|Image courtesy of Image. Photographer: Moi!|
This week's Friend Friday questions are about copying. Friend Friday is run by Katy at Modly Chic. To participate email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nothing is more culpable for less and less original material doing more and more rounds of the Internet than those two functions on our computers, COPY and PASTE! Just the other day I googled "Rachel Zoe Pregnant" - (I'm so excited to see what she wears!! Can you imagine the maternity range? It's enough to prompt one to concieve!) - I was sorely disappointed to find that with each link I clicked on, I just kept reading the same text copied and pasted, in many cases verbatim, from one celebrity gossip site to another. In many cases the same pictures were used as well. These were some suprisingly well established sites and yet nobody writing for them had anything new to add to their take on the news, nor even it seems the time to do some paraphrasing to avoid copyright infringement cases being taken out against them.
Now copying is a hot topic for fashion bloggers too. I'm going to copy and paste (ha ha) Katy's Google groups header to give you a flavour of the breadth of things she's highlighting:
"This past week I encountered the topic of blogger copying twice. The first time was as I scrolled through the numerous bloggers doing the 30 for 30 challenge. I realized that after one person poses with an umbrella dozens others will. Or as Kendi poses in a parking garage suddenly 20 other bloggers appear in a parking garage. And then I was talking with Kinsey about some of favorite blogs and she mentioned seeing a blogger post a DIY recipe and two weeks later another blogger posted a very similar DIY recipe complete with the same wrappings. That got me thinking... how much of blogging is coming up with your own content and how much is mirroring what we see others doing"
1. What are the 'unwritten rules' about copying content that we bloggers should all abide by?
Always credit your sources for anything you use on your blog be it images or text you are quoting and link back to the source. If there are notices on someones blog that they require permission to use their material or to be credited as the source then abide by their requests. And if you are lifting material copyrighted by corporates without at least crediting them you risk being sued!
Some bloggers even reference another blogger if something the latter posted gave them the inspiration for their own post, which strictly speaking is probably not necessary but it's a nice thing to do. For instance when Courtney of Those Graces posted about blowing her wedding outfit budget it gave me the inkling for my Spring Wedding Outfit post and I worked a mention of this in the introduction.
Now let me turn this around and throw a question out there because I would like to have some advice on an issue bugging me about crediting content. What about material in the public domain? For example you might find a picture of Kate Moss or SJP or even Billy Halliday on someones blog and wish to use it. But if it is obviously an iconic picture that has been kicking around both printed press and the Internet for eon's who are you actually obliged to credit? The blogger is obviously not the original source of the image and has him/herself lifted the image from elsewhere.
|Who do I credit? HBO??|
I think this is a grey area as there are millions of fashion blogs out there with millions of minds behind them interested in the same thing: fashion, style, clothes. Statistically people are bound to find that their original ideas intersect precisely with those of others.
Take for example my personal experience. Months ago I took this picture of my style guides neatly stacked up with the intention of writing a post reviewing my bedtime reading material.
In the time lag before downloading the photo and writing my post I stumbled across some rather fetching images of books stacked up in Cloud of Secrets' blog posts "Book Niche" and "Chasing Scarlet". Here also was a blogger whose captivating photography of objects reminded me very much of some of the imagery I was trying to achieve in my own blog and prompted me to become an immediate follower. I then also discovered she had beaten me to reviewing Style Clinic, one of the books I'd intended to review!
So how do two women living in London and Wisconsin come up with the same ideas without previously being aware of each other's existences? I imagine it is nothing more than our common interests of style, fashion, photography and aesthetics narrowing down considerably the kind of images and subjects that pique our interests as bloggers.
My post remained unwritten because it suddenly didn't feel original anymore and I certainly didn't want to give a blogger I'd newly followed the idea I was copying her. But say I had written my post anyway? Could you really say I was copying or even imitating?
Another example was when I wrote a post about Amelia Earhart's influence on the Aviator jacket trend, itself hardly original as loads of people made the connection and posted about it. A little birdie at that online institution responsible for the shrinking of all journalism sources, Wikipedia, gave me the idea for mentioning the legend of her sleeping in her leather jacket to make it look more worn in in order to gain acceptance amongst her male peers.
A couple of days after my post was published I was bemused to read another online article about Amelia and the Aviator jacket written by Jess Cartner-Morely of the Guardian fashion column in which the very same story was mentioned. Both articles use Amelia's mythical tactic to have a sly dig at the hoops that women have to jump through in life compared to their male counterparts. (Yeah Jess I noticed!)
Should I have challenged Jess to a showdown of keyboards at dawn? Of course not. Though she didn't credit her source it's hard to justify throwing down the gauntlet when in all likelihood she looked up Earhart's history on Wikipedia too. In addition with Big Brother Google in charge of what we see first when we google keywords in our online research for blog topics, you and thousands of others are being fed the same information to reference for your posts, effectively reducing all our chances of being truly original.
Given all this I think that unless a blogger has copied and pasted word for word what you have written or used a photo that is obviously taken by you originally then proving the copying of ideas for posts would be very difficult.
3. Taking another blogger's idea (perhaps for an outfit, or DIY tutorial) is pretty common in the blogging world. Do you think it is necessary to credit the original source?
They say all art is theft don't they? I feel this is very much like the argument of trying to copyright fashion design. In order to lay claim to an idea you would have to have re-invented the wheel and prove nobody else had done it before in order to be able to claim it was yours. Its like trying to argue who to credit for the design of sleeves or skirts - where do you draw the line?
I think common sense should prevail. It would really depend how original the blogger's DIY or outfit was or whether it was something that was already pretty common knowledge or a current trend already doing the rounds. If I were following some very original DIY or outfit tips to the letter and posting about it then yes I think it is necessary to credit the person from whom you benefited from gaining that knowledge.
But if your post uses an idea but takes a different approach or represents your unique of view on something then I don't think you would have to. Nothing is enforceable here and I don't think you would have to change too much before you could claim you've added enough to the "prior art" to make it a new body of work. (I've written patents before and was staggered at how little had to be added to an idea before you could patent it as a new one.) But as I said in question one, it's just a generous thing to do as part of the fashion blogging community.
For example I've seen several bloggers doing outfit posts with leather shorts as they are in fashion at the moment. It has reminded me that I own a pair, should wear them more and could also do an outfit post at the same time. I'm unlikely to credit every blogger I've seen posting on leather shorts for prompting me to get them out, even if I wear some top and heels combination like many outfit posts out there, because that's just a fashionable look that is around at the moment. Who can really say they came up with the idea first? Vogue? Alexa Chung? Or the Germans in their lederhosen??
But say I see some combination I find unusual or original - like Angela's combination of a polka dot candy pink blouse with her leather shorts at Everyone Love's Lipstick which I liked very much. After seeing her post I thought maybe I should try pairing some polka dotted blouses in my closet with my shorts. If I then did an outfit post, even though my outfit won't look the same as hers, I would credit her for the inspiration.
4. How have you improved your blog by comparing it to other bloggers? Have you made changes due to something you have seen others doing?
I increased the width and made the images bigger. Did anyone notice? I'd been playing around with HTML and tossing up as to whether to do it or not for a long while but after Pearl of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom did it I finally took the plunge.
5. Have you ever had one of your posts copied by another blogger or publication? How did you handle the situation?
I had part of a post quoted on another blog but the blogger in question did me the courtesy of referencing me and linking back to my post so it was fine. I was actually pretty flattered.
I've seen some nasty stories about bloggers discovering entire posts from their blogs lifted and used by online or print magazines. I think this is unacceptable and makes it important for bloggers to at least have a statement (which I have recently added) about their policy on third parties using material from their blog.
I take my answer to the last question back. After reading other Friend Friday posts and seeing how many other people had come up with issues of being copied I thought I'd do a more in depth check to see if maybe I was being a bit lax and thinking my blog was too under the radar to be copied. I was wrong!
I found my post about my mother copied and pasted word for word on what appears to be a scraper blog which just trawls the internet and lifts content off other blogs. I'm furious obviously and have contacted the service provider. Just goes to show it can happen to anybody. Oh and any advice appreciated from those with similar experiences!