Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Dark and Seamy Side of Sharing

Egregious. Unnecessary. Dysfunctional. Narrow-minded. Unethical. Desperate. And those are the good adjectives! Something odd happened on the way to the blog:
This week, a big ruckus erupted on another social media platform that shall remain nameless but rhymes with 'Pacebook'. Someone who shall remain nameless but whose name rhymes with 'Work' was posting a plethora of photos with a caveat that they not be shared with a certain website owner/administrator who shall remain namelsss but who runs CRO. Not that that person pays attention to caveats. In fact, most everyone has a CRO photo-stealing horror story. Read on...

Not being immune to Facebook drama, which sometime requires Comments I Like to Share, I can tell you that when a group is infiltrated by ne'er-do-wells that then overthrow the group admin and lock him out of his own page, it's like some sort of autoimmune disease  that then causes the group to go from version 3.0 (below) to version 4.0 (oh, oh! above) - definitely a sign of trouble. Now it's gone back to 3.0. Jeesh. Just be respectful and courteous!
Some of the group's rules actually concern stealing content. Not being content to see content stolen, I've highlighted this important rule:
The central issue here is how, when, to whom, and for how long consent is granted. And if you visit the CRO website, there are still more rules that look like they were drawn up by a Philadelphia lawyer on caffeine:
But what's the sense of having rules if you play fast and loose with them? I believe there are too many rules, and that rules were made to be broken. But it seems that contributors are held to these rules and the owner/administrator is not. Then there's even more legalese (actually giving me legal unease!):
Now let's discuss the drama I alluded to earlier. Buckle up here. Seems that Railfan A took some really cool photos years ago that came into the possession of Railfan B who decided to post them to Facebook with a caveat that they not be shared with Railfan C. Railfan D sent them to Railfan C who then posted them without appropriate photo credit to Facebook. Confused yet? Railfan B then removed them and also his membership to the Facebook groups. Then, Railfan E, an administrator of the Facebook group got wise and booted Railfan C, whom they'd admitted as a fellow administrator, also disavowing any support or advertising to CRO. And now Railfan B is back aboard. I would suggest that the best way to try to discourage CRO's unethical behaviour is to stop supporting CRO.

Letting someone who is that unprincipled become an administrator would be like granting a Costco membership to a kid that likes large containers of candy. He's going to run amok!

At this point, I'm not going into a long discussion of the perils of photo-sharing and my own personal interpretation of copyright law as it pertains to pictures of trains. 

Instead, I'll let you in on my decision tree. I take train pictures. I can either:

a) keep them to myself, in a hermetically-sealed shoebox on the top-left shelf of my Ikea cupboard until I die, at which time I've stipulated in my will kit that they be buried with me to ensure nobody ever sees them


b) post them to Trackside Treasure.

And the winner is...b)! Read on...
That's what it says in the sidebar of Trackside Treasure re: attribution (above). I recently had an unusual episode in which a sometime-in-the-future book author demanded that photos I had saved from an ebay listing be deleted. Why? Because he had bought a copy of the photo in question and then proclaimed that he therefore owned the copyright to the photo. Well, maybe that copy, but who knows how many other copies have been made and are circulating throughout the world like mosquitoes at a campground? Rather ridiculous.

I had an issue with copyright a few years ago (most of us bloggers have our own copyright horror stories) and mine pertained to having a photo misappropriated, miscaptioned then intentionally included in a for-profit publication. I blogged about it at the time on another one of my blogs. I've since removed that post since the person that misappropriated it is no longer with us, and I no longer felt the need to perpetuate his misdeed, for which he apologized to me, any longer. Rest in peace.

I also had an issue with a photo print that I'd purchased, added to my collection, and included in one of my books. The photographer contacted me. I sent him a complimentary copy of the book. I didn't debate the provenance of the photo, I ended up compensating him the same way I did others who contributed tens or even hundreds of photos to that same book. Resolved.

Just today, a VIA/CN Turbo advertisement appeared online. I commented that that photo was taken from my brother's blog. The poster commented that 'it's available on lots of websites' implying that it wasn't from his blog, or that it's a different photo. Details on the photo confirm that it is the very same photo! So sharing without the initial sharer's knowledge is widespread. Revealed.

One more thing - From Trackside Treasure, if you ever happen to read that far down in the randomly-assembled right sidebar material. I try to live by what I profess. I have to look myself in the mirror in the morning when I shave. My legs. Read on:
This is my separate disclaimer for the temporarily-appropriated header photos that appear at the top of this blog. I added this because an issue was brought to my attention with header photos. If there's something I enjoy more than blogging, it's talking about blogging in the era of Facebook.

So the issue isn't copyright or even sharing, it's maintaining one's reputation as best one can, in an era where everything is just a click away from right click/Save As, remove the watermark, say it's your own photo, reposting and Bob's your uncle! Actually, Bob's my cousin.

So stay safe out there and stay ethical! Less drama means more fun.

Running extra...

Pandemic painting. Staying safe means rocking the neighbourhood. My good wife created these and we'll be distributing them on our walks. Fourteen rocks in total have answered the call to serve during this troubling time. They couldn't get any boulder, and will leave no stone unturned in completing their mission!


Zartok-35 said...

I wish I could feel sorry for Railfan B in all this, but I cannot, seeing how he conducts himself in increasingly injudicious ways since his reintroduction to Facebook. Me and several of my good friends have been shut out from seeing any of his pictures, apparently for participating in the railfan community and nothing more, with no explanation of wrongdoing or mature attempts at reconciliation. He's being a jerk, which appropriately rhymes with his new cornball moniker.

Eric said...

Thanks for your comment, Elijah.

Once we get finished with Railfan C, our next project will be Railfan B. It's all about priorities.

This is why I like blogs. I just keep puttin' it out there. No ties, no alibis.

Steve Boyko said...

Hi Eric, I'm glad you wrote this, so I didn't feel like I had to.

I should disclose that the words that gave you legal unease were mostly written by me, in 2015, as an attempt to provide some guidance on photographer-friendly use of photos.

Eric said...

Thanks for the diligent disposal of your disclosure. It's a small world, isn't it?
This was not my kind of blog post to write, but I reserve the write to write and post now, delete later. Perhaps much later.
Thanks also for your comment!

Brian said...

I never knew there was so much drama in the railfan community. Then again, it seems every interest group seems to have its dramatic individuals. Fascinating stuff. Great post. It really does question the common sense of some folks. Honestly, just share the photos you yourself took. If someone specifically gave photos to you in order to post (or you asked them to be allowed to do so), then say so, and post them. End of story! Thanks Eric - I really enjoy following your blog.

Eric said...

Thanks for your comment, Brian. This will not become a 'drama' blog, don't worry. But once in awhile, it seems necessary to shine a light on thie repeated pattern of behaviour that is a net negative force affecting our hobby.

I agree with your attribution ideas. Let's stay sensible!!


Jason Sailer said...

Regardless, the “editor” of CRO has been known for a long time for taking images without consent/proper credit. It happened right up until his own Facebook page got overthrown and he got the boot (thankfully). CRO has been and never will be a great railway reference, despite its “claims”.

Railfan B was just following out the request that the original Railfan A had asked, that Railfan C not get his hands on it. Unfortunately, Railfan C did get these images (from Railfan D), and it caused this huge issue online. I was also surprised that Railfan C was a moderator on one of the railway groups online that Railfan B was in (including myself, where I have shared vintage railway photos), and many others were just as surprised to find this out. I am glad the admins in that group were able to remove Railfan C from the admin duties. I am glad Railfan B was able to return and share Railfan A’s great photos of yesteryear.

My further comments on this;
1. If people are bothered by sharing without consent/crediting, then they need to watermark their work. Yes, if someone was tech-savvy, they could crop or remove the watermark. But 95% of the time the people who steal the images don’t crop the watermark off, and at least if the photo gets shared incorrectly or stolen, then there is a visible reminder it is “so and so’s photo from xyz collection”. Though people do remove watermarks, and I have had that happen to me as well. Adding a watermark is not hard to do, and a very basic thing people can do. I have done it on the railway slides I scan and share online. I did suggest to Railfan B that he should think about doing it but at the end of the day it's his decision. I watermark my images and I have sometimes found them in other groups or shared in other sites, but at least “my mark” is on the image – if the person who shared it did or did not credit me is another story...

Jason Sailer said...

2. Ironically, I had one of my railway slides end up in a different Facebook group, but I noticed that slide had no watermark on it. I asked the person who shared it where he got it, and he said Google. I said that was very much unlikely as I just shared the image a couple of days ago in a different closed group on Facebook with a watermark on it. I even did a Google search and could not find it... I asked him to remove it and if not then to please credit the right person. After he refused, I contacted the group admin who removed the post. I found out that the slide I shared it was taken from the closed group and then shared with the group (with the watermark then cropped off). I have since removed one person from the closed group after I found out he was the one taking images. But there are still countless others online doing it, with no hesitation or second thoughts.

3. I have had other people in the past (either on Facebook or other sites) do take some images of mine and re-share them. Of all the instances, they downloaded the photo from Facebook and then re-uploaded it to a different group or a blog/website. Then they would add an often-incorrect caption to the photo. There are people “railfan D” as you noted, that do this – they troll either Facebook or the internet looking for images to repost. Similar to what happened to your brother’s blog on that image (which I do remember reading on your brother’s blog). These people feel if it is online then its fair game to take and do what they want with it, and there are no consequences for their actions. I am strongly against these types of people – they wreck it for others and share incorrect information which can cause damage in other areas. My friend Chris Doering does web articles about places they have explored and visited, and most times people download (or screenshot) a photo from that article and then reshare online. Chris has made it easy for people to share the actual article (with all the photos attach), but people decide no, taking 1 image from the article and resharing it online is more convenient.

Its baffling people continue doing this – and then it makes people like Railfan B think twice about sharing vintage photos online. I have thought about it myself; it makes it tricky. I know others that do historic research to find people ‘cut and paste’ their hard work into a photo caption or a blog post. How is it fair for the person to do all this great work getting photos and doing the research, to have someone come up and take what they want, and then the person who takes it gets the rave reviews, high-fives?

Eric said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Jason, and I agree with you.

I have often considered the watermark issue, but have chosen not to employ them on my humble photographs.

Also, this is the absolute LONGEST comment I have ever received on any of my blogs. This is a testament to not only what you wanted to say, but also the lengths to which it's clearly an important issue to you, and all of us who are endeavouring to fill cyberspace with interesting images.

I believe in casting my bread upon the online waters, and it's insightful comments such as this that prove that it returns to me many-fold!

Thanks very much!

Jason Sailer said...

Thanks, Eric.

Sorry for the long comment. I was trying to be brief and to the point, but then the valves were left open and everything came pouring out...

I'll continue to use watermarks, its at the least the minimum I can do to "protect" the image I post online.

It is an important issue to me, and I often try to educate others about the importance of sharing and getting/giving the consent or credits to photos. It's so easy to grab off Google or wherever but just spending a few extra minutes to add the credits goes a long distance.

Thanks again for the great blog, such a good way to interact with other people that think alike. High ball!

BArailsystem said...

Great post Eric.

Something you didn't really explore is why exactly do people not want their content shared with that particular person.

I agree with you that sharing content is better use of it. Better for all to see and appreciate it than to take it to the grave. I know that if I put something on the internet, it's like opening the bird cage/squeezing the toothpaste out of the tube etc etc.

In this particular case I think it comes down to money. That outlet runs a pay wall in order to get the monthly newsletter. So I think when people get their content "stolen" by him and placed behind his paywall it creates some heartburn. I understand that. Personally, I have had my videos screenshot and then presented as a photograph behind his paywall with no credit to where it came from and an incorrect caption (even more frustrating!).
If he just would've asked permission I would have said go ahead, please use the link the original. At least it would have had correct information then. My two cents.

Take care.


Eric said...

You're quite right, Ben, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic.

It is so much simpler when we have some control over our particular corners of cyberspace. It's been fun to check in on your layout and see you present it as you wish to.

We need to do the best we can to preserve, not ruin, the connections that we work so hard to craft online, by being accountable.

Thanks very much for your comment,