Seeing is stealing

photo by me – go ahead and take it!

A colleague asked me to find out about a photograph she found on the internet. It was a photo of the word “teach” spelled out in blocks, with a wooden heart pendant inserted into the word. (Think “teaching with heart.”) She liked the photo and wanted to know if she could use it.

I did an image search for the photo (Google’s image search was more useful than TinEye in this case) and found a number of sites that were using the image. Most of them had it unattributed, but one cited the photographer and the source of the image.

The photograph is on Flickr: it’s a photograph by Susana (susivinh), who has a large collection of excellent photographs. The “teach” photograph is licensed by Getty Images – you can use it, but you have to pay for it.

I wrote to Susana – she was very happy to answer my questions about the photo. She can’t override the Getty license, but she’s made a lot of her other photos available with a CC-BY-ND license. (Do check them out – they’re beautiful.) She’s a little disappointed that people are using her work without permission and without license. (She told me that nobody has paid to license that image.)

The funny sad thing is that Susana’s photo is used by a number of teachers as part of their blog/portfolio …and they’re violating the photo’s licensing terms. They’ve stolen it.

Teachers: we have to set an example for our students. Every school has an “Academic Honesty” policy …it needs to apply to teachers as well as students. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our students to do the right thing. There are plenty of sources of freely licensed material (I’ve written about some before) – teachers should seek those out and use them.

Any beautiful photograph you find on the web was created by a human being. Even if she is not a professional photographer, she bought her camera and lenses, and she has spent time in thinking up and composing the photograph. If you want to use it, you owe it to her to at least get her permission if not pay her for her time and creativity.

(The photo on this post was taken by me. Go ahead and steal it. You have my permission.)


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