by Brian Solis

Lane Hartwell and me during BarCampBlock

I was just reading in Wired about the popular and hilarious “Here Comes Another Bubble” Video by the a capella group The Richter Scales and why it was removed from YouTube.

Here’s the short story.

The Richter Scales released a very clever video that parodies the return of the bubble using images from Web 2.0 events, blogs, etc., set to the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” by Billy Joel.

The video made the rounds across the blogosphere receiving hundreds of thousands of views and scoring laughs and referrals along the way.

Hey, it’s funny.

But, not one of the images were sourced or credited, a problem that is all too recurring in Social Media.

One of Lane Hartwell’s pictures was used in the video and she decided to do something about it.

She stood up for not just herself, but photographers in general. And, I applaud her for taking it on.

Who is Lane Hartwell you ask?

She just happens to be one of the most amazing professional photographers in the San Francisco Bay Area who captures art, culture and tech with unbelievable depth, passion, and soul. Seriously, her lens brings out the essence of what lies underneath what you and I see and take for granted of everyday. And, she’s asked over and over again to stop stealing her work.

So, moving on.

Hartwell then contacted the singing group and was greeted by a “cavalier attitude” and a response, that I believe is the root of many of the problems we see these days, that they had the right to use the pictures that they find on the Web as fair use.

After speaking with several random people about this, the general assessment was that people do believe that they can yank photos that they find online because it’s publicly available.

She hired Terry Gross, an intellectual property lawyer with San Francisco firm Gross & Belsky, to represent her.

They contacted the group again and also filed a copyright claim with YouTube.

The video was removed.

The Richter Scales responded that they will revise the video and include credits.

Sadly, she also switched her incredible albums on flickr to private. She explained her reasons for doing so, ” “My images are being stolen and used in ways that I am not comfortable with on an almost weekly basis, sometimes several times in a week. I have blogged about it, talked about it here on my stream, and yet people still feel that my creative property is theirs to take and do with as they please.”

There’s been an interesting mix of responses to the video getting pulled as well as Lane’s stance on photo theft. Some of the responses are very surprising to say the least.

Mashable calls Hartwell a bubble burster and a party pooper, but also takes the time to acknowledge her frustration and why photographers are going to great lengths to protect their pictures, “But what about the expensive artform and profession of photography? Those of us who aren’t photographers by trade have a distinct tendency to not regard it as a profession that entails the amount of dedication, cost and artistry that it actually does.”

Robert Scoble called for people to steal his content, with or without a credit, “Me? I’m the opposite of Lane. I WANT YOU to steal my content. In fact, next year I’m going to do stuff to make all my content available via Creative Commons license so you can use it wherever and whenever, including my video shows. I’d like a credit, yes, but don’t demand it.”

Thomas Hawk, also one of may favorite photographers, offered an artistic perspective to say why he takes the opposite position, while also supporting Lane, “My response to this unauthorized use of my imagery? Who gives a shit? I certainly don’t.”

Scott Beale, who I’m also a fan of, called attention to Hartwell’s position by sharing his own experience, “As many of you know, I’ve had my fair share of problems of people using my photos without attribution or worse for commercial use without first making arrangements with me.”

Brian Oberkirch offered suggestions to help photographers, “Honor Creative Commons licensing. Call out people who don’t. They will give you shit about it. That’s ok. It’s a learning moment. Really walk the walk. CC your own stuff. Point out the attributions of folks whose work you use. Explain. When you reserve all rights, that’s cool, too. Just explain.”

But if you want to get an unfiltered, raw reaction to the discussion, read the comments section of any one of the above posts. It will drive you to respond. It’s nothing short of fucking mind blowing.

Where do I stand?

First. I don’t know or pretend to know the law to stand for or against anyone with any sort of credibility or grounds. I don’t know if Fair Use applies here or not – and simply by reading the comments here, there, and everywhere, it seems that even the lawyers don’t agree.

I’m merely a photographer as well. While I mostly shoot for, my pictures have also run in other venues such as Wired, Infoworld, Valleywag, Blogger and Podcaster, among many, many other blogs and magazines. Each has been very professional and have always offered credit. And I appreciate it.

I do host my pictures on flickr. And, I do have each marked under Creative Commons, basically allowing everyone to use them freely, in exchange for a credit. Some get it right, many more get it wrong, and even more run my pictures without credit at all. Sometimes I reach out for correction, most of the time I just let it go. I just can’t chase everyone down.

I have thought about making it more clear on flickr on how to use the pictures, and most likely will soon. Scott Beale does a good job of this.

I’m not a professional photographer however. I don’t make my living by taking and selling pictures. I’m flattered when people do use my photos and my payment is in the form of satisfaction of seeing my stuff shared.

For me, photography is a very, very expensive hobby. And if you’re a professional, then purchasing and maintaining equipment is nothing short of the equivalent of a down payment on a home. Yes, it’s that expensive.

And it’s not just about the money or the equipment. Lane Hartwell, as well as Scott Beale, Thomas Hawk, Robert Scoble, and many others, are artists. Their pictures are inspirational and motivate me to experiment and explore new possibilities. But, art is valuable and artists are irreplaceable.

Lane has every right to request credit and stand up for what she feels is right. The protection of her work can not be minimized. Especially when people haven’t take her requests and pleas seriously along the way.

If you don’t like it, then don’t use her photos or those of anyone else who request credit.

To finish with Lane’s own words, “I’m not a charity…. This is my living.”

Here’s a little homage to Lane comprised of pictures I’ve taken over the last year:

Justin Kan

Justin Kan of and Justine Ezarik aka ijustine

Dylan Tweney of Wired

Kathy Johnson

Joanne Wan of GigaOM

Update: Matthew Ingram offers a strong counter to Wired. It is also host to intriguing legal discussions in the comments section that bring light to the subject in ways that I don’t pretend to know . It’s worth a read and there is also a guest appearance from Michael Arrington wearing his legal hat.

Update 2: Arrington weighs in at TechCrunch.

Update 3: Lane Hartwell releases her official response. 

Connect with me on Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Plaxo, or Facebook.

About the Author:

Brian Solis

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture. His current book, Engage, is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to build and measure success in the social web.

Visit Brian's page at


    no imageChris Lynn (Who am I?)15 December 2007 6:04 pm

    I have to say, I’m completely torn about this issue. It has troubled me since I started my blog.

    I wouldn’t call myself a starving blogger, but I don’t get paid to blog. I also don’t make any money from advertising.

    I’m also a photographer and make money from my photos. Unfortunately, I can’t take photos to match each post’s topic, and I can’t afford purchasing clip art, so I do what (seemingly) most people do: a google search.

    As I learn more about creative commons and how to use it, I have consciously tried to change my photo-raiding ways. Over the last couple of weeks, my system for attribution has shifted from just linking back to the original, to actually putting title, artist (with link to their flickr page) plus link to creative commons description.

    I still don’t know if that is correct, but I feel more comfortable about it.

    oh, PS, Brian: I used a photo of yours in Thursday’s post. Let me know if I didn’t do it correctly….

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    no imagezota (Who am I?)16 December 2007 3:09 pm

    This isn’t a clear case of the artist’s work being disrespected. The legal tactic Lane Hartwell is using is the same tactic which has been used to shut down documentary film makers.

    Rights holders have increasingly argued that film makers must ask for prior permission and clearly attribute each image and clip, which has forced independent film makers to spend years tracking down permissions and forcing them to legally defend each second of their films.

    Perhaps Lane Hartwell didn’t set out to attack the rights of documentary film makers or independent video artists. But this is the route she’s taken…

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    no imageIan Aleksander Adams (Who am I?)20 December 2007 5:49 pm

    I’m going to start this off by saying that as an artist I survive primarily from my photo work. I’ve shot everything from commercial tabletop to weddings, set photography for films to having solo gallery shows. And I’ve had images taken for commercial use (which I care about) and posted in places as strange as 13 year old’s myspace pages and porn messageboards (which I don’t care as much about, except as a matter of surreal social interest).

    I agree that it may feel weird when you see your image in a place without knowing it would be there beforehand, but I think it is MUCH MUCH more important to defend the ability of art to be as CREATIVE as possible with as FEW roadblocks in its path.

    Video art and sound art, especially modern experimental work (as well as aforementioned documentary work), thrives on mashup culture. To me, this is a clear cut case of a professional going after a non-profit group of people having a little fun in their time off work, trying to make something creative. I think it’s very petty.

    what about appropriation? hasn’t it been defended in art?

    Haven’t many famous photographs been produced of other photographs, including some of the best selling of all time? (prince’s marlboro photograph)

    Isn’t photography itself one of the most heavily contested mediums, for “stealing” other artists images and using them? Aren’t photographers often protesting someone trying to get them to stop taking pictures of their buildings, sculptures, faces, etc?

    With the internet comes the next level of this debate, and I see it as one that traditional art and copyright is set to lose. Artists will do whatever it takes to make whatever points they want to make, as trivial or earthshattering as they may be.

    I say use it to your benefit and don’t end up lost with the flow.

    I want to add that I think in different circumstances the response of the photographer should be appropriate.

    some examples of unapproved use and what I think is appropriate:

    Corporate ad – Send bill or use legal action

    Editorial usage (in a publication for sale) – send bill or use legal action

    Website Usage for corporation – Send bill or use legal action

    Website for nonprofit – send email asking if they knew they forgot to ask, possibly compensation if they are able, ask for credit

    non-profit publication – ask for credit, possible compensation

    arts non-profit publication (zine) – ask for credit

    arts usage (appropriation, gallery, etc) – ask for credit

    internet video – ask for credit, postdated royalties if video ever becomes popular and makes large amounts of money (never)

    myspace, livejournal, imageboard (such as, etc – laugh, post credit yourself as anon, stop being such a stickler and realize the internet is always going to be a den of scum and villainy. Go have an ice cream.

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