Eggshells Online

Dear Internetz:

So I've been debating jumping on the bandwagon and starting a Pinterest or Tumblr account, not only because all the cool kids are doing it (and I love a ton of the pages out there!) but because I imagined that I could create a "visual playlist" to help me organize my thoughts into a sort of montage of imagery that would feel like the world I'm trying to create and share it with everybody. Since I'm not a music maven like many writers who can type along with aural stimulation, I thought this would be perfect: I'm a visual arts gal myself and this speaks to me! There are lots of pretty pictures and people who capture what I'm trying to do perfectly and to see it all together would be like dropping into a vatload of awesome. It's new tech and sort of scary to add one more thing to my plate, but wouldn't it just be ~*shiny*~?

Well, yes, it *would* be shiny...but then I read this, which is something I already knew, but it really hit home because this was a blogger and an author like me. Roni Loren got sued for using photos on her blog, something we're all encouraged by the industry to do, to show off our favorite thoughts/ideas/eye candy/cat pictures of cats that aren't ours/etc. with the universe at large and build our platform/audience/database of followers in order to justify that we're really out there because people who know us are statistically more likely to buy our books. Blog posts get more hits with photos and video, we're told. But few of these images are "common use" and even though I (like many) am careful to mention where we got these images and thank them for it in the subtext, even provide links back to where the images came from, it's still making no money for the artist whose permission was never granted.

Now I'm not going to use the excuse that "everybody's doing it." As an author (as opposed to a disgustingly Lawful Good person who wouldn't run a red light in the middle of an empty desert), I don't like it when people pirate my (or, more likely, Big Name Friends') work and am quick to say that this takes away from the earnings I work hard for in order to feed my family, too. Of course, as an artist, I also know the power of WoM (that's Word of Mouth, but it sounds like some deity from Ghostbusters, doesn't it?) and using a cover image on a book or a snapshot of a model showing off couture or a bit of comic with a link is hopefully helpful in encouraging someone else to read the book/buy the clothes/become a fan and pass the word along, but I can't guarantee that this will happen. Just because I go all agog for M.T. Anderson or Myco Anna or Faith Erin Hicks doesn't mean that sharing pictures of their work online will translate into sales (or fangirlish glee), but I hope it does because I *love* their stuff and hope that you will, too, the way that good friends hope each other like the movies/books/restaurants that they recommend one another...but this doesn't mean I'd steal an appetizer from Simon Pearce and smuggle it over to you so you could take a taste and see if you like their food enough to go out to dinner there yourself.

Take, for example, my userpic. I found it for use and credited the creator. But while I own the box set of Firefly episodes, I didn't credit Jewel Staite for her portrayal of Kayleigh or Tim Minear for his help in writing the character or Joss Whedon for creating the world itself. Of course, many of these people want their art to be shared and passed along and do not expect compensation at some level derivative of their original work (made over 10 years ago now...gah!), but at what point do we say that? Aren't there trusts from families who are still benefiting from original works made by their spouses/grandparents/great-grandparents years ago? Where is the line? When is it crossed?

There are common use licenses and art made for just such a purpose--book covers and movie posters are designed for the express purpose to be shared and recognized to build "buzz" for the product--but that is different than sharing the product itself; when artists share their cleverness, their talents, or their designs online, how do we share it without giving it away? After reading the threads generated by Roni Loren's article, I saw so many artists angry at how users of Facebook, Tumblr & Pinterest steal their work with no permission and no compensation and they felt so helpless and I knew how they felt. So despite wanting to blog pretty eye-candy and squee over art, I find I'm more than a little reluctant to do it. I know that this leaves me well in the dust of the "hipper" and "cooler" crowd who have the blitz and the bling, and thus the followers and the buzz, but I can't do it until I figure out how to do it right.

Bottom line: I'd rather be respectful than cool any day, (check out my wardrobe for proof!) but how do other Tumblr/Pinterest users do it? My mind boggles at the permissions process or the costs that would be involves for proper use. Or do they care? Is this something only Old People worry about in the age after Napster and words like "e-piracy" in the dictionary? Anyone who uses these platforms willing to chat about the "ins and outs" of it when you're not just a fan, but also a creative business onto yourself? It's these sort of mires that make me bound for the tar pits while others evolve wings and fur to survive this great New World out there.

Prehistorically yours,

Me

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