Are Your Kids Too Cute To Be Online?

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Just a few days ago I read a news story about a mom who found out that a photo of her infant son was being used on Craigslist by an adoption scam. You can read more about that story on Baby Lifestyles.

How did the child’s photo get on Craigslist? Apparently, the mom had been posting photos of her son on her personal blog and a photo was scraped and used without her knowledge or permission.

This isn’t the first time that a family photo has been “stolen” and used without permission.

A few months ago, I remember reading about another family whose Christmas photo was used without their permission for a billboard in a country where the family didn’t even live. You can read about that story at the family’s own blog, Extraordinary Mommy.

How did Extraordinary Mommy’s photo get onto the advertisement? In the second case, apparently the photo was only posted online to social networking sites and the viewing of the photo was limited to friends.

The two stories struck me as similar. In fact, reading about the first incident caused me to remember the second. They also serve to illustrate the same point –  nothing is truly secure online.

Yes, original works such as photos, blog posts, and other artwork are supposed to be protected under Copyright Law. However, as anyone who has blogged for more than just a few months can tell you, posts are scraped and reposted without the original author’s permission all of the time. Although the original artist (or author) has the right to confront those who take original works without asking, the process can sometimes be tedious and ineffective.

Whenever something is posted online, even to a perceived small audience such as on a social media site, there is a risk that the item (whether it be a blog post, a photo, a piece of artwork, or even music) will be used without permission.

If intellectual property thieves can find a way to get to material, they will. The hunger (dare I say greed) for unique and original material to put online is that great.

The second lesson from these incidents is a bit more obscure. It’s directed at the PR and advertising agencies of the world who use art and photos on a regular basis. One has to wonder whether there were any professional agencies involved in either of these cases and if they knew that the photos were being used without permission, or if they simply took the word of a designer that the photos were available for use.

There are a large number of sites were royalty-free sites where stock art and photos are available for a low cost or even for no cost. If agencies were involved, why didn’t they use one of those sites instead of the stolen photos?

How about you? Do you think twice before posting your family photos online?

Do you see the usage of these photos as a violation of copyright law and the privacy of those involved, or do you think that “it’s no big deal.”

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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