I believed to be the only place to purchase it, but that seems to be the case. The Etsy shop has no reference to them having any other website. Now, if they don't know that they have multiple online shops, was I supposed to know this through my magical powers, and also use those same powers to decide which of the sites that I didn't know about I was to link to the same product on? It's a bit confusing! And totally impossible!

So, after removing the image, I sent this reply.


I apologise for listing your image in a promotional capacity in order to encourage viewers of my blog to purchase the item from you, and of linking directly to your own Etsy shop in the text below the image in order to make purchase of that image easier for your customers. It would not have been possible at the time, or now, for me to credit the artist, as your own shop does not provide that information on the listing.

 I assume you no longer wish to have your products promoted to interested buyers, and so will remove the image and the link to your Etsy shop immediately.

 I promise never to promote the purchase of any of your products again, and wish you success in your attempt to generate business online in future, without allowing anyone to recommend the purchase of your products by displaying them, and linking to your shop.


I assume they're also now very busy contacting anyone else who's ever recommended their products by showing an image of them and linking to their shop, and sending them threatening emails too...

Also, maybe someone should point out to them that, when selling images online, it's also good practice to introduce a watermark to the image? You know, so unscrupulous people don't actually just save a copy of the image and print it out or sell it on, profiting from the replication of an image they don't own?


Comments

Michael said…
That's ridiculous!! What a bunch of... (to quote Maggie Habib from the thin blue line, "I always try to be polite so let's just say it rhymes with trucking tankers").

They deserve to fail miserably. There is a HUGE volume of data showing that personal recommendations and word of mouth can be the most effective means of advertising.

Oh well... their loss.
Jan Usher said…
I'm looking forward to seeing their reply (if any!)
Dumpling said…
They did reply, saying my message was "spirited", and that they were just protecting their copyright. Fair enough - but it's best to try being polite about it first! And also, to consider that before attacking someone, you should make sure you know which shops you're running, and where :)

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