Aaron R. Davis
I’ve been posting on my regular Blogger blog for almost a full seven years now. I’ve had all sorts of comments, some of which I’ve examined here, but never before the other day have I had a comment that accused me of outright stealing.
There’s a little bit of objectification I run every December 31 where I list, in my opinion, the 50 sexiest women of the year and put up a picture of my favorite. Last year, it was a certain female rock icon that I adore. She somehow found out about it and was flattered, commenting on the post and talking to me on a forum on a few other occasions. She’s one of my favorite people who ever existed, so I have very good feelings associated with that post.
When I woke up and checked my email the other morning, there was a new comment on that post. It was from the photographer who took the picture I used on the post, and said simply: “That’s my picture. Get it off your blog. You are stealing.”
Three simple sentences, but I felt like I’d been punched in the gut.
At first, I didn’t know how to react. I felt awful.
Now, I’ve talked at length both here and on Tumblr about people being credit whores. Kids who crop a paparazzi photo and fuck with the colors who then think, after they’ve manipulated someone else’s photograph, that they own the picture. Or people who make a gif of a scene in a film or a TV show — someone else’s commercial property — and then get angry when someone else “steals” it. Or bloggers who complain that, because someone else copied and reposted their picture, that they’re thieves who deserve some kind of horse-whipping, because how dare you steal the picture that I spend seconds looking on Google for? And my personal favorite, people who get righteously pissed off when you forget to mention the name of the artist who created the unlicensed rip-off of well-known copyrighted material, even though I’ve yet to see any acknowledgement on any tee shirt site that Snoopy or Pac-Man or Doctor Who or Ghostbusters aren’t community property.
Yes, I tend to really, truly hate those people. I think there are more important things to do in life than bitch about being able to use things you don’t own.
The photo I was using, a very nice photo of a beautiful woman, was one I had found on a Google search. I found it on a website for an online magazine, where it accompanied an interview. I wasn’t using it for any commercial reason — I don’t have any advertising on my blog — and I didn’t claim any ownership of it. I’ve had a disclaimer on my blog for years saying that, unless otherwise stated, I don’t own and didn’t create any of the images on my blog, and that if anyone wants them taken down, all they have to do is ask.
So why did this guy make me feel so shitty for a few minutes that morning?
It was the way he worded his request. It sounded like an order, which is what it was. “Get it off your blog. You are stealing.”
The word “stealing” seemed harsh to me. The command “Get it off your blog” seemed harsh to me. It made me feel like I had actually hurt this person by using the picture. Like I had made his image — an image that is all over the Internet, and which I’ve seen dozens of times in many places — somehow worthless by putting it on my blog.
I tried to see things from his point of view. Maybe he’s just really sick of seeing this image all over the place. Maybe he’s really frustrated because people are just using his work willy-nilly and he didn’t feel politeness was warranted. Jeez, maybe he was just feeling upset that day and somehow casually came across a months-old post on some nobody’s blog and that was the last straw and he just lashed out.
Honestly, I would’ve felt a lot better about his comment if it were something along the lines of “You’re using one of my photographs. Would you please take it down? Thanks.” I think that gets the same point across without making me feel like a jerk about it. I wasn’t using the picture at him, flaunting a brazen and purposeful act of thievery.
I thought for a while about how I should react to his comment. My first instinct, because I’m me and me is kind of a dick, was to take the picture down — and obviously the picture would have to come down — and sarcastically tell him that I appreciated his politeness. But what good would that do? That would probably just start some kind of pointless back-and-forth. I would still be a guy who “stole” his picture to him, and I would just be getting pissy about his lack of tact in, honestly, a situation where he probably didn’t feel tact was necessary.
I then thought about sending the guy an email and apologizing but still telling him that I wished he had just been more polite about the whole situation. But what’s the point, honestly? He’s just going to be mad at me for getting ticked off by his comment when, let’s face it, he’s within his rights to demand I take down the picture, and he’s really within his rights to see me as some kind of a thief, however much I didn’t mean it that way.
When it comes right down to it, he owns the picture and I don’t. That’s really the long and short of it. And even though I wish he hadn’t been so belligerent about it, hadn’t made me feel like such an asshole, I don’t really have a leg to stand on.
So I took the picture down. And I deleted his comment, too, since the picture’s no longer on my site and, honestly, I don’t want it on the same post as this rock icon’s comments. I’d prefer to forget how this guy handled me and remember that she was flattered to see herself there, on the blog of some nobody who made an amazing woman feel good just for saying she was sexier than everyone else. I’m going to focus on that instead of yet another instance of faceless Internet rudeness, even one that I unintentionally garnered.
Life’s too short, you know?
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org