July 13, 2019

Productivity with Free Software

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Although money makes the world go around (just check the tracking and advertising reports about major companies, for example) there are still some good-hearted and generous people around. Much of what gives voices to many is free or low-cost. Sometimes I return the favor by mentioning products or giving image credits, but I don't get one red grotzit for doing so.

Behind the scenes about my blogging and the free, legal use of images.
Left image: cropped from Freeimages / Leena Naidoo
The image on the right is the left image modifed with FotoSketcher
Sure, some companies and individuals will sell stuff at different levels such as the free, pay more for some features, pay a lot more for all the features. I use a wagon train-load of free materials (most notably Open Source and Freeware), but I admit that I've been burned by a few bad risks. To reduce these, I check reviews and if I download something, I can scan it with my free versions of Malwarebytes and the Avast! antivirus scanner — both of which were highly recommended.

Although it is nowhere near as effective as it should be (I believe that Google is more interested in finding ways of stuffing more money into their saddlebags that in putting quality in their services), this blogging platform is free, as are some versions of Wordpress and others. However, I pay for several domains. Some can be mighty pricey, but others are very low for an annual rate.

My most frequent weblog is Piltdown Superman. If you browse through the images, you'll see that they come from free sites where I obtained them in good faith. (I can pay for images, but they are a bit pricey for my budget.) I do some editing with Paint dot Net, which is also free. Although many free image sites do not require credit to the site and the photographers or artists, I want to help them out in some small way so I provide it. Others do require it, and I think some play a bit of a game. 

Wikimedia Commons requires credit and the Creative Commons or other license, but the US Government images that were made by employees and not licensed for the site from external sources are free and public domain. They want users to give credit and to say that the agency does not endorse the subject matter on the site. Mayhaps that's really the law, but I doubt it because they're already in the public domain by law, and other people don't follow the instructions. I'll allow that I'm partly motivated by being transparent and also by the desire to avoid antagonizing anyone in the government.

Just because an image is on the web doesn't mean it's free for everyone. In fact, it is automatically copyrighted whether it is registered or not. One sidewinder sought to humiliate me and stole one of my photos so I filed a DMCA takedown complaint. That really got him on the prod, so he uploaded a copyrighted image of an ugly alien and said it represented me. While his article was defamatory, I can do nothing about the other image per se; that's up to the movie studio — if they think it's worth the trouble. Also, I had a furious atheopath steal one of my images and post it on Facebook with a defamatory picture and called it Fair Use. That was in no wise Fair Use, but Fazebook sided with the atheist. They do that frequently, as we have seen.

There is a Fair Use policy that is used and abused, but the details are fuzzy. I don't want a courtroom battle, so I seldom invoke Fair Use if I have any doubt that I'm on solid ground. (A Fair Use disclaimer can be found on this page). Besides, other people are not likely to be financially damaged by the small, low-resolution images I use. Text on forums is public, and also screenshots of these easily fall under the Fair Use provisions.

Let's ride this trail a mite further. Original material that is under copyright can be used in a different way than Fair Use. I think some copyrights are lost because the original is scattered all over teh interwebs, such as on "meme" generators that are provided for everyone's use. (Careful, some are uploaded by individuals who have no right to make them public.) This other area is derivative.

As I understand it, if a copyrighted image has been modified a great deal, the derivative is unique and can even be copyrighted itself. The image at the top shows a free image that I modified with FotoSketcher. Maybe that is enough of a modification to be considered a derivative, but I'm on safe ground for my purposes anyway; it will appear in a new post on PDSM later.

I hope that people mildly curious about what goes on behind the scenes with my weblog work will like the article. Also, there are some links and insights that may prove useful to people. There's no need to steal, and all y'all can stay out of trouble by doing things legally. Christians take note! Do things above board so your testimony is not tarnished.

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