the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Find Me a Photo of Lindsay Lohan!

Since this is a post about stealing, I should be upfront right in the beginning, and say that I am stealing this post from myself — I already asked this question on Facebook.

It all started when I read Mom 101‘s post about some magazine titled Cook’s Source stealing a blogger’s written content because they considered it “public domain.”  If you don’t know about this story, Google it — it was the drama of the internet for a day or so.

I have respect for the written word, so I was pretty outraged by the entire subject.  I would never do such a thing.  OK, maybe in junior high, I swiped a few paragraphs from the World Book for my report on Cuba, but I TRY my best not to steal other people’s words.

But when I thought about the incident, I did feel a sense of guilt because apparently I DON’T have the same respect for photography as I do for writing.  My blog is chock full of “borrowed” images taken from Google Images, usually nothing very personal — an apple, a kitchen sink from a catalog — but stolen nonetheless.  In the past I used to credit every photo, but I got lazy — always throwing in the photo during the five seconds before I pressed publish.  I’m such a small time operator, so I figured it didn’t matter.

But after being scolded by Sarah on Facebook (she’s a photographer, natch), I promised to amend my ways.

From now on — I will be a good Citizen of the Month.  I will try to use material from Flickr, take my own photos, or to clearly give credit whenever I use a photo.  I can’t complain about assholes stealing my material if I am end up doing the same.

The question remains, what if you write an article about Obama, and want to use a photo of our good President.  Can I use one from the New York Times, given with proper credit?

Or let’s make believe I want to write a sensationalistic post about Lindsay Lohan.  Smart, right?  That will grab a lot of readers.   One problem.  The post is going to be dull as dishwater without a sleazy shot of the actress being drunk or not wearing her underwear.

So, how exactly WOULD I proceed to honestly get a photo of her.  Could I swipe it from say — the Entertainment Weekly site or The Superficial, and give them credit for the photo?  Don’t they buy it from stock footage companies like WireImage?  Can I find Lindsay Lohan on Flickr?  Are some of you members of a stock footage company where you get your photos?  Isn’t that expensive?  Can we still be small time blog operators, making no money –  and still make our blog posts dramatic with photos?

Can someone help me find a LEGAL photo of Lindsay Lohan?!

(first in a long imaginary series of “trying to act more professional online.”)

Update:  Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see how Babble Media handles their photos for their sites, and they have this posted, which gave me some insights into how it is done —

Babble Media Image Terms of Use

“Babble Media is committed to the presentation of online content that provides the best possible user experience, while also protecting the copyrights of the content producer as outlined in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

Babble Media hosts a variety of blogs, articles and features that contain images posted by bloggers and editors. The types of images bloggers and editors are authorized to use on Babble Media sites include:

Images licensed from photographic archive vendors.
Images supplied to our editors or released into the public domain by public relations and marketing companies for press purposes.
Reader-submitted images, with the implied representation that the person submitting the image owns the copyright in the image and the right to give it to us for use on our site(s).
Images published on Flickr or other public photo sites with licenses granted under Creative Commons, with attribution in accordance with the CC license granted in each case.
Images commissioned by Babble Media.
Images that we believe to be covered by the Fair Use Doctrine, such as:

– Thumbnail images of 150×150 pixels or less, cropped or reduced in size from the original source.
– Images used to illustrate a newsworthy story, where the image itself is the story.
– Images used in a transformative manner, such as for parody.
– Images so widely distributed that they are deemed to have become part of the news.

If Babble Media receives notice that an image posted is not in keeping with these terms and conditions or the intended use of the Comments section where it is posted, we reserve to right to remove that image.

If you think we have published an image or text that infringes your copyright, and does not fall into the categories listed above, we will address your concerns. If it does not comply with our terms and conditions we may remove the image from our site.”

Interesting. Since the law is fairly general, I could say that a photo of a drunk Lindsay Lohan “illustrates a newsworthy story,” or that it is “so widely distributed” that it is part of the news. It sounds like I might have a bigger problem posting a photograph of an apple.


  1. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    If only content pirates were sexy like Pirates of the Caribbean, you’d have more street cred.

  2. Mom101

    I think we all get a little pass for learning some of this as we go along, and getting better about doing the right thing–once we all figure out what that right thing is. Including Babble, who once got spanked for some less than kosher photo policies.

    If you find the source for free drunken Lindsay photos let us know. You know, just for fun.

  3. flutter

    Well, you also aren’t claiming that you took the photos yourself

  4. anonymous1

    I present you

  5. Deer Baby

    Could you not just hang around on Sunset Boulevard, wait until she crashes her car into another tree and take the shot yourself? Her police mug shots are getting better with practice.

    It’s a tricky area. I wanted to use a still from Mad Men once on my blog but it was too tricky to clear copyright so I didn’t. I wonder if there’ll be a clampdown on bloggers. I have heard of people on Blogger platform being asked to remove pictures they haven’t got permission to use.

  6. Neil

    Just read about this on Techcrunch —

    The company is called Wylio. I searched Lindsay Lohan and found a few photos where I can easily find the rights and put it into the HTML.

  7. J

    I suppose once I get rich and famous and have thousands of readers, I’ll have to amend my ways.

    For now, I’ll continue rob the internet blind when it comes to photos.

  8. bananagrams

    Royalty free images of celebs are really hard to find

  9. foolery

    First I go to Wikimedia Commons and try to find a suitable image there. I’ve had great luck. If not, I find a photo and chase it back to its source — or at least, MY source for it. You can tell that some of these images have been stolen and reused many, many times. If I think it’s a stock photo I don’t use it. If I do use it, I credit it thus: “Photo stolen from this guy [link].” Not sure if that’s okay, but I’ve only heard from two people, who both laughed and said “go for it.” I have actually written to two photographers to ask for permission. One assented, one never replied.

    And more than once, when I HAD to use a particular photo, I gave credit and a link, plus several plugs encouraging people to visit that post themselves for more info.

    After almost five years of blogging and doing it on the fly, this is my M.O. Hope this helps anyone.

  10. Kellyology

    Two things:
    1. I wonder how many people had to Google “World Book.” Then I googled World Book and realized they’re still going strong…online. So sorry to World Book. I really thought you were something only from my childhood.


    2. I get my pictures of the famous from Picapp. They give you the code to their pictures, and it automatically links it back to the photographer. Though Wylio looks like a good option as well.

  11. Samantha Tetangco

    Thanks for this posting! I currently teach composition at the University of New Mexico and have had the gall to make my students try blogging. Your blog on photos and photo rights was of particular interest to our class this past Monday. Thanks for your insight!

    And if your interested, please visit our blogs!


  12. Josette at Halushki

    I’d just hang out on Second Street in Harrisburg on a Saturday night, wait from some drunk girl to trip and fall, take a photo of her backside, and just lead people to believe it’s LL by saying it’s, “Ms. Look Who’s At It Again”.

  13. Loukia

    Aww, jeez. I take pictures from google usually, and post them on my blog. There is a huge law suit just waiting to happen…

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