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Rethinking image use

While going out and doing the snark thing, I want to be a good Internet Citizen. I want to use the artwork of others appropriately, without stealing their bandwidth or detracting from their rights as copyright holders, as artists, and (in some cases) as entrepreneurs.

At the same time, Websnark is both critical and satirical, making commentary on specific bits and pieces of internet culture. All perfectly protected under Fair Use.

It's a balancing act, and I think I'm going to shift things slightly, just to err on the side of not being a bastard. Not being a Bastard’Ѣ. It gets you chicks.

So, instead of having the "click on the thumbnail for full sized goodness" open up a local instance of the artwork, where possible I'll have the "full sized goodness" actually open up the relevant web page on the person's site. So, if you want to see the full sized goodness, you actually have to see it on their site, in context of their design, advertising and so forth. I'll continue to use the thumbnails, as I think they're both useful and pleasant, but they're downsampled significantly at best, and often won't let someone see the point to any great degree.

Understand, I think copyright wise I was in the clear with the other method, but the letter of the law isn't the point, sometimes. Even if I'm snarking negatively about someone's site, the idea is for you the readers to check out what they have on that site. If I don't want you going to their site at all (in my autocratic way) I'll neither use a thumbnail nor provide a link.

So, while this does mean it'll push bandwidth up on their sites a scosh, it'll be within the context of the specific pages. And if there's subscriptions required to read someone's archives, it means you'll need to spend money. Life Can Be Like That.

Here's an entry I specifically ask for comments on. I want to do what's right by folks, here.


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Can I suggest a middle road?

If the comic can be viewed freely by people, link to it (in particular, the archive page of it). If it can't—such as in a pay archive—use the full-size image. It's a fair use, after all, and it's hard to judge how valid a criticism is if you can't see the object of the criticism.

If it's a pay comic that's available free for the first X days and then you have to pay to access it, that's a bit of a thornier question. Since linking to the archive page will let the first month's worth of people view it, but if someone wants to browse your archives two months from now he won't be able to see it.

I'd say go ahead and host the image in those cases, too—it is a fair use, after all.

That's my opinion.

The problem with doing that, particularly for the pay comics, is that... well, they're pay comics. Typically the day I do a snark the comic in question will be on the free page. However, even if legally I can put a paid comic's image on my site, the simple fact is I'm giving away something the owner has said, in effect, you have to pay for. I don't think that's being a good citizen.

Maybe on the paid comics and expiring comics, I should make sure the thumbnail is legible enough to make the point, but still small enough to be clearly inferior to the original (which is how thumbnails are considered fair use, by court precedence, particularly for image search engines).

It's a sticky subject. I hope some of the creators who're reading chime in.

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