Thursday, May 15, 2008

Shame on Picasa

No more Mrs. Nice Guy. I've watched these seedy "craft enthusiasts" on Picasa for over a year now, recirculating the same pirated PDFs and JPGs of beading books over and over again, and I have to ask, "Picasa -- buh??? What did you THINK would happen when you wrote that circumlocutionary copyright reporting procedure of yours? That it would actually solve a problem?"

BACKGROUND. (Yes, this is a real Picasa user, and no I don't know her) -- Meet Ary, she's one of dozens: http://picasaweb.google.com/megyeriary

As of today, Ary has 53 public albums, all of which are full of scans of books she didn't write. Japanese, Russian, and several by Interweave press. Not to mention several complete issues of Bead and Button -- all uploaded since fall 2007. No, these publications are not out of print. They are easy to purchase in bookstores, and online, even the foreign ones.

It should be obvious to anyone on the planet that the odds of Ary authoring this many books in at least 3 different languages are, well, ZERO. So let's say I decide to report the content to the folks at Google's Picasa (who, I realize, also allow me to write this blog for free and no, it's not a fair trade).

1. I click on one of the albums, let's say Interweave's Netted Beadwork, by Diane Fitzgerald (it says so right on the cover...).

2. To report the obvious copyright violation, I scroll down to the bottom of the album and click the link that says, "Report inappropriate content."

3. A box pops up that looks like this:


Now I get to pick a button. Personally, I find the content offensive, LOL, but I don't think that's what Picasa meant. What I'm looking for is a way to alert Picasa that this user (and most of her friends -- see the right-hand column of violator buddies) are blatantly violating intellectual property law. My first clue that reporting might be futile is the line:

"If you own the copyright for this work and would like it removed..."

Picasa apparently doesn't want to get sued for accidentally removing work the album owner has a right to publish.

4. At this point I usually contact the publisher or author, many of whom I know, not because I'm special, but because that's how beadland is. And scrapbook land, and crochet land, etc. It's a small world, Ary. You might think you're doing your cheap friends a favor, but what you're really doing is screwing the author out of her hard earned $1.00 (and I do mean $1.00, on average) per book sale.

Diane Fitzgerald and the other authors on Ary's site are not wealthy women. They don't get huge advances. They put in incredibly long hours creating the projects and writing the instructions, and in many cases, doing the photography and illustrations, not to mention proofreading and editing. And if they self-publish, they have the additional responsibilities of footing the entire printing bill up front, as well as handling most of the distribution (including packing and shipping).

They are actual, regular people eking out a living like the rest of us, if we're lucky and don't have our efforts undermined by the likes of Ary, who apparently lacks the capacity to view authors and publishers as human beings who are part of the same, creative continuum as she is.

Ok, let's pause the rant and get back to the reporting process.

5. When I contact the author or publisher, I can send them a link, and they can start the reporting process. Which by the way, doesn't involve a simple email form or phone call. No, it has to be mailed. Via snail mail. So much for Web 2.0 revolutionizing the world.

But what if I want to contact Ary or one of her friends myself? To tell her how much I love being able to steal money out of other people's pockets to satisfy my insatiable apetite for not paying for my books, and to thank her for passing on those great scans since the originator probably got shut down already and if it wasn't for her perpetrating the copyright violations, I'd be so outta luck...

I don't actually recommend harassing the perp. It probably won't change their thinking. They might just elect to make their albums private. They'll probably get a lot of sympathy from their friends who will accuse you of being a big meanie. So here's how to alert the copyright holder as to the email address of the perp:

6. EXAMPLE: I'll use myself as an example. My "handle" on Picasa is maryluna. But here's what the URL looks like in the address bar:

http://picasaweb.google.com/mizmaryt <-- that's it. The last part is the email addy name. Add @gmail.com to the end, and you've got my (or the perp's) email address: mizmaryt@gmail.com

I have to confess, though I generally don't mess with contacting the violator, I did once. I ran across a tutorial that I had illustrated, for the class of a local bead artist who teaches nationally . It was so bizarre -- I recognized my illustrations even in the tiny thumbnails. I could tell it was a class handout that had been scanned and posted. I wrote to the perp and she graciously removed it.

Personally, I think Picasa should shut these violators down. I think some of the burden of proving ownership should be put on the users. We aren't revolutionizing anything via technology except making it easier to screw the little gals (and I include craft publishers in that category) out of their due. Picasa could allow ethical netizens to flag these violators' albums, and Picasa could send them a simple warning -- you've been flagged, check your content and remove anything you don't have a right to publish. When I publish photos via Picasa, I don't get any kind of orientation or obvious terms of usage guidance -- Picasa should take a little more responsibility for making it possible for these craft hogs to use them as a craft hog-pen.

5 comments:

  1. Wow... interesting post Mary - I had no idea such a thing was happening. Amazing how some people's conscience can seemingly evaporate when loading up (stealing) the hard work of others.

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  2. Heh. I was literally going to type Grace's first sentence and then it came up. I'm not entirely sure what Picasa is -- some kind of picture place? But them letting folks violate copyright like that doesn't say much good about them.

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  3. I linked to this post. I hope you don't mind. ;-) Thank you for writing this.

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  4. Bertoglio-GiffinMay 16, 2008 at 9:13 AM

    It's next to impossible to get Google to do anything. My 2 books are in about 6 Europen albums. To prove it's a copyright violation, I have to copy & provide links for EACH page, in writing, by mail.... that's 24 pages X 2 booxk, X 6 sites..... or 288 proofs! And the couple that I did follow up on seamed to drop into a black hole! Being a self-published beader sometimes does not seem like it's worth it.

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  5. Judith, this is so disenheartening. :-(

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