It’s ok to steal, it’s the Internet!

 |  Interwebs

In December I posted to a thread at the fanlistings message board where a member was advertising their little hosting business. Replying to several other members who were ooh-ing and aah-ing at the prices, I pointed out that they weren’t that great and that after commotion regarding other generic teenybopper hosting it might be wise to go with a real, registered company. At about the same time Gemma questioned how valid the Terms and Conditions were when several “hostees” were using images that they obviously didn’t legally own.

In typical over-sensitive TFL style, several people piped up on how it wasn’t nice to degrade people publicly, blah moan blah whine blah cry. I didn’t actually see the majority of the responses right away because I was busy enjoying my Christmas, and by the time I came back there was no point continuing or developing an argument that was purely based on opinion. It’s rare that people will change theirs therefore rendering any discussion pointless. If people consider having an opinion — whether negative or positive — a form of degradation that’s their own problem (one that they’re perfectly entitled to write about, and I’m perfectly entitled to mock).

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is what stemmed from Gemma’s original comment… a discussion (if you can call it that) on using images that don’t belong to people. It can be summed up by saying the general residing opinion is “it’s ok to steal images, because it’s the Internet and everyone does it“. Bear in mind this same discussion is happening on a forum that has it’s own “OMG STEALERS” section where certain members call thieves “sick” etc (a term that I tend to reserve for extreme crimes such as child prostitution and murder; how nice it must be to live in a world where sick crime is a bit of layout theft).

How fucking hypocritical is it to bitch that some delusional celebrity-obsessed fool has jerked off your layout that consists of someone else’s ugly face and a few uncredited textures and brushes and then turn around and say that it’s ok to steal because everyone does it? If it’s ok for you to steal pictures and photography, then it’s ok for people to steal what you produce. Or are there double-standards reserved for teen webmasters and fanlisting owners now?

Update (19th Jan): I rest my case…

Jem Turner +44(0)7521056376

32 comments so far

  1. Grant Mc said:

    Does any one else have a problem with people stealing photos? I’m sure if you own a popular site and steal images of 50 cent or Jordan, but showed these people charge for photos of them self or copyright them, when you think about it people copyright images which means they copyright units of programed colour! I wouldn’t mind if these copyright images were hand painted and by Picasso of Monet but by god so cheep minimum wage ‘Pap’ from some news paper sell these images and own copyright is bull to me. I have just had teeth pulled out annoyed, sore and in a mood with pain, so don’t moan at me for my opinions as I’m entitled to an opinion!

  2. Grant Mc said:

    I changes my comment at the start let me finnish my 2nd paragrapgh properly, Edited I’m sure if you own a popular site and steal images of 50 cent or Jordan, you would have a lawsuit on there hands, but should……

  3. Jem said:

    so don’t moan at me for my opinions as I’m entitled to an opinion! Why add this at the end when I spent an entire paragraph defending someone’s right to an opinion? Seems a little odd to me, and a bit of a get-out clause for any valid queries people might send your way. What I also find odd is your view that it’s ok to do something as long as you’re not rich or popular. Does that mean that it’s ok for the poor to commit other crimes like murder or rape but if a rich person were to do the same then they should be prosecuted? Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t want to deprive you of your opinion, whatever that may be. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.

  4. Karl said:

    Price is somewhat irrelevant..intellectual property is just Stealing someone’s copyright photos in that regard is similar to..say..someone stealing something material from you. It may be an insignificant something, but it was still your something and still taken “unlawfully”. Copyright exists for a reason..”everyone does it” is no excuse at all. Where would society be with that attitude? I’m damn sure I’d have a problem with people taking my property. So what if they charge for it? They have the right to.

  5. Amelie said:

    omfg lyk u jus sed itz ok 2 steel cuz itz da intarw3bz s0 tht mus meen itz f1ne!!2332!1111 /idiocy I don’t like using things that aren’t mine. If I want to use an image that somebody else has taken, and/or of somebody else’s property, I will make sure I’ve got their permission first. I’ve never made a celebrity layout and I never will, though I have used stock photography that wasn’t royalty free without paying for it. I have apologised to the company in question and offered to reimburse them, but I had no reply so hmmm. But yeah, why steal images when there are loads available for free (and legally so)? ftw!11 Either that or pick yourself up a camera and get snapping.

  6. Jenny said:

    Confused with Grant MC’s comment. :P However, I must see post-2005 I always get a bit weird at using celebrity/fashion photoshoot images – I much prefer taking free stock and/or using my own to create a traditional image blog layout (eh, I suck at gfx) because I don’t have a weird feeling about it.. ‘course, that’s when I do create an image that pertains objects.

  7. Natalie said:

    Hmmm… I’ve never understood why people use celebrity images. I mean, we see them on TV, in magazines, practically everywhere! Why on Earth would we want to see them on a website. Is it so hard to get a camera and actually take an ORIGINAL picture? I have never made/used a celebrity layout, but on the off chance I find a picture I like I always get permission first and credit them. Oh yeah… I’m confused by Grant MC’s comment also. :p

  8. Hillarie said:

    I’m a teen and I already know that stealing on the internet is JUST the same as stealing from any other place. It’s not fine in the real world, so why would it be online? I’m the worst at making graphics, but I’d rather have something that is MINE on MY site. I don’t see the logic in stealing items when you ARE going to get caught sooner or later. Er…sorry, I thought in my dark n00b days (2003-ish) it was fine to use any image, but then I read an article about copyrights. It freaked me out, but I didn’t know it was ‘stealing’ (keep in mind that I was eleven, so…uh, yeah)

  9. HannaPai said:

    Never had a celeb layout and never will have. I have always wanted to make it myself (well lately I have been using stock images too) and give credit to those that deserve. Anyway I don’t even know how to make all these celeb blends or whatever… so I do what I can.

  10. Carina said:

    I’ve used photographs without my permission. In fact, they are on my website! My portfolio section has 9/19 pieces that use celebrity photography, fashion photography or advertisements as references. 4/19 are images I have permission to display. Only 6/19 pieces in my portfolio are 100% mine. I know I should take them off, but I just really like them. I’ve stopped using photographic references (and have quite a few pieces that use no reference), and my stuff sucks. I’m getting better, and when I get a lot better I’ll remove the things with stolen references! The images with stolen references… I just can’t bear to take them off. But yeah, why steal images when there are loads available for free (and legally so)? Because stolen images have just so much more quality!

  11. Belinda said:

    My opinion on this matter is a but complicated and confusing, even to me. Actually, it probably isn’t complicated or confusing, but it contains so many double-standards and contradictions. When I visit any website with celebrity images, my immediate reaction of late is to scoff, and go “LEARN YOUR COPYRIGHT RULES!”. Ever since I’ve become the typical web design elitest, I’d never even consider using a celebrity or person-centered layout at all on my personal site. I do use them outside of my personal site, though, on things like fanlisting layouts and message board headers. I just find it impossible to get around the whole “celebrity images” opinion of mine when I make a fanlisting. If you’re creating a fanlisting for an actress, wouldn’t it make sense to have the actress on the fanlisting layout? I don’t see any other way. So yes, I guess I would say I believe that there is an acceptable double-standard for fanlisting owners, but I can’t think of any other acceptable situations. Maybe my philosophy is “Don’t Use them unless it’s absolutely necessary.” Obviously, it doesn’t make moral sense that fanlisting owners should be allowed privelges that others don’t have. And I’m (and other elitest web designers) such a hypocrite for having this opinion, but, it makes sense to me.

  12. Kelly said:

    I like Belinda’s comment – I feel she sums this issue up quite well (and in a coherent fashion, too :P). I have to admit that, in the past, I did use non royalty-free stock images without paying for them (yet, unlike Amelie I didn’t offer to reimburse them :P) and I did make one celebrity layout of Christina Aguilera. At the time, I didn’t really think of it as stealing and didn’t consider any repercussions. It is hard to get around the ease in relation to stealing copyrighted images merely from Google, and seeing as said copyright laws seem to be patchily enforced (only the large fan sites getting targetted by angry e-mails from over-paid solicitors), there isn’t much to discourge people from stealing. Like you, Jem, I find it disgusting when people say “That girl stole my britney layout – it makes me sick!” or words to that effect. It’s a picture that you shouldn’t have made anyway. I think a lot of people don’t actually realise that “borrowing” images, even with a credit, is actually copyright theft…

  13. Aaron said:

    I’ve been working on my website and have started using only my images. I know I still have some stolen photos that I haven’t gotten around to deleting (validating for XHTML and doing it right takes a lot of work), but I’m trying my best to change for the better. I think that discontinuing the use of stolen images is a step in that direction.

  14. Aravis said:

    As I entered the website world from the anime shrines group (I know, I know…), I thought it was perfectly okay to use copyrighted artworks, screencaps, etc. Now that I’m aware of the issue, I stopped doing that on my personal site, but I’m with Belinda on this issue as a whole. I still keep one site dedicated to one of my favorite characters, and it would seem off not to have layout featuring the said character. And it’s not like I’m claiming anything as my own either (and if I am, I’m sure to change that; the site hasn’t been updated in three years!). I’m mostly confused as to how to handle this whole copyright thing. I’m just a fan who made a website. *shrugs*

  15. Louise said:

    Why can’t people take the good with the bad? You and Gemma had reasons for saying what you did, it wasn’t spam. Although I think it was a little out of place (it was more of a “welcome my new hosting company” topic, rather than “what do you think of my hosting company’s prices/terms?” question) Ah, poor little self-contained people. It’s like they’re happy about breaking the law. They do not realise that you actually can get caught by autorities, and when that happens they have a cry about it being unfair and the authorities being “mean”. Uh, well look who was mean in the first place for using other people’s work without asking!

  16. Kayleigh said:

    I admit that while I’ve never actually stolen a layout or image, I have used images labeled things other than ‘royalty free’ from gettyimages before. Some still remain on my older sites that just haven’t gotten revamped, others are from yahoo images search (which I didn’t realize was bad back in the day either). Eventually I’d like to revamp everything to make my sites with images that are available for public, non-commercial use by the photographer, but until then..

  17. Katie said:

    I agree about the copyright thing – it’s not right to use the faces of other people on your website without their personal permission, so I always make my layouts with my own photos { either of myself or of friends – with their permission } and etc. However, may I ask some advice? Many of the people I’ve linked with steal images and I don’t know how I should handle this – delete them, even though they’re my friends? Tell them about how they’re stealing, even if they don’t care? So by linking them, am I supporting “image-stealing”?

  18. Jem said:

    @Katie: it’s down to you how you deal with other people using those sorts of images. Personally, despite my own opinions about the use of celeb and non-free images, I do link to AND enjoy the content of blogs and sites that don’t hold the same opinion. I made my stance clear but don’t try and force the owners to change simply because I don’t agree – if they want to take the risk or more importantly, overlook the moral implications of stealing, that’s their lookout.

  19. Chans said:

    Being a ‘photographer’ and having my images online in a portfolio, I would hate it if I came across a site where my photography was displayed without credit and even worse; without permission. I’d be more than happy to discuss the use of a photograph in a layout or something, all they have to do is ask. I can already hear people say ‘Ooh dear but you put them online so you took the risk to have them stolen’. It still doesn’t make it right; you don’t go into an art gallery to walk out with paintings you didn’t pay for or without the permission to take them with you. Besides, if you leave your door unlocked is it OK for thieves to come in and empty your house? After all you took a risk by leaving your door unlocked… I believe in giving credit where it’s due, and if I forget to credit someone and they contact me; I apologize and at them to my credits-go-to list. I received an email from a font creator the other day, he was surprised to see I even credited him for the font but he was really happy about it. It’s just a little effort to credit someone and both parties will be happy in the end. And about opinions; I feel everyone’s entitled to mine, whether they like it or not. It frustrates me when people are all over the place contradicting themselves just to agree with everyone without forming their own opinion…

  20. Jordie said:

    “Everyone does it” is a shitty catch-all excuse unintelligent people use when they’re TRYING to cover their ass, but are really sucking at it. Personally, I think copyright law is a very confusing area of law and if someone doesn’t completely understand, that is okay and we should hold back on the accusatory knee-jerk reactions. However, if they then go and blow it by saying things like “LOL EVERYONE DOES IT!!1!!ELEVENTY!” they lose ALL of my sympathy and understanding and I feel no shame in mocking them mercilessly.

  21. Jem said:

    Personally, I think copyright law is a very confusing area of law and if someone doesn’t completely understand, that is okay and we should hold back on the accusatory knee-jerk reactions. Of course – I agree because I don’t for a second believe that there is a single person who has not ever (accidentally or otherwise) fallen foul of copyright law. However, as you said, when people turn around and openly admit to doing it because “everyone” does, at the same time as criticising other people for stealing layouts/etc? Hypocrisy at its finest.

  22. Julie said:

    While I do use some copyrighted images for some of my fanlistings (never for my personal website, though), I agree with you. I was on this message board completely filled with fan art, fan videos, layouts, etc., made using pictures of a certain movie — plus the movie was made by Fox, and we know how Fox stands in front of copyright infringement — but they had this whole thread dedicated to listing the “selfish” thieves that had used artwork posted on the message board and claimed it as theirs. I believe this bugs me even more than the actual copyright infringement. You stole the images you’re using in this artwork. When you screencap a movie, you’re stealing artwork (even if the movie is an awful piece of the s-word). I unfortunately lost the address but I remember this screen capture site that was saying you don’t have to link them when you take the photos they offer because, anyway, they don’t belong to them.

  23. Corinne said:

    Most of the time, I really don’t care if people take what I have (I’ve even given my layout out at times because people want them–for both my blog and some other sites), and I have/am used/using copyrighted images in my fansite, bu I do agree that certain things like being mad that someone is using something that you techically have no right to use is dumb. I’ve actually deleted one of my hostees for stupidity such as this.

  24. Veve said:

    I am on the outskirts of many communities, even in what I consider my most prominate one: the anime/manga graphics community which is so full of wank in regards to copyright. I have, and I still do use images from artbooks on such “fan” sites because like Belinda has pointed out, there’s no way of getting around them. For personal sites, I have long moved past that. In the aforementioned community, a double standard exists, and although it doesn’t make it right, people in the community have accepted a certain kind of integrity under these new “laws”. If you look at it from the outside, we’re all just a bunch of hypocrits. Within that community, we use work from big publishing firms and reason that we are using it for “educational” and personal/nonprofit purposes. We’re also advertising for them. Most of us will give credit to the original artist/publisher even though we’re taking it without permission; however, being that we’re all stealing from the same companies, we establish ourselves to be peers. It follows through that we’re in this together, therefore it’s “wrong” to backstab each other. I like to think we’re somewhat like a mafia gang. We’re a subset of the bigger world with our own rules and regulations. While we may do harm to society, it’s a crime to turn on those within the gang. If you do, we’d carry out justice within our group. If that makes any sense =P

  25. Anna said:

    I agree that people shouldn’t steal pictures, but I can’t stand when photographers FLIP OUT when someone has the photographer’s picture on thier site and didn’t credit. A lot of the time I don’t think people deliberately steal other’s pictures. They just aren’t aware of the laws or forgot to credit or something else along those lines. I’m a photographer myself. And while I do take pictures for enjoyment, I also takes pictures for other people’s enjoyment. If someone puts thier work on the web, then I would think it’s because they want other people to be able to enjoy them too. When you jump down someone’s throat with assumptions that they purposely tried to rip off your photo, it’s taking the enjoyment away from it. I would be a bit “upset” if someone took a picture of mine and used it a way that goes against the rules on my site. But I wouldn’t flip out at them. I’d talk to them nicely.

  26. FuzzMop said:

    You know what’s more annoying than people who steal? People who steal and than claim they didn’t steal it *coughswimchickcough*. But, really. I just never understood this one thing… People will put up their stolen artwork or whatever and slam it down with watermarks and little texts that say “this is mine, no stealing!” or “I made this, leave copyright” and the like. Then you have the people that actually made the stuff that people stole and they have one small © at the bottom of the page, -.-. This whole internet concept is extremely annoying, because it’s been changed a lot. For one… The internet was originally created for sharing things like these, but for RESEARCH reasons ONLY. Therefore, no one was entitled to put up a copyright, because their was no need. Now… We have people *coughswimchickcough* who steal images and take MONEY for the creations they made from someone else’s work. Not really following what the internet was for, was it? Ah well… They only thing we can do to stop is not do it ourselves. Eventually there will a way to, like, put metadata into the image so no one can steal it and change it. If they try to edit the metadata, the image will explode and never ever work again! BWUAHAHAHAHAHAHAH *coughdontthinkimcrazybecauseithinkuptheseweirdthingsthinkimcrazybecauseimcrazy,o.ocough* Poor internet boobs… I wish the people that were un-knowing/followers of rule-breakers actually new what the media rights were or at least not do anything that could possibley break the rules without reading the rules (not very much, eh?). Well, I’ll be off… Had some EGGS, Carb Smart Ice cream, and Chocolate Syrup XD.

  27. rebma said:

    Ok.. So this is strange.. I doubt everyone that sells layouts and such actually draw, or paint out some stupid design that’s completely hard to make. How are most designs made on the internet? For one it starts out with one design SOMEONE ACTUALLY MADE/DREW, then eventually it floats in the internet, so other people use other designs and add it on that that.. to make some different design… Then someone else will come in and do some more tweaks and add other designs in to use it as a background. PLEEASSE I have seen photobucket, and people that sell their layouts. They don’t actually draw the crap! They turn some design into what they call their own. Yeah I think Selling just a basic artwork that someone made is not ok.. but if you fix it into something different, with some different tweaks and color it’s ok. Oh but of course the people that sell those layouts, they completely do all the placement, layering, coding,borders, they just completely design the overall layout used. All that it is, is one design transforming into something bigger and better. I do think that’s ok in my book. Now just stealing someones full made layout and selling it without premission IS WRONG!! But that’s ok for layouts as it “seems” But let’s say if someone designed a poster, They use a basic color, cut, add in differnt designs,layer,do effects,and writing.. then sell it. WHAT? Omg.. it’s a crime, even that’s how most images are made all over the internet.. It’s still a crime!! Please..