I got to start my Sunday morning with a really angry email:

Hey Bug Girl, practice what you preach!

[reference to my Digital Millennia Copyright Act notice on the sidebar]……I stumbled upon this text by following hits on one of copyrighted Flickr photos that I ultimately found to be displayed without permission right there on the same page of your blog. It looks like that widget you use to scrape Flickr photos and display them in the upper left column of your blog is grabbing other people’s copyrighted work. 

Basically, this photographer’s concern relates to the little Flickr Widget in the uppper left corner of this blog.  It goes and scrapes this public feed:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/insect/   and displays linked thumbnails.  He is absolutely correct that the widget doesn’t distinguish between things that are marked as copyright restricted and Creative Commons.


(And here is my question to some of my friends who make money off their photos):  How is that different than what happens when I post a link to Twitter or Facebook saying “look at this great photo!”, and those web pages grab a thumbnail of the image, and display it with a link?

Essentially, the photos are “public” on Flickr, and linked, and the Terms of Service for the widget API allow me to display these photos as thumbnails (in fact, their restriction is for displaying over 30 photos, and I have 4 displayed!)

This discussion has happened before among professional photogs; there is a rather disturbing chain of communications with Flickr here discussing unauthorized re-license of photos for cell phone wallpapers.  Which could, I guess, be seen as a “thumbnail”, depending on your phone.  There is also a court case, Kelly vs. Arriba Soft Corporation, which established a precedent for showing thumbnails of copyright protected photos in search results as legally ok.

What say you?

If enough folks say I’m in the wrong here, I’ll remove the widget, since I don’t want to be a content stealer. I hate it when that happens to me.


(edited 5/22/11 to add link to Kelly court case after a tip by Sarah–thanks! Librarians FTW!)

EDITED 5/25/2011 to include link to new Opt-in Only Flickr Group:  Take my insects! Please!

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. The issue he has is with Flickr, not your use of the image. It’s clear on your blog that it comes from Flickr, personally I’d be grateful for the easy free publicity.

  2. The fact that they are a) thumbnails and b) link back to the original ends the discussion.

  3. Considering the thumbnails are linked back to the original source with all credit given, is it really any different than citing a source in a paper? I’ve given presentations in classes where I ALWAYS post the link to the image and credit its source. Is that any different?

  4. Ed, Greg, Bugwitch–that’s pretty much what I think too, but I’m always willing to ask and find out I’m wrong.

    The Kelly vs. Arriba case seems to say I’m in the clear to use linked thumbnails, though.

    I’m not sure why someone would be angry that I sent viewers to look at their photos that THEY posted publicly online. Google will show those as well, since they are not marked “private”.

  5. I agree that her problem is with Flickr. She may want to set her photos to private. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure that whenever you post a photo on flickr it will show up in their main feed too. I don’t see the problem. Unless you (Bug Girl) are making money off the images or not linking back then IMO it’s not a big deal. And if you need photos of insects, I’d be happy to donate some to your blog. *runs off to buy a macro lens*

  6. Alas, Amy, I am not making any money off this blog. I should be so lucky!

  7. The terms of use for the Flickr API clearly state in the first paragraph that “Flickr user photos are owned by the users (the photographers) and not by Flickr. All rights not expressly granted to you are reserved by Flickr.” The terms then say in paragraph (b)(iv) you shall not “Use Flickr APIs in any manner or for any purpose that violates any law or regulation, any right of any person, including but not limited to intellectual property rights . . .” You appear to be using the widget in a way that infringes copyright in violation of the Flickr API terms of use. You’re doing exactly what the Flickr API terms say you should not do.

    The findings in Kelly v. Arriba are most definitely do NOT say you’re in the clear to use linked thumbnails the way you’re using them. The Kelly case does not allow across-the-board display of thumbnails. The courts found that not every use of thumbnails is prima facie infringement. They said that display of thumbnails is permissible under the Fair Use provisions when the essential tests of Fair Use are met. The defendent’s display of thumbnails as part of the creation of an index was found to be sufficiently “transformative” to fall under the Fair Use exception. The widget on your page does nothing transformative under copyright law. You are not a search engine company. Your display of copyrighted thumbnail images via the widget is not Fair Use.

  8. From Flickr:

    “Through the Flickr API, it is possible to construct websites and applications that query Flickr’s publicly available photos via tags or user ID and build dynamic content that displays photos in interesting ways. If they are properly using the Flickr API and abiding by the requirements, the photo as seen on the page will link back to the photo page as it is found in your photostream and adhere to the API’s Terms of Use. The actual image itself is not hosted on that site.”

    Thumbnail; linked back; not hosted. Check.

    Follow Flickr’s instructions to hide your photos from searches:

  9. From Flickr: ” . . . If they are properly using the Flickr API and ABIDING BY THE REQUIREMENTS . . .” The Flickr requirements clearly state that you have no rights to other people’s photos except the rights that are “expressly granted to you.” You have no right to display copyrighted material on your blog page, no matter what software is used to collect it, without permission of the copyright owner.

    When a store owner displays merchandise in the window, that display is “public” in the sense that you have been given the opportunity to view it. It is emphatically not public for any purpose other than your viewing. The act of putting it in the window gives the viewers no right whatever to take the merchandise, use it for their own purposes, and display in their own store windows. If the owner of the copyrighted intellectual property says you have no permission to use it, that is the absolute fact unless you can produce a license showing where you have been granted permission by the copyright owner.

    Try to run your creative interpretation on your display of copyrighted material past your thesis committee and see how far it gets.

  10. I do not believe you have violated fair use at all. There are four factors for Fair Use to hold, they are:

    1> the purpose and character of your use
    2> the nature of the copyrighted work
    3> the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
    4> the effect of the use upon the potential market

    A good read of these can be found at http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter9/9-b.html.

    I think that the tranformative factor is similar to the example given on that page. The pictures used are a part of the blog and the blog is the tranformative factor.

    I also think a very good argument for deminimis use can be made.

    I would get into more details, but it is late. Maybe later!

  11. Have you actually checked your search privacy settings on Flickr, Ron? (They are separate from the copyright settings; see above.) Do you know if you are blocked from public search, which would completely solve this problem?

    I get that you are unhappy that your photo was briefly displayed, as a linked thumbnail, in a widget on my site for a very short period of time. I’m really sorry about that. But the photo is long gone now.

    A more constructive thing to do with your time, other than sending me a lot of cranky messages, would be to contact Flickr, who included your photos on a RSS syndicated, publicly available tag page, or WordPress, which tells users that they can do exactly what I did–link to a public tag search.

    I haven’t heard from a couple of my friends that are pro photographers, and if they say I’m in the wrong, I’ll remove the widget.

    But I’m not going to remove a feature that, frankly, I really like, just because you’re being angry and intimidating.

  12. I would also add this…


    Of course it is all academic unless there is a court challenge… but I think there is a solid case for fair use on all counts.

    I might also consider looking at cases of digital fair use on some of the blogs that talk about this sort of thing… such as…


    I put the search term in already… :) I try to be a full service commenter… :)

  13. Seems to me the basic problem is that the widget should be constructed or limited somehow so that it doesn’t grab copyrighted material, but I don’t know if that’s technically possible.

    As much as I might like to use the widget like this (I wasn’t smart enough to realize the potential), I probably won’t now that I’ve seen this discussion. It will be interesting to see how this is resolved, what WordPress says, etc.

  14. The WordPress page you cite says explicitly “The Flickr widget makes it easy to show thumbnails of *YOUR* latest Flickr photos in your sidebar.” [emphasis added.] It does not give you permission to use the widget to put OTHER PEOPLE’S copyrighted content in your sidebar. It’s a device for presenting YOUR OWN Flickr photos.

    In fact, the WordPress terms of use say that “By making Content available, you represent and warrant that . . . the downloading, copying and use of the Content will not infringe the proprietary rights, including but not limited to the copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret rights, of any third party.”

    Blocking public search is not an answer to infringement. Authors have to be able to put their books in bookstores where potential readers are able to find them. As a copyright holder, I have an absolute right to display my copyrighted photos on public sites of my choosing where they be browsed and found by people who might want to obtain a license or permission for legal use of the work. Putting work on public display in this manner does not give anyone the right to re-use the content without permission. Because a book is displayed publicly in a bookstore or library, the author is not giving you a right to copy passages and display them on your web pages.

    Why don’t you make your own blog private to prevent infringers from “taking whole chunks” instead of scolding them angrily in your sidebar warning on “Copyright Stuff”?

    You shouldn’t find any of the matter-of-fact explanation of copyright law to be intimidating — except in the way that a driver doing 75 mph finds the 65 mph speed limit to be intimidating.

    I’m surprised that you understand the concept of copyright when it applies to your own creation (see right sidebar), but not when it might apply to someone else’s creation (see left sidebar).

    As for Michael’s point, there’s no way display of copyrighted image via that widget will meet the “transformative” requirement of the Fair Use provision. The author of the blog makes no original comment or reference to the copyright images, nor offers any analysis. The author does not do anything to organize the image in a original manner. (That’s controlled by someone else’s algorithm.) Not a single step has been taken here that would qualify as transformative under the Fair Use provision.

  15. There’s a difference between taking someone else’s photograph and claiming it’s your own, and linking to somebody else’s photograph.

    Putting the photo publicly on Flickr implies the owner wants it to be seen. Having it seen on a blog about insects in this way is some great free advertising. It’s clear that you aren’t claiming any ownership of the image, or profiting from it.

    This is just the way the web works – it’s great for making your work widely accessible to an interested audience. Welcome to the new media. Thankfully (here at least) it’s new media being done in a responsible way.

  16. My thought is that any sensible commercial photographer would be glad of the publicity. Free advertising for their trade should not be sneezed at.

    Hey Angry Emailer, who’s getting hurt?

  17. Why are you “intimidating” Ron? Because you are completely loosing it over a linked *thumbnail* that appeared *once* on some random chick’s blog for a very short period of time, that is long gone now, that actually sent traffic your way. (to photos you said you wanted to sell!)

    You messaged me non-stop all day, and you are still going in the wee hours of the morning. You haven’t indicated what, if anything, you have done to check to see if maybe you need to change your Flickr settings to make sure that no one in the world can see your stuff on this public page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/insect/ .

    You are very clear it’s all my fault, and somehow, if you rant at me long enough….that will accomplish….what, exactly?

    I have already apologized, and I am clearly taking your claim seriously. But I’m not going to remove the widget until I have more information, because it’s a popular feature that I’ve had for five years with no complaint.
    I haven’t said I won’t do it, just that I want to investigate more.

    Do you not see you seem a little unhinged here?

  18. Oh, and Ron’s belief that a search engine company has more right to show a thumbnail linked to his or her pictures and make money off that than a private individual on a non-profit blog for enthusiasts is, in my humble opinion, rather cracked.

  19. The official word from WordPress, as of a few minutes ago:

    “The photographer is pointing to the Flickr API Terms of Service but the widget actually does not use the API to pull the photos. We use RSS feed, where all public photos are included.


    Please feel free to have the photographer contact us for clarification if that’s necessary.”

  20. Bug Girl, you ask what Ron has achieved. I can tell you that I have previously done freelance writing work for gardening magazines and gardening supply catalogues and will be again. I get to suggest images if I haven’t got my own. Insects are frequently needed in illustrations. I have made note of the name Ron Wolf and will ignore any of his pictures I see in future unless he pulls his chestnuts out of this fire. The only way I can imagine he can do that is to apologise and provide a certificate for mental illness.

    There is only a small and competitive market for insect photos. Acting like a professional in public would really help if one wants to make a living.

  21. Actually Ron, you seem to not understand what the meaning of tranformative is in the legal sense as it applies to copyright law. It is not necessarily a tranformation of the original content, it is the overall work produced, in this case the work produced is the blog and the photos are a small addition to the blog which adds to the presentation in a minor way. You do not adjudicate the transformation of the photo as if resizing is the only transformation, you adjudicate the original work which is produced and utilizes other copyright material for fair use. Should the weight of the other material (photos) more than substanatively contribute to the overall content of the new work (blog) then there may be a problem, but in this case, a personal/educational blog in which the photos are random and do not contribute substanatively to the overall work, which is non-commercial and does not make money or harm the photo market in any meaningful way… well, that is probably fair use and most likely a deminimus use which would not even make it past the gates for a copyright test.

    The photo use in my opinion is analogous to the example in my previous links where small quotes were used to amplify the intent of a larger, more substantive site.

    Of course all this is moot unless someone wants to bring litigation.

    I sell my photos, graphic art, and writing, and I am very wary of copyright infringement, as such I don’t put them in public where that can be an issue (publication is important). But here, being randomly linked on a blog that addresses the people most interested in bug photos… I would look at that as a compliment and a way to expand my market share.

    But that is just me, I make friends, not enemies. They tend to help.


  22. Gosh. I go away from the internet for a day and I miss all this drama!

    I am not a lawyer, so the following is my just my bullet-pointed opinions as a photographer.

    1. The ambiguity here is real; our copyright law structure is struggling to define boundaries in the internet age. Thus, although Ron is being a complete a-hole here, and is certainly incompetent with flickr, there is a glimmer of reason behind his position. Under some interpretations, he may actually have the right to demand that his image no longer appear on Bug Girl’s site. Which it isn’t, so the problem should be considered resolved for any reasonable person.

    2. Since Bug Girl clearly indicates that the photographs are not hers and are provided by Flickr, and since it is also clear she is not running a commercial site, Ron probably does not have a viable infringement case against Bug Girl. Whether or not Bug Girl’s use is “Fair Use” (I’m not sure that it is, to be honest), she certainly hasn’t been depriving Ron of any revenue or photo credit. If Ron has a case against any entity it would be Flickr, but I suspect his failure to read their fine print will work against him.

    3. Nothing says “Amateur” more than a photographer who uses flickr and then gets huffy about an issue like this. Flickr is photo-sharing software. That’s the entire point of the site!

    If you don’t want your photos to be pulled into RSS feeds, then you should use a service that’s more appropriate, or host your own site. Sure, you can arrange settings to make the images more private, by why the hell would you use flickr? Ron is displaying a failure to understand the internet here. Which is perfectly legal, but it does not bode well for the marketing division of Ron Wolf, aspiring photo professional.

    4. Flickr contains a number of user communities that are populated by photographers who understand flickr well enough to join and contribute to said groups. Plus, the nature of these groups is such that their members are inclined to share their photos more broadly- that’s why they joined, after all.

    There are several good insect macro flickr pools. I recommend Bug Girl change her widget to draw from one of those pools rather than the general “insect” tag. That way she’ll be drawing from people who are more flickr-literate.

    5. The discussion above stating that Ron should be happy that his photos were linked from here is irrelevant. It’s Ron’s prerogative to decide where having his photos displayed is good or bad for him. Perhaps he disagrees with the skeptic movement and doesn’t want the implied association. Who knows. But there’s no legally persuasive argument to be made here.

  23. Thanks very much to both Alex and Michael for their informed opinions!

  24. Just got here the same way… my flickr stats showed a link from here. I should add that I haven’t read the other comments to this point and what I’m saying isn’t based on any of the above discussion already in progress. I have no legal basis, etc. for my comments, it’s just my personal view point on images I post and other peoples usage of them.
    Although I do feel that displaying all right reserve images in this matter may be technically against what some photographers intend, personally I don’t have any issues with it for a number of reasons:
    1. It is clear that the intent is to give credit to the photographer since they are linked back to flickr. Sure I think most photographers would prefer to be asked first before being included in something like that, but in most cases my answer would most likely be yes. Displaying a linked thumbnail isn’t in the same category as selling un-authorized prints.
    2. As mainly a hobbyist, i find it interesting to see where people view images of subject matter that I photograph, which ones they click on, things like that…. so the feedback from that standpoint helps me.
    3. It’s the Internet. If you don’t want some one to use your image in a manner that you don’t agree with, don’t post them. No matter the size, quality, watermark, or other methods people use to deter others from using an image, sooner or later, some one still will.

  25. Believe me, I hilight the photos because I love them. I often leave compliments for the photo owners, since without this feature I wouldn’t see some of the wonderful work that’s out there.

    Based on what Becky, Alex, and some others have said, I’ll be changing my feed to a new source later in the week, where hopefully everyone who participates will be willing and happy campers.

  26. WOW, bug-girl, you sure know how to attract the nut cases! I read through all the comments and am flabbergasted at the venom being directed your way from Ron. Granted they are his photos and ultimately he has final say-so over where they are displayed, but using a public site like Flickr kind of defeats his intent of having total control of his photos. Once something is placed in a public-sharing website like flickr control is at a minimum ultimately he has no control at all as to what those pictures will be used for by other internet users. Your intention here is obviously good, and Ron needs to take his meds. and relax. You did as he asked and his image as been removed, you apologized and have been more than reasonable dealing with his rants. I am an amateur photographer and readily grant permission for the use of my photos of insects to magazines, websites and various other medias….and am happy to so. The best possible advertising a photographer (just starting out) can ask for is for his images to be exposed to the right people in a professional manner….and I think you did both. The link back to his flickr page would only serve as publicity to his images and his talent and bring potential customers to him for future sales. I see it as free promotion. I personally do not feel slighted or get angry when people use my images….even without my permission as long as I am given credit for having taken that image and as long as the image is being used in an informative and educational manner.

  27. […] underestimate the creativity of bloggers! Bug Girl, over at Bug Girl’s Blog, realized she could specify different tags and display the Flickr category of her choice, rather […]

  28. Myrmecos – Yes, Flickr does provide photo-sharing software. It’s a site that is deliberately structured to enable various degrees of sharing. The Flickr software, with every upload, requires the user to make a decision about the terms and the extent of the sharing, either for each image individually or by setting a default. By marking an image as “Copyright, All Rights Reserved,” the sharing is for viewing only. (In that case, explicit permission of the content owner is required for all other types of use.) Or the owner can designate any of six other levels of permissible uses by attaching various Creative Commons licenses. That’s all part of Flickr’s terms of service. Flickr is emphatically not a free-for-the-taking content smorgasbord. Why, indeed, do you think Flickr designates the level of permission on each photo unless the service is very serious about respecting different degrees of sharing?

    As for the various comments claiming this sort of violation of copyright is just the way the internet works, I would suggest you consult Sean Parker about the fate of Napster. Or take a look at the court-ordered closure of Limewire last week and the $105 million settlement in that case. The movie industry and the music industry have gone a long way toward cleaning up copyright infringement on the internet. Individual photographers, however, do not have the vast financial and legal resources of the media conglomerates so we’re still easy prey for small-time infringement.

    But law and order gradually is coming to the lawless frontier. For example, the kind of mass scraping and display of copyrighted images that we’re talking about here (taking everything on Flickr tagged “insect” regardless of copyright) would not be tolerated if done by anyone using a university account to do it.

    I doubt that many bloggers would contend that they have a right to import and display copyrighted content created by the New York Times or Associated Press or Disney or Viacom or Fox because it had been posted “publicly” on a web site somewhere else. So why is a copyrighted image by an individual photographer more appropriate for display without permission than a copyrighted image from Associated Press?

    Thank you, MObugs41, for injecting the first ad hominem attack into an otherwise straightforward discussion. (If you’re going to hurl insults, at least do it under your own real name and take responsibility for your conduct instead of hiding behind a screen name.) In seeking respect for my copyright, I’m no more of a “nut case” than the folks at the New York Times or Disney when they seek proper respect for their copyrighted content. (In fact, I’m vastly more generous than those guys in granting permission for use of copyrighted images.)

    Here’s a thought experiment for you all. Suppose you’re a scientist of some sort who has been working an aspect of evolutionary biology and you’ve posted copyrighted images of lab work on Flickr. Then you find your images are being displayed without permission in a scientifically inaccurate way on a blog operated by creationists who want the teaching of evolution banned from the schools. Would you be withing your rights to insist that such people get your permission before displaying your copyrighted work?

    Or to make the point even sharper, suppose you post copyrighted images of your daughter’s T-ball games on Flickr to share with all the other T-ballers and their parents, then you find the images displayed ed on a blog that might appeal to pedophiles. Would you be right to insist that such people get your permission before displaying your copyrighted work?

    In each case, how would you know about the intended use of your intellectual property unless people were required to seek permission first? Should you have to keep photos of your scientific work and the T-ball games completely hidden from public view because there are potential infringers out there? Suppose we start to address the situation by honoring and respecting the copyright laws and the owners’ decisions about use of their intellectual property.

  29. Ron.

    the terms of service (http://info.yahoo.com/legal/us/yahoo/utos/utos-173.html) say that if you make photos available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas then you have given Yahoo! the right to make it publicly available. So make it private.

  30. When you start comparing something like this to paedophiles (British spelling, tyvm), you know you’re definitely making your argument worse.

    By NOT blocking your images from what Flickr considers to be “Public Searches”, you are allowing your images to be used in this manner.

    As far as Flickr’s concerned, “Public Searches” are those done by 3rd party websites via Flickr’s API. Presumably that’s how this is done.

    If you enable that in your privacy settings on the Flickr website, they stop showing up on searches outside of Flickr.com. Problem solved.

  31. Ahh, never mind, it’s a favourites list, not an API search, so it wouldn’t help.

  32. So….by briefly showing an RSS feed from Flickr that contained a thumbnail of one of your linked photos on my site…I’m analogous to a creationist pedophile?

    Um. Sure. Whatever, Ron.

    Things didn’t have to play out this way.
    If you had been willing to wait a while for me to investigate the issue–which I told you I was doing— instead of going ballistic, you could have gotten what you wanted. You might have missed it above, but I’m going to change the feed. YOU WIN.

    I made my decision based on information that I gathered from people I know in the field, not your ranty private messages, and then ranty comments after I blocked you from messaging me. Honestly, if anything you tempt me to NOT change the feed, just to fuck with you. You’ve really been a schmuck.

    If you had perhaps engaged in dialog, or been able to be patient for a day or two while I gathered information on a solution, you would have achieved the same result, but not have harmed your reputation. Which…is looking a little bruised right now.

  33. >”If you’re going to hurl insults, at least do it under your own real name and take responsibility for your conduct instead of hiding behind a screen name”<
    Ron Wolf, I unequivocally state that you are a douche-bag!
    My real name is Erin Jones.

  34. What, no Nazi references yet?

  35. I’m sure if you encourage him, Rain, he will come through for you.

    I actually am really interesting on your take on this, being the blogger guru in residence (if you will).

  36. Well, the law is on your side and if he doesn’t think it is, why the hell doesn’t he sue you? Flickr should change their widget to make it copyright-sensitive, but it’s not your fault they built the widget this way.

  37. This was all rather amusing and I would really like to add something clever to the debate but I’m afraid that I am too busy at the moment. I am belatedly adding insect as a tag to my appropriate photos.

  38. Ron it is people like you who make people like me “hide” behind a name…..Many people choose to remain anonymous on the internet, but it does not make their opinion any less knowledgeable or valuable. I agree with the masses here, comparing what occurred here with bug-girl being a pedophile is incredibly disturbing and uncalled for. You are definitely making your case worse instead of better and none here will defend you or agree with you when you must make your point so viciously. Most logical people would politely request a removal of the photo, and accept an apology when it is graciously given. You however are anything but logical or polite. It seems you are making many enemies here, which is never good for business, as many of the people you are offending here have connections and long memories.

  39. @Bug Girl:

    1) If you upload a large-size image to your blog, or use the URL of a large-size image to insert it, then I can go to the sourcecode of your page and get the large-size original even if you have inserted a small thumbnail version of it. Flickr has made sure I can’t do that. All I can get is small thumbnails like this (first one on your Flickr widget at the moment):

    If Ron thinks that a 100×66 thumbnail like that is a duplicate or a reproduction of this:
    then he’s insulting his photos.

    2) By displaying his photos on Flickr, Ron has agreed to the Yahoo TOS. Yahoo TOS state:

    You understand that the technical processing and transmission of the Yahoo! Services, including your Content, may involve (a) transmissions over various networks; [emphasis mine]

    Or, in more detail:

    with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services, you grant Yahoo! the following worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license(s), as applicable: […] the license to use, distribute, reproduce, [emphasis mine] modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo! Services solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available.

    (Ron would listen to the last phrase only and reply that his purpose is viewing only. Right. But, as shown in 1 above, the Flickr widget doesn’t display the photos, it only gives you an idea of what the photos are. If you’re interested in one of them, you click and go to Flickr where you can view the photo, and maybe continue with more of the same photographer’s photos. So all the Flickr widget may do is generate more viewers – for which Ron should be happy. That is, if he was reasonable…)

    Yahoo Tos emphasize:


    In other words, that’s the way Flickr works, and if Ron doesn’t like it he shouldn’t be on Flickr. Or complain to Flickr instead of you.

    3) In his Flickr profile, Ron says:

    All photographs that I post to these Flickr pages are the property of Ron Wolf. They are protected by U.S. and International copyright laws. They are not to be copied, duplicated, or downloaded by any means without my written permission. I take the protection of copyright seriously. You should too.

    Well, you didn’t copy, duplicate, or download any of Ron’s photos.

    4) Ron seems fond of poor arguments.

    The widget on your page does nothing transformative under copyright law. […] Your display of copyrighted thumbnail images via the widget is not Fair Use.

    Why? Because Ron says so.

    When a store owner displays merchandise in the window, that display is “public” in the sense that you have been given the opportunity to view it. It is emphatically not public for any purpose other than your viewing. The act of putting it in the window gives the viewers no right whatever to take the merchandise, use it for their own purposes, and display in their own store windows.

    False analogy: you didn’t take the merchandize and put it in your own store window, you only found a legitimate snapshot of a tiny part of his window and published it in your window (which is not a store window because you make no material profit from your blog) to say “hey, this shop might be interesting to visit”. You’re not stealing his shop, you’re advertising it.

    As a copyright holder, I have an absolute right to display my copyrighted photos on public sites of my choosing where they be browsed and found by people who might want to obtain a license or permission for legal use of the work.

    Yes, but he has to abide by the TOS of those sites – see 2 above.

    Putting work on public display in this manner does not give anyone the right to re-use the content without permission. Because a book is displayed publicly in a bookstore or library, the author is not giving you a right to copy passages and display them on your web pages.

    No, fair use allows quoting brief passages.

    there’s no way display of copyrighted image via that widget will meet the “transformative” requirement of the Fair Use provision. The author of the blog makes no original comment or reference to the copyright images, nor offers any analysis. The author does not do anything to organize the image in a original manner. (That’s controlled by someone else’s algorithm.)

    Then again Ron should complain to Flickr, and WordPress, not you.

    As for the wretched “thought experiment” (scientific photos being found in a creationist site or your daughter’s photos being in a pedophile site), a) again Ron should complain to Flickr and WP, not you, b) again a false analogy: your blog is a site of related interest, not opposing, implausible, insulting, unethical or against-the-law interest. To use an analogy myself, Ron’s thought experiment is like saying ban chisels because killers may use them to kill: sorry, we use them for sculpture – murderers are dealt with via other means.

  40. This blog comment section has become a great example of why discretion can be so important. By keeping his name out of her blog, Bug Girl did Ron a big favor IMO. Should have kept it that way to avoid negative impressions (Pedophiles and creationists? Really?).

    It is too bad, too. If this is the Ron Wolf that shows up on Flickr, there are some nice pictures of butterflies on there that might have been useful.

  41. To be fair to Ron–I blocked him from sending me any more private messages because I thought he was creepy, and wanted whatever he said to be out in the open.

    It was his choice, though, to identify himself here–he could have chosen a pseudonym and I would not have revealed it.

  42. BG, thanks for gathering information to satisfy yourself about the copyright issue. And thanks for agreeing to respect copyright, mine and the copyright of all the other photographers who legally reserve rights to their work.

    Final points of clarification: Before these posts on the blog, we had TWO Flickr email exchanges. (You were NOT “messaged non-stop all day” by me.) I originally pointed out the infringing widget, You asked questions. I responded to your questions. In your second message you asked that the discussion be held publicly online on your blog. That’s what I did. We’ve been having the broader discussion here at your request — at YOUR invitation — not at my insistence.

    I did not mean to imply for a second that you personally are a creationist or worse. The ONLY way in which the analogy applies is that entomologists and creationists alike need to obtain permission before using other people’s copyrighted material. The only way owners of intellectual property can sort out acceptible uses of their work from offensive uses is to have the opportunity to review such requests in advance — the very right that you seek for yourself.

    Rain, there are many ways to resolve disagreements short of lawsuits. One is simply to continue a straightforward discussion until real copyright experts have a chance to chip in (instead relying solely on the ill-informed opinions of other infringers with no particular background in the field).

    If this discussion points to any conclusion it is that Flickr and Yahoo have done a truly woeful job in their FAQs of explaining copyright, permissible and impermissible uses, the Fair Use provision, etc. To see an example of what Flickr and Yahoo *should* be doing in this regard, check out the far better explanation on use of images put together by the CalPhotos database.


    Adios, all. I’m outta here.

  43. For the record: you sent me 3 messages at:

    before I blocked you and told you to come here. I was going to say that you sounded slightly more gracious now that I’ve agreed to make a change, except then I read this part:

    “instead relying solely on the ill-informed opinions of other infringers with no particular background in the field.”

    Sigh. You are determined to dig that hole….

  44. i shudder for the state of the world if the livelihood of anyone can be tied to the viewing of a scant few pixels. And i weep for yet another example where the harmless display and sharing of information in any form can be impeded because of the pitiful cries of the few. Bug Girl, i for one am sad to see you stop a perfectly appropriate practice of sharing information on a topic you are passionate about. Ron, take some time and reflect on whether your life or your welfare will truly be influenced by having bug entusiasts know about your work. Then perhaps question your priorities in life. Because you are currently contributing to the downfall of future culture. For shame.

  45. […] I have created a new group on Flickr for those photographers that would like to have me highlight their photos on my blog […]

  46. Bug_Girl I would love for my insect pictures to be featured on your blog….and I will graciously allow YOU permission to use them in any way you deem fit! That being said….how do I add myself to your new flickr group?

  47. Bug Girl, That’s all fine and good, but you could have slapped him and called him “Suzie” and it still would not be a reason to come on here and post repeatedly. Speaking as someone who works at a museum, anyone who airs their issues in the public domain is someone who just isn’t going to get business from us. We just don’t want to run the risk of engendering negative publicity.

  48. Derek–yes, there was some conspicuous foot shooting :(

    And–“slapped him and called him Suzie”!? LOL! :D

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