Integrity & Honesty…are they still possible in a digital world???

Blog Post - Right Click StealingThis morning my youngest daughter presented a beautiful portrait she had drawn of one of her good friends. It was amazing! Since I can not (for the life of me) draw anything but stick figures, it baffles me how some artists can recreate dimension and shadow and bring a blank piece of paper to life. Because of my background as a photographer, I tend to home in on certain details of an image. I noticed there were certain marks in areas around the subjects nose that appeared to be acne. I asked my daughter if by any chance she had made a photocopy of the girl and then added the pencil and and shading brushes over the top. Her response was tearful. She thought I was being an absolutely terrible mother by asking such a question. She did let me know the spots I saw were areas where her pencil landed in the process of creation and needed to be blended out, but she could not get beyond the fact I had even asked the question in the first place.

How do we teach our children integrity and honesty in today’s digital world? Everyday they watch others right-click (AKA: steal) images for their use in presentations for school. This practice is taught and encouraged. Okay, “steal” is probably a harsh word when it comes to what they are taught in class…they are only using the images for educational purposes, right?

Because we have a new generation that has been taught that just taking something is okay, I feel it is especially important to teach my children the importance of integrity. As far as I am aware, copyright law is not taught in public school. This, in my own profession, it is a big problem. It is too easy to steal someone else’s work and call it your own. It happens in every profession – in an office when someone allows others to believe someone else’s idea or work is their own, in photography when someone right-clicks an image and reposts it without permission (even if it is just on their FB page), and in art when someone takes a smart phone pic and prints out art to hang on their wall. It gives the saying “locks are just there to keep the honest people honest” a renewed meaning.

Integrity and honesty go hand-in-hand in my opinion. Authenticity is important…and I must say it is a struggle I personally go through everyday as a photographer in the world of Photoshop – what is real & what is Photoshop (but that is a topic for another blog post!). The discussion of my daughter’s incredible art piece will be an issue revisited again this evening. I need to let her know how proud I am of her artistic ability. I just hope she understands that, by me making inquiries, I am just doing my job as a mom. – Georgia


2 responses

  1. I am the son of a photographer, so I understand that there are people who depend on their ownership of images to put food on the table. At the same time, the copyright laws of the USA made allowances for the educational–that is non-commercial–use of protected images. That changed due to an effort spearheaded by Disney to prevent anyone from doing exactly what Walt Disney did to get rich and famous, which was to take items from the public domain and create movies around them. He did it with Pinocchio, Show White, Sleeping Beauty, and the rest of the classics. But as the copyrights of those films and their associated images were about to expire, the corporation used its immense power to lobby for the laws to change, and to eliminate the exceptions for educational purposes. But educational institutions, teachers, professors, and students lack the financial resources to pay the copyright on images. I recently wrote a textbook (for which I have yet to be paid the $1.20 I will get for each $42 copy) and was unable to include important photos, even government-taken pictures of US elected officials, because those images are owned by huge corporations like Corbis or Getty. And the students suffer, because they can’t see pictures that would further their education. For example, I couldn’t include photos of the moon landing, of the first Muslim and Buddhist elected to Congress, or of the fall of the Berlin Wall. But the corporate interests are protected.

    What bothers me here is according to your thoughtful post, my students and I lack integrity for using a picture to instruct others, but big corporations seem to have integrity for keeping those valuable lessons from us.

    • Thank you, Dave, for adding to this discussion. You bring up some excellent points. I know that stock agencies such as Getty license images for a fee (which a portion gets paid to the creator/photographer of the image). Were the images you requested not available for license? It may have been that the images were already licensed to another person or entity.

      Please understand…I support educational institutions and teachers using images in their classroom for instruction. Here is my dilemma: My children have been encouraged to create presentations with images that have been “grabbed” from the web — and given “how-to” lessons to do so. I understand this is encouraged in order to enrich their understanding of their assignments and to add interest, but this encouragement is lacking the proper discussion about copyright law and how images just can’t be taken outside of school assignments. Due to this, there are now a lot of people who do not understand what is stealing and what is not when it comes to images online.

      Thank you, again, for sharing your experience! It gives us all a different angle to view from.

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