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Friday, September 4, 2015

No, You Can't Use That Image!

So I’ve been meaning to start a new series titled “No, You Can’t Use That Image” that would touch on the subject of well, the use of images for marketing and promotions as well as book covers. The topic seems to be one that is a ‘hot button’ and tends to come and go like a wave in the ocean. Something happens and it’s brought to light then it slowly goes away, then something else happens and brought back to the forefront so on and so forth. For me, this topic hits close to home on several levels…

1.) as a review blogger, I want to use images on my blog that are not only “good” and “professional” but are also ‘lawful’ to use. Meaning, I don’t want to get my ass sued for copyright infringement.  I work really hard to make my website(s) look great and professional. I’m NOT going to add images that go against what I’ve worked for.

2.) as a Marketing Manager and Business Strategist I know the importance of good, quality images and how branding is tied into marketing and promoting the books authors write. The book can be great but if your packaging isn’t, it’s not going to be picked off the shelf (virtually or not). The truth is we do judge a book by its cover.

3.) and, as a graphic designer I know great quality work is important and while it may not cost you your first born (or an arm and a leg in case you don’t have or don’t want children), it isn’t cheap either. As the saying goes, “You get what you paid for”.

This week, I came across two instances via my FB feed where images were stolen. I’ll start with the most recent one which occurred today (Friday, September 04, 2015), via Author Donya Lynne  who shared this article on her FB page titled "I'm an Unwilling "Cover Model" thanks to a Creepy Author".

This article is basically about how an “author” used Shoshanna Evers’s image from her Wikipedia page without her permission for their book cover. See, Shoshanna is also an author. The article has a lot of information about what occurred, the steps she took and final outcome. It’s an interesting read. Basically though, an “author” took her picture from the Wikipedia page and slapped it on their book cover to be sold on Amazon.com. You can clearly see the violation there right? It’s like someone taking a picture of you at the mall and then using it for a poster or book cover or anything else and not letting you know! Totally not right and totally illegal! You would be totally pissed off! I know I would! Especially since it’s not only a violation of privacy but cover models get paid to pose and then some royalties (depending on what the contract was... but this is another topic for another day) per use. Shoshanna not only didn’t give her permission but wasn’t paid for the use of her image either. Makes you wonder how many other covers have been used in the same fashion, right?

The first instance (which occurred on 8/29/2015) was from artist and cover designer Jon Paul Ferrara who was made aware that “Amazon is republishing my artwork on e-books being sold throughout the world on their web-sites without my consent in at least 12-14 countries…” You can read the entire post on his FB page here.

Mr. Ferrara said in his post “I use Facebook to share my work with the world as many other artist do, not to be stolen.”.  He is 100% correct. He doesn’t add watermarks to his work either so his fans can truly appreciate the beauty of his work. He trusted that people wouldn’t steal from him. That they would respect him and his work and that they would have integrity. Sigh.

Then a few days later (9/1/2015) he posted that he was made aware that his art was stolen yet again by "designers" on Fiverr. You can read the full post here. I use the term “designers” loosely because they obviously don’t have any integrity and are not professionals at all as they are using stolen images and claiming it as their own. Additionally, these individuals on Fiverr are selling their services for $5 or $10 and have a large number of high ratings from their clients! More on this later!

Mr. Ferrara is an extremely talented and sought after designer. I want to be like him when I grow up! If I ever have the opportunity to attend a work shop, lesson, presentation or anything involving him, I’ll attend! It’s upsetting that he or anyone else has to go through this. Not because he’s a “peer” or works in the same industry as I do. He’s a human being and works hard at what he does. He’s an artist and I believe, many people tend to think “differently” when it comes to “artists” and their work. Same goes for authors who get their books pirated or musicians who get their albums/songs pirated as well. How is stealing from them any different than stealing from a mom’s and pop’s store? It isn’t. Theft is theft! He is currently working on getting his images removed from Amazon as well as from the "graphic designers" on Fiverr. Many of his fans have assisted him in reaching out to both corporations to get the ball rolling much faster and to alert him of any other similar issues. He is very appreciative and grateful for the assistance.

Okay, we’ve addressed the issue with the stolen images and ‘graphic designers’. Now, I want to address something that I feel is just as important … more and more authors are trying to 'save a dime' and hire inexpensive 'cover artist' and not only are they not getting good quality work (as the saying goes, you get what you paid for) but they are also NOT asking where the images are coming from.

The authors need to take responsibility as well for the images that are on their books or used to promote their books (i.e. graphic teasers, ads, banners, etc.). They can't and need to stop using the "Oh I didn't know! I hired a designer so I'm not to blame" excuse. They need to look into who they hire. Ask them about the licenses for the graphics. Oh and realize if they, the ‘graphic designers’ are charging only $5,  it might be too good to be true! Granted, perhaps the person is just starting out, who knows, but still. CHECK THEM OUT! If more authors were inquiring about licenses of the images, and using REPUTABLE graphic designers, there would be less individuals stealing images and claiming them as their own.

Also, as both authors and graphic designers have said, it takes money to make money. Authors need to understand that there is a difference between a good cover and an awesome cover. That difference will affect sales! So imagine the difference when the cover is just awful! We DO judge a book by its cover! Sorry, but we do! I won't pick up a book unless the cover draws me in. I won't sign up for a tour/event if the cover is ugly or looks unprofessional. I'm not going to apologize for that. I work hard to make my website and blog look professional and nice. If the author can't do the same for their product, I'm not going to host them. If that's how they are packaging their product on the outside, what makes me think the inside is any better?

So yes, people, Authors and anyone who is hiring a graphic designer need to do their research and ensure they are "legit" and reputable!

NOTE: Image used with permission from artist Jon Paul Ferrara 


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  2. Bada bing. Jackpot. Excellent blog post. And good covers take not only good cover stock, but exceptional cover artist as well. I'm so glad you're doing my covers they're awesome

    1. Awww thanks on both counts Monica! It needed to be said! Some have danced around the topic of making authors just as responsible as the graphic designer!

      Love working with you!

  3. Great article Viviana! And a great reminder to make sure that all images used on blogs are legal - it is wrong to steal someone else's hard work - especially when they are trying to make a living for themselves

    1. Thanks Maria! Agree! I think sometimes, some bloggers forget that they too need to ensure the image they use are 'legit' aka legal to use. The mindset of "no big deal" or "How will they find out" or "How will they know" isn't good nor should it even be a thought. It's not right!

      Authors and bloggers need to ensure whom ever they hire to do work for them is as I said reputable! Their name is the one that will be associated with any "issue" should there be any.

      Thanks for visiting and reading!! :)