Monday, August 30, 2010

Screenshots and copyright

Yesterday I received a comment in the site guestbook from Murray Greenman, ZL1BPU, which says: "While I appreciate your ad-hoc publicity for ZL2AFP CMSK, it would have been much better if you had asked permission to use my screen-shot on your blog site! While web pictures and text are widely plagiarized, that doesn't make it right to do so. Copyright still applies and the image is still mine." I have removed the image and inserted a comment directing the reader to this posting in its place.

Since I am on holiday at the moment and did not intend making any blog postings I will leave it to readers of the blog to lead the discussion on this issue. But I would just like to say that part of my career has been made publicizing software. I have always found software authors to be glad of the publicity and have never, until today, received a complaint about using their own images to this end. It is not always possible to take your own screenshots. In this case, I was unable to try the software on the air because of its insistence on using the default soundcard and I thought that it was more interesting to readers to see the live screenshot made by ZL1BPU than a blank one made by me.

As to the question of whether I should have asked permission first, I wonder if ZL1BPU understands what blogging is about? Part of the motivation for writing about some new development in a blog is to be one of the first, and if you have got to write an email asking permission and wait for a reply then it's likely that others will pip you to the post. It's not like writing an article, which may take several days to prepare and where time is not of the essence. Blogging is a bit like tweeting, but more verbose.

Finally I would argue that a screenshot is not an original work of art. I'm not depriving anyone of earned revenue by using it. Anyone can install the software and obtain one that is pretty similar. So why make an issue out of copying someone's screenshot, particularly when the purpose of doing so is to give publicity to the software not to use it with any adverse intent?

I shall certainly think twice about giving publicity to any more new ham radio programs in my blog in future. Perhaps all of you bloggers who happily copy people's QSL cards and shack photos to illustrate your stories about contacts should pause for thought as well. Ought this not to count as "reasonable use" - the clause in copyright laws that allows you to quote part of an article when referring to it?

14 comments:

Paul - PAØPSY said...

Hello Julian, I have published a lot of photo's from QRZ.com for my blog. I have always realized that I could get problems with copyright issues. I think ZL1BPU can claim a copyright. But I always wondered why people publish on the internet and being afraid for republishing. Don't publish on the Internet in the first place. I think it's penny-wise to complain about it. The only thing you can do, and what you did, is to remove the screenshot or picture, on request of the author. 73 Paul PAØPSY

IW1AYD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
IW1AYD said...

How do you say this in plain English?
Gibberish.
Yes, in Italian it sound "senza senso" and to me remind "no common sense".

It's gibberish!

73 de iw1ayd

PS you have done the best thing, remember this when you will go in the wild taking pictures. Some wild animal may sue it for personal image copyright infringements. Be happy and don't worry.

Monday, August 30, 2010 11:21:00 AM

Theodore said...

It does seem a little petty I must admit. I guess he was having a bad day - or so we hope.
Sometimes we all take ourselves too seriously.
As regards CMSK, yes Julian, the software does seem to work with a signalink USB card as well, but it plays around with the mixer and makes a mess of it - at least in my case.
Are we in a new era where each new digital modes author seems to have a brain snap?
ROS, now CMSK, both will probably end up in the rubbish bin of digital modes history.
Anyone who uses digital modes frequently knows these boutique modes only have a few users, and if you want to work more than a handful of stations, you are off to the PSK31 segment again.

Please no new digital modes, we have enough petulant people in the ham bands already.

Lynn (D) said...

To everything in the world there are extremes. Some people have no concept of "mine" and others have no concept of "share". As for myself, I'd like to think I'm middle-of-the-road. I give away use of APRSISCE/32 for free amateur radio use, while keeping the actual source code private. The concepts, some of which are unique and others are common, are free for anyone to copy. Some have called on me to open the source for "their use". Others have asked (some close to demand) that I port the program to other (their personal favorite) platform. I gently suggest that they find a developer familiar with that platform to develop one.

Such is life in today's world. Nearly everyone has an "entitlement" (I deserve it) mentality which is fueled when someone does give something away for free, they demand more.

Julian, you have my public permission to copy and publish any screen shots of APRSISCE/32 that you desire. Feel free to talk up the program, both the good and the bad (hopefully not too much), provided that you continue to give the ability to comment back in the same forum.

And enjoy your time away!

Lynn (D) - KJ4ERJ - Author of APRSISCE for Windows Mobile and Win32

PE4BAS, Bas said...

It could be ZL1BPU didn't read your blog postings on ROS or any comment on that topic. I think this action will not make him populair, and so this new CMSK mode. If you didn't write about it I would never have found this interesting digital mode website of him with lots of digital mode software which I would probabely test if I had the time. I hope this comment will not get me in trouble like the comment I made on ROS ;-) 73, Bas

PS: Of course ZL1BPU has the right to copyright his pictures. But hey, we are all HAM radio hobby operators. Why such difficulty about copyrights if it is not commercial...

Julian said...

I think Bas has it correct. Regardless of the letter of the law regarding copyright, is it really necessary to make an issue over non-profit use by another ham who was only trying to give a bit of publicity to a new development of possible interest to his blog's readers?

I think copyright law is designed to protect intellectual property and creative work like works of art, books, music, web pages and articles. To apply it to a screenshot is absurd. How much creativity is involved in pressing the Print Screen button?

KJ6KBU said...

I think that the only issue might be if you used the graphic direct from his site and didn't copy it and host it on yours. Linking directly that way costs the other guy bandwidth.

Other than that, seems nitpicky considering it was free advertisement.

wimpyVO2max said...

In the U.S. it would be a clear copyright violation. ZL2AFP has the "(c) All rights reserved" on the bottom of his web page. The Copyright Act of 1976 prohibits photographs of copyrighted works. Guilty, end of story, at least here in the U.S. Julian, you are probably on the no-fly list now. Your jail cell, with three hots and a cot, are waiting for you.

Tim said...

Nit picky. And I wouldn't be in a rush to publicise that author's work in future *makes note*

Ripping off intellectual property is one thing. I think this is another!

Tim G4VXE

LY2SS said...

HOLY CRAP! I thought it's a hobby...Now I am in doubt...

Theodore said...

I am glad I don't have a photographic memory, otherwise every time I look at a web page I would be a candidate for "wimpyV02max's" steel bar hotel.

Evolving Squid said...

Let's look at some of these comments shall we?

" But I always wondered why people publish on the internet and being afraid for republishing."

How about: But I always wondered why people publish a book and are afraid of republishing.

Maybe: But I always wondered why people publish a movie and are afraid of republishing.

I apologize for being blunt, but your comments demonstrates an utter lack of understanding of why copyright exists and how it works. Publishing, all publishing is inherently public. But the fact of publishing doesn't mean that rights to the original material are abrogated so that anyone can republish.

Was he being kind of anal over a non-profit use that can only serve to advertise his site (assuming there was an obvious back-link)? Perhaps... but that's his choice.

No matter how you shake it up, he was within his rights. In fact, if he found out about it and DIDN'T say something, he would be giving up his rights. Copyright law actually forces copyright holders to defend their copyright. That's why it sometimes seems like big companies are picking on the little guy... or why it seems like someone is being a jerk - if they don't do that, they lose traction when a serious violation comes along.

The appropriate answer, rather than to disrespect the guy for exercising his legal rights and go on about how everything on the internet should be free-for-all, would be to have said:

"I have used this screenshot, with a credit back to you, as an excerpt for commentary under the provisions of fair use."

Then see if he takes it further.

73 de VE3OIJ
-Darin

Julian said...

"Was he being kind of anal over a non-profit use that can only serve to advertise his site (assuming there was an obvious back-link)? Perhaps... but that's his choice."

Okay, but it's his choice that felt like a slap in the face for someone who thought he was doing him a favour, and a choice that has resulted in me and others deciding not to bother publicizing this kind of thing again if it results in this sort of response. "Cutting off your nose to spite your face" is the phrase that springs to mind.

"No matter how you shake it up, he was within his rights."

I don't think I ever claimed that he wasn't. What I did question was why was it necessary to assert these rights when the "offender" was only a fellow hobbyist who thought he was doing him a favour. At the very least, a more tactful response would have been a private email, not a public admonishment in the guestbook of my website.

I thought this was a hobby of like minded enthusiasts where the publication of information on the internet was part of the process of sharing knowledge and encouraging self-training? If people are going to start insisting on their rights just on principle regardless of the intent then we are all going to be the poorer.

"The appropriate answer ... would be to have said: 'I have used this screenshot, with a credit back to you, as an excerpt for commentary under the provisions of fair use.'"

Well thank you for your advice. This is a ham radio blog which is not produced for profit and consequently I cannot afford to retain the services of a lawyer. What you have just done is demonstrate the legal minefield I am in by continuing to blog from my position of ignorance of the law therefore perhaps the best thing for me to do would be to stop blogging altogether.