News and thoughts from CS Odessa, maker of the ConceptDraw product line: ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw PROJECT and ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Small Solution to a Big Problem: "Borrowing" images.

I ran across something yesterday that I thought was pretty impressive in a small but meaningful way. I was in the process of writing an article and needed an image. I googled my search term (I was looking for an image of a hand-drawn mind map) and found one that I thought would work. The image was accompanied by the usual warning that "Images may be subject to copyright." So I clicked on the image to see who owned it.

The image was the property of Jane Genovese, who runs the blog Live the Solution. Genovese was named the Young Environmentalist of the Year at the 2009 Western Australian Youth Awards. She says her blog aims to help people:

  • explore alternatives to materialism and consumerism.
  • educate and empower people to take action and combat global warming.
  • understand global warming through the use of mind maps.
  • and provide freedom from mental traps and negative conversations that inhibit people from making a difference.

Pretty inspiring stuff.

But what really impressed me was a comment on the side of the page where I found the image I wanted. It said simply: "Please donate if you wish to use any of our mind maps," and was accompanied by a PayPal link.

As a writer who understands the importance of adding visuals to blog posts, I thnk this is a brilliant solution to a common problem. There are so many images available on the internet. Some are free, others are not. They are the ones to which copyright laws may apply.

The problem is that as a freelance writer working alone, I have a hard time figuring out who owns an image and how to go about getting (or paying for) permission to use it. Jane's simple solution really worked for me--and for her.

I think it's particularly brilliant because:

  1. It makes it clear that the image has value.
  2. It makes it easy for the "borrower" to compensate the creator of the image.
  3. And by simplifying access to the image, it puts the ball in the borrower's court: You know creator or owner of the image thinks it has value. They've made it easy for you to pay. So... are you going to pay? Or are you going to just use the image "without telling anyone."

The internet can be an unruly, uncivilized place at times. A place where people are tempted to think they can get away with things--including using images without compensating the owner or creator.

Jane's small gesture, minute in comparison to the work she's doing on the environmental front, helps brings a sense of civility and responsibility to the web. It's gentle, respectful, and puts the burden on the conscience of the user. Not a bad model for all of us to live by.

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