Copy Right or Copy Wrong?

April 9, 2014

This is a piece about using other artists’ images without their permission, in one’s blog entries, web site articles and other online posts. Been meaning to discuss this topic for years now, but only today have I finally gotten around to bringing the matter into public consideration. Copyright restrictions have become so repressive as to stifle many original works, ideas and challenges that could otherwise broaden and enlighten artistic endeavors in every society across the globe. Though I realize that contemporary ideology has come to diminish the vital role creative minds play in shaping a better future. I, for one, stand in opposition to this dogma that threatens to shut down the very source of new ideas that are the fountain of progress which only true, artistic genius can create. And without which genius cultural diversity collapses and dictatorship arises.

The matter of using others’ images on search engines has been determined legal, so long as those images are thumbnail or partial versions. But the use of such diminished images remains up in the air, when posted to any other web based medium. To be perfectly safe, the author must gain signed permission by the creator, or risk artists’ demands to remove them (at best), or sue the writers (at worst). But the Internet has inadvertently created an entirely new resource of the “found objects” genre that was never possible previous to its invention. Let me explain:

Take, for examples, blog entries or web-page articles and stories…which are enhanced by the inclusion of illustrations that vastly improve the readability and pleasure of online viewers. Without these images, only a sea of type prevails without any pictures whatsoever to make the reading far more digestible. Furthermore, most web authors cannot afford to hire an illustrator for every post they upload.

The discovery of images that cleverly match one’s articles is a form of “found object” that should be perfectly legal without permission, provided the author present his or her works gratis. A link back to the artist of each image could be embedded in the pic, or elsewhere (such as credits listed at the end)…that the creator may eventually gain recognition and even popularity. The reader can enjoy the clever matching of image to excerpt, that could never be duplicated by intentional design from a paid illustrator.

Please be aware that I do not consider fee-based articles or traditionally published works within this context of images as found objects. In other words, I am limiting my proposal to web postings that are free to read by the public at large. For example: I have recently published a novel that includes an original illustration for each chapter. For which I have hired an artist. Those chapters first appeared on my blog entries minus such illustrations, though embellished with “found object” images which give quite a kick to the viewers. Which images cause the reader to exclaim: “Wow! What a cunning use of discovered pictures by the author.”

Such found-object pics I’m talking about are either thumbnail versions of the originals, or a collage of two or more such images in a thumbnail reduction. While I do not yet provide links or credits to the artists, I am quite happy with requiring such as part of a legal precedent to allow “found object” images without permission. In fact, the five images scattered across this article are a perfect example of my application of search-engine art to delight my readers, and keep them intrigued enough to read my entire piece.

But there remains one more issue regarding the “permission” approach, which is in addition to the high cost of current legal requirements. Which is that certain genres may not appeal to artists, may even offend them…for which reason they may reject granting permission in spite of the author’s willingness to pay a fee. The most glaring example is the one in which I specialize: gay themed articles. For in this homophobic society known as “Amerika,” many artists will simply refuse to have their works associated with topics that they find abhorrent or even sinful. Thus, we have a deeply embedded prejudice against such writers that really comes of brainwashed bigotry, and should have no place in a free-spirited democracy.

I am not here to argue that Amerika is a democracy by name only, which is quite true (though tragic). But I am here to argue that while many folks claim this to be the case (that the USofA is a true democracy), religious dogma time and time again is allowed unquestioned censorship of many artistic expressions. (So much for separation of church and state, eh?)

I have personally suffered such rejection by going the “permission” route, when asking an artist (via email) some years back, for his approval to use one of his images in an article I wrote. His response was something like this: “I am a Christian, and cannot allow you to use any of my illustrations for your homosexual posts.”

It is therefore my dream that, once (or if) I become famous through my stories, I will challenge copyright law to permit web authors to freely include reduced or partial images discovered via search engines, in their writings without first getting permission by the artists. Regardless of whether or not any artist’s religious (or other) prejudice offends their narrow-minded sensibilities.

Another example about the absurdity of present restrictions is when I used a generic photo of a pepper spray canister in one of my tales. A notice was later received by my web host (from the company that sold a brand of pepper spray) that I had illegally posted one of their images. In spite of the fact that the pic was indistinguishable from any other brand. (Apparently an embedded code came with the photo that allowed them to track down the image.) The company even stated: “Your subscriber is possibly posting other pictures in an unlawful manner, and we demand he cease and desist.”

In one fell swoop they declared me a criminal, thus forcing my web site provider to take action and pass on the “offense” to my email box. In other words, this company didn’t even bother to first post me directly, and give me a chance to replace the image with my own photo. Instead, they cast me in a negative light to my provider, right off the bat. I don’t even want to rant here about their rabid and egotistical behavior over a generic photo, but just want to point out an example of our present and idiotic state of copyright bias.

Until such time that copyright law possibly changes to suit my reasonable proposal, I take the risk of including found-object images in my articles…for my readers derive great pleasure by such inclusion. I may eventually have my ass sued off as a result but, dammit, this is art too. FYI: my biggest copyright clash thus far (and which I won by default) was back in 1998: “Charles Schultz’s Attorneys After My Ass!

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Howard’s Calendar

May 22, 2012

You may recall, Dear Reader, that I featured Howard’s Cafe in my latest novel, “Free Me From This Bond“. But did you know they also made a calendar, featuring Jesse Balmer‘s insanely hilarious cartoon sketches…as well as birthdays and factoids of their most loyal patrons?

I didn’t, thus was delightfully flabbergasted to discover this latest Howard’s Masterly Triumph of Goodwill! Annie (one of the waitresses there; and the sweetest person you could ever hope to meet) presented me with their last remaining copy, as a gift for my online praise of this most excellent Inner Sunset eatery. Designed and assembled by the loving hands of several customers and employees, this unique calendar comprises 29 pages of Howard frivolity to keep a big smile on your face each and every day of 2012.

According to Annie, the calendar was created in the old-school style of pure hard copy: not a single digital image or character to be found. I decided then, it would be awfully nice to share this calendar with the world via my blog, as well as preserve it for posterity long after the original templates have grown yellow and crumbly over time.

My apologies for the amateurish results, but my scanner is broke (as I am likewise, quasi-starving author that I be), so I had to resort to digital camera snapshots. Of course, you will need to click on each image, to get a better view. Enjoy your journey through 2012, with Howard’s Artistic Angels at the helm!


Art at Jane Warner Plaza

April 1, 2012

It was a gray, overcast day in the Castro when I stumbled upon these excellent art pieces that brightened up Jane Warner Plaza like butterflies and neon. Surely a glorious and spirited way to honor the memory of our beloved lesbian peacekeeper, recently passed on. Two videos and ten photographs:

Click on any image below, for a larger view.


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