Guys, I can’t even make this story up. This just hit the airwaves yesterday, October 22. A writer blogging about her take on plagiarism and copyright regarding the Bad Art Friend story lifted/copied (without giving credit or gaining permission first) images from another creator to use in her blog post on Substack.
Why is this important? Because even after being called out, and ultimately switching out the photos to use her own, she still has not apologized to the creator, and had the audacity to post passive-aggressive tweets on Twitter regarding the incident. And that, my friend, is problematic. There’s been plenty of time to apologize, and still, nothing. (Someone confirmed that to me this evening, October 23).
The Kidneygate Image Use / Copyright Story
This story involves @kidneygate, a Twitter user who has done a fantastic job documenting and screenshotting various aspects of the court documents (all of which takes a great deal of time), and a non-fiction writer, Summer Brennan (see screenshots below for evidence).
I don’t know @kidneygate’s true identity. It doesn’t matter – the anonymity of the @kidneygate user does not change the truth. What this person has done is spent a lot of time gathering screenshots (meaning, creating their own images) to bring context and awareness of the Larson vs. Dorland case to the Twitter community. And they should be credited for that work, having made available around a hundred or so images for Twitter consumption.
When @kidneygate read this blogger’s article on Substack, @kidneygate noticed their own images being used (from Twitter), with approximately 90% of all images used in the blog post being from the @kidneygate account, according to the Twitter posts. When @kidneygate privately emailed the blogger to request attribution, he/she was denied, called a “psycho” and “obsessed” with the blogger.
And then, the blogger (Summer Brennan) proceeds to use excuses regarding a family life crisis to justify/defend the act. (Side note, the blogger still continues to use Twitter to comment on other things, so she must actually have time to make corrections). While I empathize with having a family member in the hospital, it does not excuse the act of lifting images without express consent, attribution or credit of another creator.
How hard is it for someone to give credit for those images? It’s not. A “Hey thanks to @kidneygate for providing these amazing screenshots” would have been perfectly acceptable after gaining permission. She just chose *not* to get permission or credit @kidneygate. When asked for credit, @kidneygate was gaslit (“I used images from the case files” and “I used images that people sent me” type), criticized, and denied attribution.
Sorry, but no, dear writer Summer Brennan. You don’t get to use “I’m having a family life crisis so therefore I shouldn’t be punished or called out for using someone’s images without consent or attribution” excuse. Even with a life crisis happening. If you don’t want to be blasted for lifting images you don’t own or have the right to use, then maybe do your own work, perhaps, or give credit where it’s due?
Gosh where have we seen this behavior before?! Oh right, Larson vs. Dorland Perry! It’s a total Sonya Larson behavior! Steal, infringe, deny, gaslight, gather your merry friends and followers to back you up, attempt to cover up the misdeed, and then go on a hate campaign of the creator who busted you. That’s the Sonya Larson / Chunky Monkeys methodology, right?
You. Will. Not. Get. A. Pass. From. Me. On. This. Topic. Because it’s the law, and you should know better not to do this kind of behavior/action. Especially if you’re a writer.
Photography & Image Creation is a Lot of Work (Physical Labor, Too)
Lifting image off the internet is a no-no. Someone owns the copyright to those images, absent the public use domain. And the image creator often puts a lot of time and effort into those images. Screenshots included.
How much work actually goes into creating images and photos? Well, a lot. My colleague Kerrie shares a bit of her photography work here and explains why copyrights need to be respected (because wow it’s a lot of physical labor and work) and how simply asking for consent and giving attribution is the way to go to respect the creator’s work and copyright. She quotes a basic rule for images: “If you didn’t create it or have express consent to use it, do not use it for your own blog or “art”.”
Bottom line, don’t mess with photographers and image creators. You can get sued or learn an expensive lesson, like this blogger did.
How to Handle Copyright Infringement Claims
If you created the piece of art in question, and have a substantive claim to it, and someone else has alleged you stole from them, hire a lawyer.
If you lifted an image from the internet, social media, or someone else’s profile, didn’t get consent, permission, or have a license to use the image, and know you’re in the wrong, apologize immediately. State you’re sorry, it won’t happen again, and comply with the request or immediately remove the infringed content. Or, if they’re willing to accept it, give attribution and a link back to the creator’s original post if the creator is not demanding a takedown, but rather, credit for their work.
The problem with the blogger who lifted @kidneygate’s images is that she, like Sonya Larson, dug her heels in and doubled down. Mistake. Don’t do that.
Apologize. It’s that simple. Own up to the mistake. Do it publicly. Generally creators are forgiving people, and allow you a way out of your mess. But if you break that olive branch, then expect to be called out for it.
To avoid all of this nonsense, seek permission first, consent, also, and express written authorization to repost, reblog, or copy the images for your own work. Make sure you credit the creator. Then, you’ll be safe. And you won’t create the nonsense that this particular writer did yesterday.
<sigh> Some authors just never learn.
Attribution: The screenshots of the Twitter feed included in this post are my own; the content of the screenshots (of the screenshots) are @kidneygate’s.