Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I've Changed My Mind

To copyright (watermark) an ancestor photo or not…that is the question.


Cynthia Maria Waterman Webster
Cynthia Maria Waterman Webster

Yesterday morning while I was making breakfast, I had a thought.  What if, many, many years from now, a future descendant of mine comes across my blog and wants to download the many ancestor photos I've shared here.  Would that descendant be frustrated and disappointed that there was a copyright across the bottom of that treasured photo?  Putting myself in their place, I'm sure I would be disappointed.  Yes, I'd be thrilled to see the face of an ancestor, but at the same time, I would be annoyed about that copyright statement.

So, I've changed my mind about adding a copyright statement to my ancestors' photos that I share on my blog.  This is a difficult decision because at the same time, I don't want unscrupulous people or companies coming along and stealing the precious photos of my ancestors and displaying them somewhere without my permission.  But, in the spirit of collaboration and because of my desire to share these ancestor photos with my future descendants, and any present family members for that matter, I've decided to do away with placing a copyright statement on my ancestor photos.  I will, however, be embedding metadata within these photos.



Cynthia Maria Waterman Webster
Cynthia Maria Waterman Webster

Does this decision mean I'm done with copyright statements all together?  No.  I will likely still use them for any photographs I create and then subsequently use on my blog or on any other photos I think need a copyright statement.  So, my previous post about how to watermark a photo using Windows Live Writer is still useful and relevant.

During the webinar,
Metadata is Your Friend, with Denise Barrett Olson and Thomas MacEntee, dated February 13, 2013, Thomas said the following regarding the photos of his ancestors,
"I don’t own these images, I’m a steward for these images. I’m a caretaker for these images."
That really struck me and caused me to think about this issue.  But I hadn't actually changed my mind about this until yesterday, after I thought about the possibility of my future descendants discovering my blog and then wanting to download our shared ancestors' photos.

This is a personal decision that every blogger must make for themselves.  But, for me, I think I've made the right decision about this issue.  After all, I'm only the keeper of my ancestors' photos, not the owner.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading.



© 2013 Copyright by Jana last

33 comments:

  1. Great post. Yes, I agree with you and I do not copyright any of the family photos I post on my blog or family history website. Through my blog, I have already come into contact with more distant cousins and I want them to be able to download photos easily without having to contact me first (who has time for that?). We share the same ancestors and, after all, they have as much of a right to the photos as I do - it's probably just blind luck that they ended up on my side of the family and I hope, if THEY were to ever come into possession of old photos of our family members, that they would just as readily make them available to me. I understand it is a sensitive topic to many people and, you are right, people have to do what feels right to them. I LOVE that quote from the webinar - that needs to go into my Evernote!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,

      How exciting for you that you've had distant cousins contact you because of your blog. Congrats!

      And yes, Thomas MacEntee's quote is wonderful.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comments.

      Delete
  2. Jana, I also really like the point that Thomas made. We are stewards. Is there a way to lock metadata?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Heather,

      I had the same question about locking metadata and actually asked Thomas MacEntee in an email back in February. He told me that there was no absolute way to bind metadata and not have it stripped out.

      Sigh...oh well. But, I'll probably still add metadata to my photos anyway.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  3. I agree, Jana. And Thomas' statement is a gem. We are passing these treasures along to another generation. They are not ours and ours, alone.

    I've tended to go with the metadata approach, myself. I know the threat you mentioned is real--that there are unscrupulous people out there--but I can't build a life of temerity and fear just because of others' problems. I want to operate from a paradigm of giving, not grasping.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi Jacqi,

      Yes! I like what you said about not living a life of fear because of other's problems, and instead living a life of giving, not grasping. That's a gem of a statement too Jacqi. Well said!

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Delete
  4. You should not need to put the copyright on the photo I presume you own the photo in which case you own the copyright. Problem occurs if someone else uses the photo for financial gain then you can claim your copyright and charge them for the use.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bill,

      After writing this post, I had a conversation over on Google+ about copyrighting ancestor photos. And it turns out that photos taken before 1923 could possibly be in the public domain now, which could mean there is no copyright on them anymore.

      I read an interesting article about copyright and genealogy. Here's the link ~ http://freepages.computers.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pasher/copyrtfaq.htm

      Copyright is a confusing issue, to say the least.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Delete
  5. I've not only put the copyright on my photos recently, I've done whatever I can to put it in a place where it can't just be cropped out. I probably need to think about the fact that I am the steward and not the owner. Thanks for the post and for prompting me to think about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Debi,

      This really is a difficult issue, for sure. And one which each genealogy blogger must decide for themselves.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your comments!

      Delete
  6. I feel like a complete lone wolf with my family. Generally speaking, there aren't many who share my relatives. So I want to share their photos so they'll be remembered. Thanks for sharing your decision making process. I can see how difficult it was to make.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Devon,

      I like how you put it - you want to share your ancestors' photos so they will be remembered.

      Thank you so very much for stopping by!

      Delete
  7. I share mine freely, as I did not take the photo. Some of the photos I share were copies of the originals that were given to my family. Someone, somewhere at some time may be looking for these photos, and I want them to be able to enjoy them as I have.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Beverly,

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. And yes, if someone, somewhere, finds the photos of our common ancestors on my blog, I want them to be able to enjoy them too. I know I'd be thrilled to find a photo of an ancestor that I hadn't seen before.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  8. You raise a topic on the minds of many family historians, Jana. Like you and the others above, I agree that we are stewards of these photographs. We have a duty to share them responsibly, understanding the inherent risks and taking care to minimize them by taking pre-emptive steps such as attaching metadata and performing occasional Internet searches for content "pirates" and taking them to task. I believe Google has a photo search engine in the works that could help with this, but I do not know what the status is currently. That might make it easier for us to track these in the future.

    It might also be good for bloggers to include some statement to the following effect, showing the source of the material: "You are free to share the content contained here for your own personal use, but I ask that you attribute it to me and this blog and that you notify me of same." I haven't done this on my blog, but maybe I should. Do you or others have thoughts on this? I know that when I use a Creative Commons photo on my blog, I always attribute it, but I also post a comment to the owner of the photo, thanking them for it and letting them know I used it on my blog (with a link back so they can see it).

    Thankfully, family history blogs make it easier for people to share their family photographs with a wider range of people in a long-lasting medium, thereby lessening the chance that they could become "orphan" photos after their owners are gone, ending up in antique stores and flea markets.

    Sorry for lengthy comment, but you really got me thinking. Thanks for the great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Linda,

      No need to say sorry for the lengthy comment. It was great! And I love the points and ideas your brought up.

      I like the idea of occasionally doing an internet search for our photos to see if they've ended up on somewhere you don't want them. And what a great idea to contact the owner of a Creative Commons photo you use on your blog! Also, you have a great point about how our ancestor photos have a lesser chance of being "orphan" photos because of their use on our family history blogs.

      Thank you for your excellent comments!

      Delete
  9. Excellent point and good discussion. Now I'm thinking too.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi Wendy,

      Thank you! It is an issue worth thinking about. And it's totally a personal decision we each must make for ourselves.

      With my decision, I hope I don't start seeing my ancestor photos used on websites without my permission.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Delete
  10. I've always had the belief that our ancestors remain alive as long as they are remembered. The more descendants that find and collect their wonderful pictures the better for I want them and their history cherished forever.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi Kathryn,

      Oh, how I love your comments! I too want my ancestors remembered and their history cherished forever.

      Thank you so very much for stopping by and for your eloquent comments.

      Delete
  11. Jana, there is a lot to consider here. I am happy to share photos with my family, whether I have taken them myself or I have inherited them. How do we safeguard them from people who'd like to profit, in some way, from their use? I don't know. Drawing the line is not always a straight line. Thanks for sharing your ideas on this.
    May I ask: what is metadata & how does that work? Colleen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Colleen,

      Yes, I share your concern. For instance, I wouldn't want one of my dad's photos used without my permission on some commercial site. Like you said, drawing the line is not always going to a straight line. This is a sensitive and difficult issue.

      As far as metadata is concerned, I'm certainly no expert. I would instead point you to the webinar, "Metadata Is Your Friend," that I referred to in my blog post. It was excellent. If you'd like to view the webinar, just click the link in my blog post.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your wonderful comments!

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Jana. I watched that. Metadata is a new term to me but I have been labeling my photos for ages. Thanks again.

      Delete
  12. Interesting discussion!

    I come down on the side of watermarking my images (and adding metadata too), because it is all too common for people to rip off images they find on the internet. Then they may get used for profit-making purposes, or worse--uploaded to someone's family tree. I take issue with that because whenever you upload content to one of the family tree sites, you grant that commercial for-profit corporation a perpetual license to use and distribute it. Which basically means, they are selling it.

    For those items that have real lasting value, I will donate to a historical society in my will.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,

      I have a public tree on Ancestry.com and have noticed that other researchers have copied some of the ancestor photos I've uploaded to their own Ancestry.com trees. And while it would have been nice if they had contacted me first (hey, maybe we're related right?), when it comes down to it, it's okay with me that they did so. They may have been excited to see that ancestor's photo, which is cool.

      But, yes, this issue is a difficult one, and one that every genealogist needs to decide for themselves in the way that feels comfortable for them.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  13. If you are concerned about use of your photos by for-profit corporations, but you don't want to mar the image, you can add metadata in two ways. Normal metadata can be stripped out, but steganography adds data invisibly. I would add both so that the photos can be positively identified even if the standard data is removed. There are software packages available that will do this. QuickStego, Steghide, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Brian,

      Thanks for the tip about steganography! I've have to check it out.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  14. Hi Jana,
    I've not learned to watermark my photos, but keep thinking I should learn. Now you have me thinking again. I don't have a problem with people who may be related downloading old family photos - or, as you say, future descendants - although I wouldn't want them used commercially. I have some of my own photos up and some of them I am still considering going back to watermark. I'll have to watch the metadata info you linked - I'm such a novice concerning all of this blogging business!
    I had a weird thing happen a couple of weeks ago. I don't have that many visitors to my blog. My biggest days are when I post something that fits a meme - a Sepia Saturday post is usually my biggest visitor day. But I had one day where the visits to my blog were about 4 xs more than what I would expect on a SS day - and I hadn't posted anything new in almost a week. Made me wonder what was going on. Maybe I should do a search and see if some of my stuff was pirated.
    Thanks for sharing your decision-making process!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kathy,

      Thanks! I wonder if you had a lot of spam that day? Thankfully, my spam folder catches most of it for me. But it would be a good idea to do a search for your photos too I suppose.

      I do like the idea of watermarking a photo you create. I will probably do the same.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  15. That's an excellent point you make, and Thomas also. I don't own those images, but always under them I put "property of" so that no one will "steal" them. Now I'm going to click your link and learn about metadata!! Thank you for this thought today!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mariann,

      Thank you! Metadata is pretty helpful. I hope you enjoy the webinar about it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  16. Jana, I read this several days ago, and it's had me rethinking ever since. I only started watermarking back in November, I think, and only then because a digital photography site got me all paranoid about people selling other people's photos on stock photography sites. But I was thinking I was simply copyrighting that single, scaled-down for the web, digital file - not the original photograph itself. And, to make that clear, I tried to remember to throw in a note at the end of posts to let people know I was more than willing to share the original scanned images if anyone wanted them. But that only works as long as I'm here to request them from, huh? I've gotta start thinking further ahead.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi Natalie,

      Well, should I say "sorry" or "you're welcome" for you rethinking this issue? I know it's a lot of work to "fix" the photos in your blog. I still need to do this. (sigh)

      But, these old pre-1923 photos could already be in the public domain, I suppose I shouldn't be watermarking/copyrighting them anyway.

      I recently read an interesting article about copyright and genealogy. Here's the link ~ http://freepages.computers.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pasher/copyrtfaq.htm

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Delete

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