Back in November we had a discussion on an images thread regarding the posting of images (photographs) to the forum (see this thread, beginning with my post on 11/19/05 through 11/22/05).
Part of being a Christian is to develop a respect for the law and for the creation of others' in whatever format, written or photographed. While we can admire and derive personal enjoyment from the images that are posted to these threads, we can't neglect the fact that they are the work of others and that work (and rightful ownership) must be respected.
The issue for copyright purposes is not whether a photo has a watermark or not. Everything created by someone (professional or not) is, by the mere fact of its being made into an object, copyrighted. Some professionals go further and register their copyrighted material, but that's not necessary to get legal protection for your work. Given that a good portion of the images posted are without permission of the author (the exceptions being those who took the photos themselves), the real issue on this forum is whether the person using the picture has received permission from the photographer to use it, and in the absence of such permission, what cases of reposting are acceptable as "fair use."
One of our forum members, being a lawyer by profession, fortunately happens to have some knowledge in this area and has kindly shared her experience and informed opinion on this topic at my personal request. She has provided some practical guidelines for posting which -- as forum administrator -- I would like members participating in this forum to follow:
Now, a copyrighted item may be used as long as the use is "fair." That means that it can be copied for a limited purpose such as to illustrate an article, make a point in a study or an analysis, or for satire or parody. Stringing together a long list of pictures and putting a caption underneath does NOT meet the "fair use" test. . . . The piece that uses the pictures of the parish church designed by Richard Meier that Pope Benedict is going to visit probably passes muster. A single shot with a more than one or two sentence discussion about the origins and use of the camauro would also be OK.
The use of pictures to tell a joke, as in the Italian forum's 'per divertirse un po' or on other bloggers' sites (Musum Pontificalis comes to mind), is generally acceptable too (on the forum we had the posting of Georg Ganswein in various athletic outfits: that's OK for copyright purposes).
As forum administrator it would be my hope that those posting images would heed these suggestions, placing the images in the context of a substantial forum discussion of whatever the photograph depicts. For example, if discussing Benedict's use of the mozzetta or choir dress, one or two images depicting the subject would be suitable, while a "stream" of images one after another would not.
Please note that it is never permissible to remove a watermark unless you've received express permission to do so by the owner. Even in situations where you post an image that doesn't contain watermarks, remember to give credit where credit is due. So if non-watermarked photos come from Yahoo, which identifies the source, and the photo is being used in a "fair" way, please cite the source.
I know that some have not taken kindly to these restrictions, describing them as a 'ban' -- but I hope that those who isten to these concerns will understand this is not so much a draconian crushing of free spirits as a sincere desire -- on my part -- to foster an environment where we may be able to enjoy such images in moderation AND to be respectful of the artist or photographer who produced them.
Granted, "fair use" criteria is a somewhat ambiguous and calls for a good amount of personal responsibility, discernment and judgement in knowing what to post. If you want to post images but have doubts about how to properly do so, feel free to email me and I'll do my best to provide suggestions. Resq might assist in as well but if I pester her with too many questions she may have to start charging. ;-)
Posting of News Articles
The same guidelines are applicable to the posting of text -- which, like images, are always the work of others' minds and in the case of columnists and journalists, their 'bread and butter.' For this reason, I've specifically requested
Do NOT post entire articles from other websites or publications; selective quoting is permitted but it is preferable to link to the web address of your source.For those who read my blog (or other blogs), you'll probably notice a technique of posting the leading paragraph or summary of an article and then providing a link to the rest of the article on the original website with the caption "Read More" -- this would be my personal preference, given the manner in which it shows consideration for (and recognition of) the author by directing the reader to the whole of his or her work.
My Hope for this Forum in 2006
Today the question was posed to me what my "hopes" were for the forum. I started the forum several years ago as an alternative to our email list, for those who were interested in discussing the life and thought of Cardinal Ratzinger (and related events in Catholicism) but simply couldn't keep up with the steady flow of emails to their inbox.
The level of activity on the forum spiked with the election of Pope Benedict XVI, bringing with it new kinds of situations which we never encountered before -- with greater popularity came a greater frequency of, say, spammers and/or malicious anti-Catholic pranksters who joined with the intent of disrupting the group. On a different note, the posting of images wasn't a serious problem prior to the election because the pre-2005 "members" of the RFC were chiefly interested in the discussion of his written works, as opposed to his daily agenda. (Not that one interest is necessarily better than the other).
The forum will inevitably be what we choose to collectively make of it. My hope is that with the multiple sections -- for news and daily events in B16's pontificate; for B16's written works; for a general discussion of Catholic theology, art, or history -- we can all find a niche that appeals to us. But if you want to know my own preference, I'll re-post what I had originally conveyed back in November:
I think that personal admiration of the external appearance of the Holy Father is best matched by an appreciation for his moral and spiritual character (and I personally think that Benedict, like his predecessor, are exceptional in this regard). There is no greater way to show appreciation for the Holy Father -- and service to our Savior, Jesus Christ -- than to follow his teachings.Finally, even in the midst of fraternization we're bound to encounter times of tension and personal friction -- in such instances where opinions (or personalities) might collide or grate against each other, our foremost thought should be maintaining a spirit of peace, charity and civility.
The Holy Father has spoken extensively on the importance of the Eucharist in a Christian's daily life. He has also encouraged spiritual activities such as adoration of the Eucharist and Lectio Divina (prayerful reading of the Scriptures) -- it is my hope that we as members invest our time in these activities with an equal degree (if not more) of enthusiasm as we do posting to this forum. Lord willing, if we can manage that, than we're on the right track.
While discussion of the daily activities of the Holy Father is acceptable and understandable on this forum, serious study and discussion of his written and spoken works, as Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Ratzinger, should be encouraged and remain -- I hope -- the focus.
You'll notice the saying by Pope Benedict XVI's predecessor at the top of this page; it is worth reiterating, I think, because it strikes me as sound advice worth taking to heart:
"As regards matters in which without harm to faith or discipline - in the absence of any authoritative intervention of the Apostolic See -- there is room for divergent opinions, it is clearly the right of everyone to express and defend his own opinion. But in such discussions no expressions should be used which might constitute serious breaches of charity; let each one freely defend his own opinion, but let it be done with due moderation, so that no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith or to discipline." -- Pope Benedict XV Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 1914
To end on a humorous (but not entirely unserious or unrelated) note: not less than 5 minutes had passed from the time Pope Benedict XVI set foot on that balcony on the day of his election that I got a call from the Canadian broadcasting corporation, who had found my home phone number and wanted to speak to me about "the pope's fan club." That same day, I learned that a German television crew had shown up on the doorstep of my apartment requesting an interview. (I wasn't home, but the doorman to our building took the suprise in good spirits). Suffice to say in the days that followed, I became very aware of those who had been watching, following, monitering our website, unnoticed until that very day.
On the day of the election the website received 656,894 visits and 1,516,455 page views -- suffice to say it wasn't prepared to take on that kind of load. Even today, we average a little over a thousand unique visitors to the website and 3,500 page views. Not everybody who comes to the website visits the forum, but I'd bet we get some who silently observe.
The lesson we can take from this: you never know who may be watching, or what kind of impression you make. Let's make it a good one in 2006. =)
Hope you all had a blessed Christmas -- Christ is Born! Alleluia!