Image: Sharing music. Roman style by Ed Yourdon, generously made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY NC-SA 2.0) licence. Source: Flickr.


This post is the third in a series called Sharing FM.

If you’ve read the previous post in this series, you’ll know that I think there’s a problem concerning the business of using someone else’s content (a photograph, for example) in your FM blog.

Specifically, the problem is that you might, accidentally or otherwise, be infringing their copyright.

Not every blogger realises this. And of those who do, not everyone cares.

‘So what?’ they might say. ‘What are the chances of anyone finding out? And, even if they do, what they are they going to do about it? It’s not as if I’m making any money out of my blog.

‘And, in any case, isn’t it good to share?’

There are various responses to these points. Some of them I won’t try to give, because they require legal advice – which, please note, I’m not qualified to give,

But here’s what I can and do say.


Who shares what

First, yes: it can be good to share. But that rather depends on the conditions of that sharing. For example, if I offered to share the contents of my bank account with you, you might well decide that you’re in favour of sharing.

But if I found some way of sharing the contents of your bank account with someone else, without your permission, you might decide that you’re not so keen on sharing after all.

So I suggest it’s a case of ‘Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.’


Copyright is a people thing

Second, the above questions (‘What are the chances of anyone finding out? And, even if they do, what they are they going to do about it?’) frame the matter purely in terms of the law and financial risk.

Copyright does involve such matters, but those they aren’t the be-all and end-all. Copyright also involves relationships between human beings.

Think of it this way. Someone creates something. A photograph, let’s say. They go to the trouble of publishing online and, let’s say, they make it freely available to view. And let’s say too that you like the photo.

Seems to me there are several ways of responding appropriately. You could enjoy the photo. Admire it, even. You could bookmark or store it. You could, if you have the necessary information, even write to the creator and tell them you like it. And, if you wish to use it on your blog, you could ask for permission to do so.

To my mind, thinking ‘Right, I’ll trample all over their rights’ doesn’t quite belong in the same category of response.



So I think the best reason for respecting copyright is simply that it’s good to play fair with people and treat them decently.

But there remain those questions of risk (‘What are the chances of anyone finding out? And, even if they do, what they are they going to do about it?’).

Well, it’s clear there’s a huge amount of copyright infringement going on. And most of it seems to pass by without notice or penalty (as opposed to, say, when modders infringe trademarks or design rights). I can understand, therefore, why most bloggers work on the assumption that the risks are low.

How you assess the risk is up to you and I wouldn’t presume to offer advice on that score. All I’ll say is, that isn’t how I see things.

For a start, I know from professional experience, where I’ve approached photographers to buy images, that many creators use software to crawl the web in order to locate uses of their images. Pursuing unauthorised users, often with the assistance of ‘no-win, no-pay’ attorneys, can form a major part of their revenue model.

And in his writings and presentations, Lawrence Lessig (a Professor of Law at Harvard) has given examples of hobbyists and other amateurs being pursued by corporate lawyers, sometimes for inadvertent infringements such as having copyrighted music just playing in the background of a YouTube video.[1] Intellectual property law exists in a sometimes very aggressive environment.

So my own stance is, don’t do it. After all, what’s the need? Earlier today I was searching Flickr for images to use on this site. I found four images that would have been ideal, but in each case the copyright notice read ‘All rights reserved’ so I moved on. I found other images.


From darkness to light

Wouldn’t it be good if there was some way out of this? After all, there must be legions of photographers and other creators who would be entirely happy for you to use their stuff. Often they publish their images online precisely because they want them to be seen.

If only there was some way for such creators to signal their permission and for you to use their work unproblematically.

Well, there is such a way. ‘Bring it on!’ I hear you say. I will! In the next post in the series.


[1] See Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture (Penguin, 2004). The text is available here


Published under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence. If you don’t know what that means or why it matters, don’t worry: subsequent posts will explain what this ‘CC’ stuff is about.

Title:             FM content: isn’t it good to share?

Attribution:   Du Malone

Source:        Black Sea FM (


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