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?
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