Rant, Rave, Respect

I generally don't like to write about negative stuff, because...well, there's plenty of negative stuff out there. Just turn on the TV or glance at a newspaper and just about all you get is negative stuff.

But there's been a string of events lately that I have to say something about. I need to blow some steam.

This is a graphic that I lifted from a site where a person named Rayven Collins, who lives in Clarksville Tennessee in the US, showcases some of her paintings.

stolen image

The image is/ was also on many other sites where Ms Collins has posted it. On some of those sites, she is even offering the image for sale, such as in this screenshot, taken from a site called imagekind:

pirated image

Ms Collins is selling the image on the site for US$11.39, or $92.48 framed.

The thing is...it's not her image. It's a direct copy of a photo taken by my friend and mentor Carl Roessler. In fact, the image is on the first page of his website. (Note: She's supposed to take the image down, so it may not be there for much longer.)

When a person helping Carl contacted Ms Collins to ask her to remove the image from her sites, here's the...let's just say impolite...email that Ms Collins sent Carl (typos and all):

"I just want to say that you disappoint me as an artist. Most photographers would be honored that their work was used as a reference and instead you make yourself look like an asshole and have my drawing removed from imagekind and zazzle.

Your great white shark photograph has to me been considered as nothing more than a stock photograph. I see it everywhere with your name no where to be seen. It's been used as album covers for local bands with your name no where in place because it is a stock photograph.

Just wanted to say you should be ashamed for your selfishness. I'm not even sure if you even took the photograph yourself. If I have the wrong "photographer" then I do apologize and please disregard this message.

By the way, it doesn't take any talent to click a button but skill to duplicate nature by hand. Granted it was a talent to have took the photograph and not be eaten but someone with no artistic skill could and have performed what u did.

It is my fault for not gaining your permission to begin with but like I said I thought is was a stock photograph and am still convinced it still is. that is all."

So wow. She attacks, retreats, attacks, retreats...in an incoherent flood of verbal diarrhea...all basically to say that she feels she has the right to use his image without his consent because she has unilaterally decided that it is a stock photograph (ignoring for the moment that people pay for stock photographs)...by which she means "free for me to use as I please because I'm the center of the universe".

I especially love: "it doesn't take any talent to click a button", followed by a self-congratulatory statement suggesting that her copying Carl's image line-for-line required much more skill than actually taking the photograph. (...so this is a novel argument..."Plagiarism requires more skill than photography!" Uhuh. And people think the education system is f*cked up.)

I certainly won't be surprised if Ms Collins sends me an equally egotistical, vitriolic, incoherent polemic if she sees this.

Then, there's one of my own recent experiences. One particular blog post I put up recently got highlighted on a number of social networking sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit and others...resulting in something on the order of 50,000+ views so far, along with lots of contacts from ad agencies, print publications, divers and others.

I didn't expect this, as I literally wrote the post on a whim in order to procrastinate packing for Izu, but of course, I'm delighted that so many people have seen and commented on it.

A lot of people linked to my post. Some copied the photo and/ or text and linked. Some...well, just took the photo and/ or text.

Take this, for example:

no credit given

This is from a blog written by a woman named Sara Pulver, who, coincidentally, is also an artist.

Now, Sara highlights my image and text in a positive manner, so that's a good thing. But notice the part I underlined in red: "Cannot find the name of who wrote this".

Really? Really? You mean the "© Tony Wu | www.tonywublog.com" plastered on the image (in fact, just above your "Cannot find the name of who wrote this") is too subtle for you? Seriously? For someone who is an artist (and therefore should appreciate the value of intellectual property), has a website, and has a blog...you'd think she'd recognise a URL slapped on the front of an image.

I could go on and on with more examples (like a guy who replied: "chill man, whatever turns you on dude" when I asked him politely to stop selling cards he printed using one of my images), but I feel the steam gradually subsiding, so I'd better wrap this up before I decide to be nice again.

The problem isn't Rayven or Sara. Nope. It's much bigger than just them.

The problem is respect...or more precisely, lack thereof.

It seems like people have a tendency to believe that just because they're on the internet and hence not physically nearby or easily identifiable, they don't need to have respect for others.

This underlying issue explains both Rayven's and Sara's lack of regret for stealing (yes...it's stealing) intellectual property; it explains trolls on web forums who feel free to call people names, make unsubstantiated accusations, and otherwise just be nasty; it explains people who write to me with questions yet never bother to say "thank you" when I send a detailed reply...it explains all this and more.

At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy duddy...it doesn't matter if you're on the internet. You should treat everyone just like you would treat them in person (if you're an ass in real life, well...not much we can do about that, is there?) and just like you want to be treated.

Of course, not everyone is like this. Some people have sufficient courtesy to write and ask whether it's ok to use a photo or not...like Montana Black, another artist who did actually write to me to ask for permission to use a photo. I happily agreed to her request, so she got her whale model, and I got a very nice painting from Montana. Everyone's happy. See how easy it is?

And yes. I realise that things are lot faster and looser on the internet than in the old days...say like three years ago...when print dominated. I'm ok with that. But at least acknowledge your sources, have the decency to ask for permission, get facts before opening your big mouth, and give credit where credit is due.

The internet has changed a lot of things. But some things should always remain the same.

Ok. Rant over. Back to more productive things.