Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Frustration, thy name is Google!

I have been trying for 3 weeks now to upload photos to my blog without success.  I have written to Google several times and have neither had a reply nor have they fixed my problem.  This is so frustrating as I have several blog posts that I wish to put up.  If they don't fix it soon people will assume my blog is "dead" and move on!  Disaster!!!!!  I have been contemplating moving my blog to Weebly so that it is with my website, but at the moment I would much prefer for my blog to stay where it is.  Has anyone else out there with a Google Blogger Blog been experiencing this problem?  I have tried everything suggested in "help" to no avail and it is definitely not a problem at my end.

On a more positive note, my new heater has arrived at the store and will be installed Thursday next week.  That will be nearly 10 weeks exiled from my studio and my work!  I'm dying to get back to work.  My sanity is in peril with every day that I cannot make art.

Can you please let me know whether or not you are having problems uploading photos to blogger?  It will help me track down a cause for my problems and hopefully get me back to blogging. Pin It

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Apologies and Good News

First a sincere apology for neglecting my blog.  I have been away in Melbourne for a couple of weeks visiting friends and celebrating my mother's 80th birthday.  It was good to get a complete change of scenery, although I sorely missed these frosty winter mountains and my furry, 4-legged family.  I did some fabulous shopping for all manner of things, including some fabulous textile related stuff and some decorator pieces for my home (no we didn't fly, we took the ferry and the car so the size and weight of bought items was not an issue!).  I'll blog soon about some of the places I visited and my fab purchases.

The good news?  The insurance company (finally!) approved the purchase of my new wood heater for my studio.  There was a lot of toing and froing because they thought the unit I picked was a bit too fancy looking (and expensive) compared to the one that was stolen.  In the end, they had to agree that the expensive new model was the only thing on the market that would be comparable in function and construction to my sadly departed hand made cast iron heater.   It was also one of the few units that was attractive to look at.  You have no idea how many ugly heaters there are out there.  I will not have "ugly" in my studio (or anywhere else, for that matter)!  Hopefully, in about 1 week's time, I should be back in the studio enjoying the warmth and getting on with my new works.

I was going to show you some photos of the cakes I made for my mother's birthday celebration, but blogger will not download any photos for me at the moment (grrrrr!).  Despite having emailed google about my problem about 3 days ago, I have had no reply and my problem has not been fixed).  So, sorry there are no photos and I won't be able to do any more posts until this mess is sorted out. Pin It

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pinterest: The Arguments For Pinning

This is a continuation of my previous post Pinterest and Copyright:  Should you be afraid?

In my last post I wrote about some concerns that have been expressed by various individuals on the web regarding Pinterest’s user terms and the potential for copyright infringement.  Is the concern warranted or is it, as some web authors suggest, mere hysteria?

As I wrote in my previous article, the terms of use for Pinterest are in essence the same as those for other social media sites such as Facebook, Google + and Tumblr.  Potentially anyone using any of these platforms could be subject to a variety of contract breaches just for using the sites as they were intended.  Why aren’t people constantly being sued by such online companies for breach of contract?  Perhaps because suing their own users would make other users close their accounts in droves. thereby destroying their entire business model.

At the level of the individual user, trying to determine what constitutes “fair use” with regard to copyright is difficult and complex.  But let’s look at the Internet as a whole.  There are those who would argue that reposting anyone’s content from anywhere without the express permission of the author or artist, even in the form of copying a direct link or posting with full credit, is a breach of copyright.  The Internet is based on sharing information.  If these standards were applied to all web posts the Internet would be far from a “net”, it would simply consist of millions of isolated websites all relying on individual users stumbling across their content.  If the law were read to the last letter even search engines, the most fundamental tool for web searching, would not be able to function and merely forwarding an email could put you in legal hot water.

As artists, sharing what we do is vital to our ability to thrive.  Community has always been essential for sharing ideas and techniques, for showcasing our work and for generating discussion and constructive criticism.  We are fortunate to live in an era when our community is not limited to those immediately in our geographical area, but encompasses people the world over. 

 I recently participated in a Pinterest webinar hosted by Ariane Goodwin, creator of the  smARTist telesummit and presented by Jess and Sammi of Badass Biz (The webinar was a taste of what they offer in their more in depth online Pinterest training course "Pinterruption".  The webinar opened with some astounding statistics regarding Pinterest.  For instance:
  • Pinterest attracts 11 million unique visitors monthly making it the most visited social media site and the first website ever to receive over 10 million visitors per month
  • Pinterest is the 3rd most popular social media site in the US
  • 1/5 of Facebook users connect with Pinterest daily
  • Shoppers referred by Pinterest are 10% more likely to buy
The advantages for artists are obvious.  With so many visitors the potential for your artwork to reach a broad audience is astounding.  Furthermore that exposure is more likely to turn into sales via Pinterest than any other social networking site.  Sure, many people will just glance at your work for a few seconds and move on, but if even a small percentage go on to look at your website and blog you are going to massively increase your potential for sales.  I, for one, would like a slice of the global art market pie.

Photographer Trey Ratcliffe has written an article on why he thinks photographers should be embracing Pinterest.  He says that as artists we have a choice to let "what-can-be motivate you rather than the more poisonous fear-of-loss".  He offers some astounding statistics:  some of his images on Google + get as many as 5 million views and a whopping 15% of traffic to his own website comes via Pinterest.  Some photographers argue that Ratcliffe is able to do this because he is already an established photographer with thriving sales.  The fact that he is an incredible photographer and travels to the world's most spectacular locations to capture his images is the key to his success, however his generous attitude towards sharing has surely been extremely advantageous.  I, myself, noticed a significant bump in visits to my blog after 2 of my Crop Circle embroideries were posted on Pinterest. 

What about copyright?  Here's my take on it:  I am perfectly happy for anyone to post images of my work on any social media website.   I would prefer that they link back to my own website or blog, or at least to another blog or website that has linked the images back to me.  However, even if links to my own websites get lost in the "repinning" process I am still ok with it.  Anyone who wants to trace the original source of an image can easily do so by using Google Image or Tin Eye.  (I must say that I find Google Image to be better at finding images than Tin Eye).  For those who choose to simply view my images and move on without knowing who the artist is, that's ok.  Some time later they may come across more of my work that is linked or credited and think "I've seen her work before" and that very recognition may spur them to look further into what I do.  Of course there are more serious copyright threats and if I discovered that someone was using my work as "wallpaper" for a website or claiming it as their own (or even implying so) I would be unhappy about it.  In such a case I would contact the infringer and demand that they remove my content from their website.  I would not automatically jump to instigating legal action against them.  Such action would only be taken if they persisted in unlawfully using my material.  If, however, someone was using my images for financial gain, for example by using my images on greeting cards or by selling prints or worse selling them as embroidery kits (shudder!) I would definitely get litigious.  While all are technically copyright infringements I think there is something of a sliding scale of heinousness.  I am all for people innocently sharing images of my work.  It actually pleases me that they like my work enough to want to share it with others.  I am also happy that Pinterest allows them to view my images in full resolution as I know they are seeing the work in a quality image that shows it to its full advantage.  This is also the reason that I do not watermark my images.  I find watermarks annoying and distracting and I always feel a little cheated when I can't view an image that I like without this blight.

Of course, if you don't want your images pinned Pinterest has provided a "no pin" meta tag.  If you do not know html code this is not a problem.  There are many sites that show you how to add the tag to your website.  This article, for example, gives easy step-by-step instructions on how to include the tag on your Blogger site.  You can also prevent people sharing your images by putting a statement near the top of your blog page stating that you do not wish your images to be reproduced or linked or whatever (Arlee Barr's blog has a great example of how to do this).  I would venture that almost all people are respectful enough to comply.

If, like me, you are happy to have your work pinned, let your readership know about it so that they can "pin without fear".  On the Behance Network more artists than not display the "pin it" button and I love that I can pin their work with a light heart.  It is easy to add a "pin it" or "follow me on Pinterest" tag to your website.  There are lots of online resources that will give you instructions for adding these to whatever platform(s) you are using.  

The unofficial Pinterest code of conduct states that Pinterest is not to be used for self promotion.  So, what is the point of having your own Pinterest page?  For me it is a place where people who like my art can go and see what inspires me.  Every day I trawl the internet looking at gorgeous artworks, design and photography.  I love that I can share them and that I can go back to my Pinterest boards to look at those images again and again.  While I see lots of lovely things on the web, I only pin those images that (to me) have the "wow" factor.  I also like to think that I am helping to promote the work of artists that I admire.  In the spirit of Pinterest I do not pin images of my own work, however, I have included the URLs of my website, blog and Facebook page in my personal description so that people who like what I pin can see what I do.

Whether you choose to start your own Pinterest boards or allow or disallow your work to be posted there, I would urge everyone to thoroughly research the issue.  Read as many authoritative articles on the pros and cons and make your decision based on your own research.  I worry that too many artists have read alarmist or misleading articles or heard second hand of the dangers and have jumped off the band wagon without really doing their own investigations and, as such, may be missing a wonderful opportunity.

 I believe the benefits of Pinterest are immense both in terms of personal inspiration and in the promotion of my own artwork.   I firmly believe there will be a time when serious art collectors will use Pinterest as a visual supermarket, scouring Art Boards to search out new talent.  Could there be an easier way to sell your work?

What do you think?  Will you be pinning and allowing your work to be pinned?  I'm looking forward to a lively debate!

***I wish to stress that the opinions expressed in this article (except where referenced to the work of others) are entirely my own and are just that, opinions.***

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pinterest and Copyright: Should you be afraid?

I'm not normally one for wordy blog entries, but the issue regarding the use of Pinterest is one that I think is important for all artists to explore.

There has been a lot of talk around the internet regarding Pinterest and artist copyright.  Many artists are choosing to block their images from being pinned, seeing it as a direct assault on their copyright, or worse as being a gateway to their images being used for the commercial or personal benefit of others.  Why has Pinterest raised these concerns where other forms of social media seem to fly under the radar?

The concern started when Kirsten Kowalski posted this article back in February in which, as a lawyer, she explores the legality of using Pinterest.  (Incidentally, Kowalski does not state what branch of law she practices and does not state that she is a specialist in contract or copyright law).  She uncovered much of concern in the Pinterest Terms and Conditions (you know, the fine print that just about no one reads). The essence of her findings were:
  • Pinterest passes on the liability of copyright infringement onto the pinner.  Basically by agreeing to the Terms of Use you are entering a contract into which you avow that you have all rights to the images that you have posted or, at least, the permission of the creator and/or owner of the image.  This means that if someone decides to sue for copyright infringement you will have to pay for your own defence and will have to cough up any compensation awarded by the court.  The kicker is that you have also agreed to pay for Pinterest's defence if a lawsuit is also brought against the service provider.
Terms such as these would make anyone baulk if they were actually likely to be acted upon.  It is important to note that other user generated sites have similar (virtually identical)user terms and conditions, including You Tube, Facebook and Tumblr, Twitpic and Google +.  These types of contracts are standard fare for lawyers whose job it is to “protect” their clients.

Kirsten Kowalski has raised the issue of direct copyright infringement when using Pinterest stating:
  • Pinning images may not fall into the category of fair use because they are not low -resolution thumbnails, but rather the same full resolution image as the original.
Many have pointed out that this presents a conundrum as Pinterest  discourages the use of its site for personal promotion (via your own images) and therefore it is hard to fathom how you could use the site without using other people's images.

N A Sims has written a wonderful article regarding the legalities of Pinterest and other social media sites that includes a more thorough examination of the subject of fair use.  She provides links for articles that explore this topic in more depth. 

Others were concerned by this clause:

“You hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site…”  (this content gleaned from here).

Kirsten Kowalski raises some ethical issues and comes to the conclusion that pinning other people's images without first seeking their express consent is "morally, ethically and professionally wrong".  This falls into the arena of personal opinion and I will address it in my next post.

It is worth noting that since Kirsten's article was first published Pinterest sought her input into the reworking of the site's Terms and Conditions.  Since that time the word "sell" has been deleted, although Pinterest claims it never had any intention of selling anyone's content.  In this article from the Washington Post Pinterest states:   

“Pinterest is a platform for people to share their interests through collections of images, videos, commentary and links they can share with friends. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides safe harbors for exactly this type of platform. We are committed to efficiently responding to alleged copyright infringements."  (You can read the complete statement here).

They make it sound so benign, but is this just corporate sleight of hand, or is the danger of using Pinterest being overstated.  For all the alarmist articles out there there are an equal number of articles espousing the advantages of Pinterest.  In my next blog post I will reveal some of the pro-Pinterest arguments and where I stand on the subject.

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