Food for Thought: Images on the Internet

blog word in wood typeIn this day and age where anyone can write a blog or put up a website many use images found on the internet to use to make their blog more interesting. Many times these bloggers or website owners will then be shut down after getting a threatening letter from an attorney over the use of these photos.

While we understand that a photographer should have some say-so in who or how his photos are used, here is the problem with this practice. Sites like Yahoo have many photos where anyone can go there, click on an image, download it to his/her computer and post it. Many times there is no credit given to the photographer when downloading the photo. Yet Yahoo has no liability here.

If it is unlawful to download these photos and Yahoo has them on their site, then shouldn’t they have some responsibility to make these images only available for a small fee or make it where they cannot be downloaded at all?

While one can certainly make the argument that bloggers should not be allowed to “freeload” of someone else’s hard work, these people did not put these images on the net where anyone can use them. Is it not the photographer’s responsibility to protect his/her photos?

If small time blogs cannot use photos then this puts a chilling effect on information. Let’s use a sports website for an example. To get photos of pro and college athletes in action, only a handful of people have the access to the courts and fields to get close up shots. If only a handful of the “big boys” can use these photos such as ESPN, MLB.com, NBA.com, NFL.com etc can use these photos, then we have stifled any competition, this squashing any freedom of the press.

In the internet era, the press can literally be anyone with something to report or something to say. Is threatening to sue someone over use of a photo a violation of that person’s rights under the First Amendment?

Some possible interesting lawsuits could come out of this. If my college football website is threatened over the use of photos, then can I sue a state funded university to let me down on the field to take photos? Their refusal to provide me with photos or to let me take my own could be construed as a violation of Freedom of the Press. If the small time blogger were to win, then this would open up a whole new can of worms. Can anyone with a blog get a field pass?

Search Widerman Malek

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