the all-seeingeyeCopyright and the Web

As a visual artist I am dismayed at the wholesale expropriation of copyright material in image archives. This seems to be especially true for subjects broadly classified as erotica. It is, for instance, possible to download images of any number of supermodels scanned directly from printed pages. (obvious from the heavy moire pattern) Aside from the creative stagnation represented by this sort of shovelware, there is a legal issue.

The short form of it is this: The right to duplicate, distribute, modify, create derivative works, and ultimately to profit from an image (financially or by reputation) is vested in the "author" at the moment of creation. There are some technicalities which treat employers and groups as authors when a work-for-hire situation exists-but the basic principal holds true. In order to completely protect their rights, authors should register the work. This primarily creates an environment in which damages can be collected, rather than being limited to a simple cease and desist order. Even an unregistered work is copyright-the author will simply have a much harder time collecting damages. Last I checked, the federal criminal fine is around $200K per offense, with the added possibility of a year in the jug. This is in addition to any civil damages.

Now, copyright applies to all means of distribution, including the Web. Additionally, just because someone else has violated a copyright first, does not mean you are free to continue it. Folks, those scans are just plain illegal. Some have attempted to evade the issue by posting notices that state that copyright to the images in their archives is vested somewhere other than in themselves. This is true, but without actual permission from the copyright holder, you are still in violation. This notice even shoots down the possibility of an ignorance defense later on, wouldn't you say?

In an ideal world, everyone would respect the act of creativity. There are those who seem to think that just collecting the work of others into an archive qualifies. Sadly, it does not. For me, such disregard for the intellectual property of others implies jealousy of their achievements, and a deep-rooted creative dishonesty.