Waxing the Golden Rule

Waxing the Golden Rule

by: Kara Brook

The road to hell & litigation is often paved with good intentions

I’m an encaustic painter who enjoys sharing what I have learned as I develop my own skills. I’ve found there’s a lot of information on the web, specifically video trailers often linked to a video or online class that sometimes carries a bigger price tag than it’s worth.

A few months back, I traveled the corners of the web and found a fairly good forty-five minute demonstration on a particular encaustic technique that would be interesting for my community. The material had been previously recorded at a conference and then posted on Vimeo by the local PBS station.  I watched it at least a few times and decided to write an article on my website to further explain aspects of the demonstration that weren’t very clear.

I don’t get paid for any of this. There are no revenue streams associated with my website. I do this from my heart because I love what I’m doing and would love to build a community of fellow artists who are as passionate as I am about sharing their discoveries on encaustic technique.

One evening, a few days after the article published, I received an email from an attorney. The artist featured in the video went to a lawyer and had him write me a cease-and-desist letter that stated: “I was using an unauthorized video and that the use of this tape [content] has caused his client potential loss of income and other damages made more grievous by comments and pictures of his training techniques and work.” He then gave me 24 hours to remove it from my site.

So what did I learn from this?

Do not post anything that is the creative property of another artist without their permission.  Otherwise unassuming artists (like me) will unknowingly link to it and hold it in high regard.

Do unto others. . .

The web is specifically designed to make it as easy as possible to share online content whether it’s yours or someone else’s.  People love to share images, stories, articles, and tutorial videos – sharing is the lifeblood of the online world.

If you are planning on sharing other people’s content online, don’t simply assume that it’s okay.  Everyone is different and not everyone wants their content to go “viral”.

  • Make it a point to always look for a copyright notice or a Creative Commons License on the website so you’ll know exactly what the author or creator will allow you to do with their content.
  • Think about if you would be harming or helping their online reputation and/or financial interests (i.e. if it was the other way around, would you want them to do the same thing to you?)
  • Do they specifically ask you to share their content?  If they don’t have any type of legal notice, do they have a Twitter, Facebook, or “Pin It” button installed on their site?  Usually (but not always) this means that they would like you to share their content on these particular social networks.
  • When in doubt don’t do it, because as I’ve discovered, it’s just not worth it.  Fortunately, there are plenty of other artists and creators out there online who would love to have you share their content and receive the free publicity.

….as you would have them do unto you.

At the same time, if you are an artist, writer, photographer, or content creator — it is your responsibility to make it clear on your website whether or not you want other people to share your content online.

  • Be sure that you tell your visitors exactly what they are allowed and not allowed to do with your content.  Use a plainly worded notice for the best effect.  Don’t just slap a copyright notice in the footer of your website and assume that everyone will understand and obey. Yes you may be legally protected, but don’t be surprised when people don’t fully understand what “All Rights Reserved” actually means.
  • Think about adding a Creative Commons License to your website to spell out what they are allowed to do and not do with your content.  Even if you use a Creative Commons License, however, it is still a good idea to explain what exactly it allows them to do in plain English.

If you’re an artist and you occasionally teach at conferences or schools:

  • Ask questions. If a public television channel is shooting you live while you’re demonstrating an art technique, open up communication with them and ask how the video will be used. If you don’t want the video to be made public, make that clear. Get it in writing.
  •  Get whatever agreements with the conditions of your session signed by the managers of the conference or school where you may or may not be expecting to be filmed.
  •  Notify your audience to refrain from using any video equipment while you are speaking.
  •  Build bridges don’t burn them.

If your video ends up on the web even after you’ve done all this, contact the person who published the link or embedded video and ask them to please remove the video because it’s your property and because you’re asking them nicely to remove it. The cardinal rule in life is to treat others as you want to be treated.

If the other party is really causing you damage and financial loss after you make an honest effort to communicate then indeed, after you try to work things out by being a good communicator if there are real issues, then indeed go to your lawyer and send a letter, but realize that once you send that letter you can’t undo it, and these situations often end up costing more of your soul and your pocketbook than you could imagine.

The moral of the story here is simply to follow the “Golden Rule”.  Fellow artists, gather ‘round so we can sing “Kumbaya”. We are a brotherhood and sometimes all we have is each other. If we can’t work things out among ourselves, then we’re no better than the rest of the world, and the rest of the world is certainly not nearly as interesting and enjoyable as we are. We have a responsibility to communicate with one another like civil and even loving adults.

What do you think?

How often do you share images, articles, videos, or content online even when you’re not sure if you are legally allowed?  Does it make a difference whether that content was created by a company or an individual?

Do you have a clearly written notice on your website explaining what exactly your visitors are allowed and not allowed to do with your content?

When do you feel that it’s okay to share someone else’s content on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest?

 Image courtesy of Mae Chevrette

If you would like to share this article the short URL is: http://skinnyartist.com/UW0pR
Kara Brook

About the Author

Kara Brook

Kara Brook is an artist practicing encaustic painting and beekeeping. Her website features her artwork and her blog.