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In your face — Blogging, photos, and copyrights

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Benefiting from avoiding trouble

As a matter of policy, I use stock photos for my blog, applying mostly photos that are in the public domain, have no copyright constraints, or are clear fair use. Frequently that leads me to use photos that are archived with governments and/or are quite old.

5th Berks D DayFor me this actually works out fine as I have a strong interest in radical and transformative history, primarily the history that evolves around warfare, originating from my belief that warfare, as an extension of politics and policy, in general, and life and death decisions, in particular, have a unique and powerful way of bringing things into focus and tend to prompt revolution, and — importantly — that significant business, trading, and investment lessons can be drawn from such history.

Violating someone’s copyright is an offense, punishable with an economic fine which is largely determined by the persons or organizations who hold the copyright, and, so, once you have been put on notice for violating the copyright, there are very few limits to your exposure. In essence, the amount that you have to pay becomes a function of how much of a fight you put up, how much the copyright holder perceive you are worth, and how much “damage” the copyright holder can claim.

Ms. Roni Loren, a blogger and published romance novel writer, learned this lesson the hard way when she ran afoul of a copyright holder for a picture that she had downloaded and used on her Roni Loren blog. As she described it on one of her blog postings (here):

… on one random post, I grabbed one random picture off of google and then a few weeks later I got contacted by the photographer who owned that photo. He sent me a takedown notice, which I responded to immediately because I felt awful that I had unknowingly used a copyrighted pic. The pic was down within minutes. But that wasn’t going to cut it. He wanted compensation for the pic. A significant chunk of money that I couldn’t afford. I’m not going to go into the details but know that it was a lot of stress, lawyers had to get involved, and I had to pay money that I didn’t have for a use of a photo I didn’t need.

Sure sounds nasty — much like being held over the barrel of a gun. Although, I am pretty sure that the fact hat Ms. Loren is a published writer made the penalty doled out somewhat harsher than it would been for an amateur blogger, clearly this can be an expensive experience.

Mr. Loren appears to have been surprised by this, and being a good blogger she shares her experience and lists all the things that DO NOT MATTER once you are caught in her blog posting. As she says, it does not matter:

if you link back to the source and list the photographer’s name
if the picture is not full-sized (only thumbnail size is okay)
if you did it innocently
if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
if you didn’t claim the photo was yours
if you’ve added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
if the picture is embedded and not saved on your server
if you have a disclaimer on your site.
if you immediately take down a pic if someone sends you a DMCA notice (you do have to take it down, but it doesn’t absolve you.)

So, clearly, the only way to stay out of trouble is to not get into trouble in the first place.

For me that works fine, and sometimes the choice of non-copyrighted materials even gives me more things to write about.

The above picture, for instance, was used in one of my recent posting (here) where I discussed the fact that I had been right about the speculative nature of trading in an equity.

The picture depicts the D-day mopping up operations on the beaches by the 5th Battalion of the British Royal Berkshire Regiment at Bernieres-Sur-Mer in France. The photo is amazing, showing at least four levels of emotions and actions: The happy Canadian soldier and British MP posing for the picture; the confused, scared, and resigned German prisoners — probably of the German 716th Infantry Division; the corps men from the 5th Battalion tending to an evacuating the wounded; and, finally, behind the soldiers, a stronghold bunker — looming over the scene, illustrating clearly what constituted the real challenge for the assaulting forces during D-day.

The parallels between this picture and my posting are obvious: The bitter-sweet victory, the confused losers, the casualties, and the monolithic nature of trading and investments.

Digressing through pictures

The number of stories that can spring out of a picture such as the one above is almost endless. For instance, the picture offers the opportunity to explain how the 5th Battalion was not an assault force, but, rather a beach security force, tasked with mopping up, providing security on the beaches, and ensure the flow of supplies, which, in turn, can lead to an entire posting on how, in the British armed forces, mobilization was centered around core assault battalions, and how, for instance, the two core assault battalions of the Royal Berkshire Regiment and their core reserve battalion spawned numerous support and assault battalions during World War I and World War II, but remained the true spearhead of the regiment.

Which, in turn, leads to an explanation of how the regiment’s core battalions were split across the globe during World War II, and yet continued to be treated as one unit, or how the regiment fared during World War I when it was engaged in some of the most grueling fighting that the world has ever seen — something that is meticulously recorded in the regiments detailed daily combat diary, which is a treasure trove of information about what combat really looks like and how units cope with sustained combat.

Or you can focus on the German defenders and their performance on D-day, noting that the 716th Infantry Division was raised on May 2nd, 1941, and was under-strength and ill equipped and trained to resist the Canadian assault on D-day, June 6th, 1944, consisting of a mixture of elderly Germans and conscripts from other German occupied countries, including Russians, and equipped with mostly captured, non-standard equipment.

The result of the action, the near complete destruction of the 716th, caused the commanding officer, Generalleutnant Wilhelm Richter, to, in remarkably resigned language, note that:

My division had been defeated and badly beaten up in Normandy.

In fact, of the division’s 7,771 officers and men, had by June 9th been reduced to a battlegroup of 292 officers and men.

The division was removed from front-line duty on July 10th, 1944, and was redeployed to the south of France from where it was withdrawn in August. In its next major engagement, near Alsace in January of 1945, the division was again nearly wiped out, and after having been reconstituted as the 716th Volksgrenadier Division, in April 1945 it finally surrendered to American units at Kempten in May of 1945.

All of this, of course, can be directly related to business, investment, and trading, providing exceptionally valuable lessons.

If you want to read more about the assault on Bernieres-Sur-Mer, you can read an article by Brigadier Gordon Blight, here.

The downside to respecting copyright

So, I respect copyrights, including copyrights for picture….

Sometimes, however, I feel sorry because it robs me of an excellent opportunity (a photo opportunity, in fact,) such as the opportunity to share a remarkable picture posted recently by the Japan Times’ online edition in an article about the former British energy minister Chris Huhne, who, when he left his wife for another woman, learned the meaning of the adage that Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.

The story of Mr. Huhne and his ex-wife is interesting (you can find it here,) but the real nugget is the article’s picture of Chris Huhne bumping into a into a photographers’ lens as he arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London. The photo, showing Mr. Huhne’s nose literally being bent out of whack by the photographer’s lens qualifies fully for an award of some sort — perhaps as the In Your Face picture of the year.

By the way, part of the challenge of copyrights is to know who actually holds the copyright. From the Japan Times article, for instance, it is not obvious to me whether Japan Times or some third party holds the copyright for the magnificent picture, and, so, should I wish to republish the picture, I would be challenged to find the person or entity to seek permission from.

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