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Monday, July 23, 2012

Photographs, Pictures, Cover Art Copyrights for Bloggers – Part I – by KevaD

This is the first article in a series about photographer and artist copyrights.

I am a strong and avid supporter of those copyrights, just as I am about author copyrights.

I am not an attorney, and I’m not suggesting to dole out legal advice here. What I do have is experience in dealing with copyrighted materials, including art, photographs, and pictures, and have the mistakes and gaffs to prove it. As examples in this series, I’ll make reference to my own blogs and the pictures, etc., posted there. 

This article covers generalities, book cover art, and author photographs.

Attention all bloggers: 

If you do not own, have purchased limited use rights, or have specific permission to use a photograph, picture (including those ‘hawt’ naked pics you just have to share), artwork, or book cover, you are most likely in some form of copyright violation for which the true owner may be eligible for compensation. In other words, yes, you could be sued. 

No, it doesn’t matter that you posted about how you don’t own the material and that if someone asks you to take it off your blog you will be happy to do so. You already used it to your advantage and purpose. The damage is done. By the way, you also readily acknowledged you didn’t have permission to post the work in question. Yeah, you used the pic knowing you didn’t have permission. 

There is no “blanket statement” a blogger can apply or declare that relieves the blogger of the responsibility to ensure no copyright violations have occurred. Nor can you carry a TV you didn’t pay for out of Walmart, shouting how if anyone wants you to bring it back you’ll be happy to do so, otherwise, the TV is yours to use. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s the way it is. Time to pony up. 

But, let’s put it another way: Time to get educated and help protect the hard work of photographers and artists. 

Photographers and artists own their work unless they contract away or sell their rights, such as in most cases involving book cover or cover art. 

Just because I have a picture or artwork posted on my blog does not make that picture public domain or common use property. In fact, the majority of visual aids on my blogs are not owned by me. What I do have is permission to use them, or I purchased limited rights for use. That does not mean I can transfer permission to anyone else. Neither can you. Neither can Pinterest or any other photo sharing site. Because a picture or artwork is on a public site does not automatically mean it’s there legally and fair game. If you download or copy a picture for use in any form from a social or community site, you could find yourself violating someone’s copyrights of ownership. 

Let’s examine book covers, or cover art as the book jackets are frequently referred to. 

Now, most publishers own the book’s artwork through contracts with the artist and/or photographer, right? Well, yes and no. Unless the artist sells all, and I do mean “all,” rights to his/her work to the publisher, the artist still may retain certain rights of ownership. Certainly, the publisher owns specific rights in regard to the cover. 

In author contracts with publishers, there are usually provisions allowing for the author to use the cover art for marketing purposes. Generally, that includes allowing me or you or just about anyone permission to post the book cover on our blogs. That’s just good advertising and the vast majority of the time no cry of “foul” will ever be heard. However, if there weren’t exceptions to this, I wouldn’t be mentioning it. Here’s one such exception: 

On my dakentner blog I posted an interview with internationally bestselling author Juliet Marillier. Her work has been sold and read all around the globe. The artist who designs (designed) the covers for her Australia produced books did not contract away his rights of ownership outside of Australia and New Zealand. Ms. Marillier’s books that are sold and purchased in the U.S. do not have the same book covers as those sold in Australia for that very reason. 

Again, on my dakentner blog, I have two of the Australian book cover art posted for viewing. Here’s the link:
Note here that I did not post the artwork in this article, but posted the link instead. Why? Because the artist granted me permission to post those two examples of his artistry on my dakentner blog, not this or any other blog. If I posted those book covers here, I would be in violation of the limited use granted me and subject to penalty for copyright violation. Yes, this stuff gets that specific.

If anyone were to copy one of those book covers and post them on their blog, then that person would definitely be in copyright violation. And, no, I cannot grant anyone permission to use either of those pictures because I do not own the rights, nor does my permitted limited use include allowing anyone else to use those pictures. Permission simply is not mine to give. 

How does a blogger avoid these pitfalls? Ask. Ask the author, agent, publicist, or publisher to send you a copy of a book(s) cover for use on your blog, or obtain written permission (an email generally fills the bill). Problem resolved. 

Same applies to author photographs. Many author photographs used on author or publisher web sites are professionally taken pictures. As such, photographer copyrights may, and generally do, apply. Again, ask first before doing a copy and paste. Usually, the author will send you a picture to use – one that has been provided for the author’s use in marketing themselves and their work, or one the author owns outright. 

Of course, I have an example of how this can get tricky at times. 

Alafair Burke is a marvelous author and lady. She really is a joy. Ms. Burke agreed to an interview with me. Posted with her interview is a picture of her:
Notice the green lettering at the bottom of that picture. Now, that particular photo is one used in marketing her and her books. However, said picture is not available for the general public’s use, and as such, I had to be given permission to post that pic with her interview. Ms. Burke’s publicist is the one who handled that end for me, and I added the wording per the publicist’s instructions. 

Bottom line, the photographer retained some copyright ownership of the photograph, though in this case permission for use did not have to be obtained by contacting the photographer directly. Copy and paste that photo without permission and a blogger could very possibly hear from the copyright holder’s legal department. 

Again…ask. Common courtesy is never out of style and always appreciated.

Next time we’ll discuss photo sites such as and
Just because you “bought” a picture doesn’t mean you can actually use it.

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