I just finished up a gaming expo and am headed into my last full-weekend convention of the year, so I’m going to have lots more time to post. I’ve made the decision to move back to my old blog, extermikate, just for the sake of consistency (and nostalgia). I’m going to be tweaking things over the next few weeks — first and foremost, getting rid of that terrible, eye-straining font — before I start posting again, but all my old posts both here and there will remain where they are indefinitely.

See you over there in a little while!

personal isn’t private: why you can’t use things only licensed for personal use on your blog

personal isn't private

Important: I’m not a lawyer; please don’t read this post and say “well, that’s all I need to know!” There are definitely things I’m missing here, and if you’re concerned about potential legal trouble resulting from your blog or social media posts, you’ll need to do lots of homework.

I got my first ever email from a reader recently! I was hoping it was going to be someone complimenting me on my shiny, shiny hair but no dice. Instead, it was someone who told me, as gently as possible, that I was wrong when I said that blogging can’t be considered personal use, and so you can’t use things that are licensed for personal use only when you’re blogging.

I get where that reader, and where lots of other commenters I’ve seen on other blogs, are coming from. You’re posting your own words about your own experiences, and that’s inherently personal. And if your blog isn’t monetized, you’re good to go, right?

Not quite. Let’s try out a different scenario: you’re sitting on your front step, it’s a beautiful day, and you’ve decided to enjoy the sunshine by getting totally naked. Your neighbour’s like, uh, what the hell, and calls the police. The cops show up and you explain to them that, hey, public nudity might be a crime but you’re not in public. You’re on your own front step, after all. It’s yours. It’s personal.

Except that everyone can see you. Your property or not, you’re out in public.

I think a lot of the confusion I see regarding the copyright issue comes from the word personal. Of course your blog is personal. Everything about it is shaped by your experiences, your goals, and your personality. But publishing it online means that whatever you’re putting out there, everyone can see it. It’s personal, but it isn’t private. And when you’re not in private, the rules are different.

Think of the warnings at the beginnings of movies. You may have bought it, but you’re still not legally allowed to copy it, distribute it, or show it publicly, even if you’re not profiting from it. While it’s your personal copy, there are restrictions on what you’re legally allowed to do with it. Hurl the disc into the sun? Go for it! Rip it and burn a copy for Uncle Bob? Nope. Haul a projector into the middle of a public park so you can graciously allow everyone and their mother to see your favourite movie for free? Also nope, and this is probably the closest example to our blog situation.

Maybe your blog is low-traffic enough that you think you won’t get in trouble for using an image in spite of its licensing requirements. Maybe your neighbourhood is low-traffic enough that you think you can get away with that awesome roadside sunbathing. And maybe these things have proved true — so far. All it takes is one annoyed viewer to get you in serious trouble.

When I wrote about copyright issues before, I mentioned that technology keeps getting better and better when it comes to image identification. If you’ve ever used Google Images’ reverse-search feature, you’ll know that it’s easy to identify the source of an image. You’ll also know that you’ll also bring up just about every other site that’s ever posted that image. The larger stock image companies have been known to use technology like this to track down unlicensed usage of their images and smack the users with ridiculously large fines. This is only going to get more and more common as the technology improves, and as more rights-holders realize they can profit hugely from this.

Another argument I keep seeing is that because a blogger isn’t earning money from their blog, it doesn’t count as a commercial venture. And that’s just not true. It might not be commecial for you, but if it’s hosted on a site like WordPress or Blogger, or you’ve got your own domain you pay to have hosted, it’s certainly commercial for them — either you’re paying them or they’re putting ads on your site. After all, they’re businesses. And just like any business worth their salt, they’ve used the TOS agreement to put the responsibility on you, the user of their service, to only post things you have the rights to. Anything you post is your responsibility, legally and financially.

To reiterate: if you are paying for domain hosting, or if your blog’s host puts advertisements on your blog, or any money has changed hands (or could potentially change hands) for any reason as a result of your blog, it cannot be considered personal. And on the off-chance that it doesn’t fit that criteria, you can still be in murky legal territory just by posting it publicly. As the person posting, you are the one who is legally and financially responsible for any misuse of content that isn’t your own, even if that misuse was not intentional.

(Was that enough emphatic formatting? If this were the 90s I would have used a blink tag just to be sure.)

One last, personal note: I cringe so hard every time I see a photo credited to Tumblr, Pinterest, WeHeartIt, Google Images, or anything like that, without adding in the username of the person who created it. Tumblr didn’t create the image — a Tumblr user did. Not only are you posting it without permission, you’re attributing creatorship to someone else, which comes with its own potential legal problems — if it’s in any way objectionable (and let’s face it, everything’s objectionable to someone or another) in a way that could harm the brand you’ve associated it with, they may take action against you. On a lesser scale, though, and the reason it’s a huge pet peeve for me: it’s just really careless, and super-tacky.

Basically, all this boils down to “don’t use stuff without permission,” as I stressed last time I ranted on this topic. If you don’t have the time to ask, to properly source, and/or to make your own stuff instead, you definitely don’t have time for a legal battle in which you’re absolutely in the wrong.

Monday morning mixes, #3: true patriot love (& lalalalala)

It’s not a Monday, but it is Canada Day, so here’s 17 fantastic songs by Canadian artists for you to listen to while you enjoy all that maple syrup and poutine. (Not together. Probably. Now that I’ve said that, you know I’ve got to make it.)

true patriot love - a canada day mix

listen on spotify

hunter valentine – break this | jully black – seven day fool | k-os – sunday morning | tegan and sara – now i’m all messed up | joel plaskett – true patriot love | fefe dobson – ghost | hey rosetta! – another pilot | land of talk – speak to me bones | buck 65 – kennedy killed the hat | cadence weapon – real estate | the trews – hold me in your arms | hawksley workman – smoke baby | stars – the north | broken social scene – anthems for a seventeen year old girl | wolf parade – you are a runner and i am my father’s son | mother mother – oleander | brasstronaut – requiem for a scene

Ears hungry for something else? Take a look through the mix tag!

Accidental blog hiatus, what’s up?

It’s not like I meant to disappear off the face of the universe for a month, but I looked at my neat little schedule of posts and went THIS IS ALL GARBAGE. So I stepped back for a few days, looked at it all again, and nope, still garbage.

I’ve kept an eye on my page views over these past few weeks and the posts that are still getting hits are, probably not coincidentally, the posts I was excited to write and that actually contained useful information. So from here on out: more of that!

I’ve decided to take up the “post every day in July” challenge that I saw a lot last year, so I’ll be back with new content then — I’m starting prep for two cons in August and an event or two in September, and I think that documenting the whole OH SHIT GOTTA MAKE STUFF process will be fun, and potentially useful for those of you who also have events coming up.

See you in a few days!

Monday morning mixes #2: well, does he like butter tarts?

well does he like butter tarts?

listen on spotify

len – steal my sunshine | william shatner – common people | sister hazel – all for you | marianas trench – cross my heart | aqua – doctor jones | the cab – one of those nights | robyn – show me love | cobra starship – bring it (snakes on a plane) | hanson – mmmbop | jim carroll band – people who died | omc – how bizarre

To contrast last week’s horrorfest, today’s mix is 100% upbeat stuff that is impossible (for me, anyway) not to sing along to. I’d call it a guilty pleasure mix except there is absolutely zero guilt happening here. Enjoy!

Photo post: after the con

I’m finally taking my own advice (several weeks late) and have started putting away all of my stuff from SFOTR. Now that the boxes and bags are dealt with, I’m taking on the even bigger task of clearing off my desk. This has been tricky not just because of all the stuff on it (and oh, there was so much stuff) but because, well, it was kind of pretty.

Since I really do need the space, I’ve made myself start cleaning it, and I decided to immortalize the prettiness here!

painted galaxies on canvas only to discover i'd painted them underneath it, too

paper i used to test and blend colours

paper i put under the tiny pendants and charms i was painting

yes, i paint with makeup sponges

I’d apologize for there only being a few pictures, but my clutter is endless. There will undoubtedly be more soon.

Don’t get sued, part 2: a confession

And my confession is, to quote GOB Bluth:

I've made a huge mistake

I’ve made a huge mistake.

Remember last week’s post about blogging resources you can use without fear of lawsuits? Remember how I said I was going to look into actual images and fonts you can use?

yeah. About that.

I was so optimistic going into it, you guys. I like being helpful, I like doing detective work, and I love a low-stakes challenge. I really thought I was going to have a huge list of resources by now. But just about everything I found that claimed to be free had something or another wrong with it:

  • Creative commons-licensed stuff, but allowed unmoderated user uploads and licensing, thus potentially leading to the problem discussed last week with regards to Flickr: people uploading things they don’t own themselves, and putting licenses on it.
  • Stock photo sites that allow free downloads, but only tiny, poor-quality images (or watermarked ones).
  • Stock photo sites that allow free downloads, but only if you give them your credit card information first (side note, aren’t we past the whole “free” trial thing? just, like, as a society? it really feels like the kind of thing that should have died out by now.).
  • Font repositories that contained misused and incorrectly sourced fonts at best, blatantly stolen fonts at worst.
  • The usual “free resources!” lists that were full of unsourced, or incorrectly sourced, material that, upon further investigation, proved to not be free at all.
  • No terms of service, or indeed any kind of information at all. I feel like that’s the online equivalent of a van with “FREE CANDY” marked on the side.

Even when I found things that were 100%, totally, legally free, sometimes they weren’t things I could feel okay about using, since sometimes these totally legal things end up being kind of shady after all. And while there seems to be a growing number of creator-owned sites springing up to fill the gap, all the ones I found had small or unsearchable libraries, making them of limited use.

So, ultimately, I’m scrapping what I hoped would be an ongoing series where I linked image and font sources you could safely use. Instead — at least for today — I’m just going to simplify and stress what I said last week:

If you didn’t make it yourself, and you don’t have permission, don’t use it.

You need to know that every time you post something that you didn’t make yourself, that you don’t have a license for, that you haven’t been given explicit written permission to use, you’re risking a lawsuit. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. As much as I would like to, I can’t sugar-coat this one. There’s honestly not a lot out there you can use for free without asking. Be skeptical, be thoughtful, be careful.

With all of that in mind, here’s one resource I did think was awesome: this post at Olyvia, listing loads of free resources. If you’re looking for free images for commercial use, this should be your starting point — this was the only list I found where the author stressed the need to use legitimate sources that can’t get you in trouble.

Now that I know I can’t get on this subject without turning into a big ball of doom and gloom, I’m going to shift focus to creating new things. I’m already about 1000% more excited about what I’ve got planned, so I think it’s going to work out even better than what I’d originally thought to do. First on my list is an easy, fun photo-editing project that I hope you’ll join me for next Tuesday!

Monday morning mixes #1: Atreus

Grooveshark is gone, at least as it was, and to tell you the truth I’m a little glad. While I had a lot of playlists there from a few years back, I’d recently become uncomfortable with having used the service, since it just seemed shadier and shadier.

Now that it’s gone, I’m rebuilding my playlist library on Spotify. I’ll be posting one here once a week, every Monday morning, for you to enjoy as you start your week (or if you’re further ahead in time than I am, as you power through and then wind down from the daily grind!)


listen on spotify

kings of leon – closer | pj harvey – down by the water | hole – use once and destroy | placebo – post blue | florence + the machine – seven devils | brand new – bed | the xx – insects | hey rosetta! – red song | sohodolls – the rest for the wicked | kidneythieves – the invisible plan | buck 65 – devil’s eyes | karen elson – the truth is in the dirt | my chemical romance – house of wolves

I did this one as part of a project for a classics course I took a few years ago, focusing on the portrayal of mythology and ancient history in film. I plotted out three movies based on the myths and plays relating to the House of Atreus, which — to briefly summarize — is deliciously fucked up, and contains some of my favourite elements of horror (namely: family curses, divination, and inescapable prophecy). I’m currently reworking my old project into something new, so I’ve been listening to this playlist a lot lately. It’s an angry, eerie, visceral little mix — next Monday I’ll have something a little softer for you, so if that’s more up your alley, hold tight!

Six free courses to take this summer

six free courses to take this summer

There’s snow falling as I write this, so it’s a little painful for me to look at my various feeds and see everyone talking about the start of summer. I miss sunshine, you guys! That said, as much as I love getting out in the sun, one of my favourite parts of summer is picking up a slushie at the corner store and coming home to drink my liquid sugar and write until the sun comes up.

This summer I’m planning on doing a bunch of free online courses during my slushie downtime — they’re free, and why not? During my first couple of years at university, the guy at the registrar’s office knew me by name because I was in at least once every week or two to change my major or minor. There’s just too much stuff I love learning about, and luckily these courses are out there, so I don’t have to bother the poor registrar’s office guy again.

Here’s what I’m currently signed up for:

Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds – Because when I was around seven, I got weirdly obsessed with maritime archaeology, and it’s always something I can’t get enough of. (No, seriously, I used to work in a museum that had some items recovered from a shipwreck in its collection, and I was always bummed out that no one was excited as I was about old silverware.)

Introduction to Dutch – Because I love languages and I’ve never tried Dutch.

Introduction to Forensic Science – Confession time: I started this one before, loved it — the case studies were amazing. And then I ran out of spare time and never finished it. I’m hoping to make up for that this time around!

User Innovation: A Path to Entrepreneurship – Because business courses that focus on creative thinking and problem-solving are fantastic.

Introduction to Basic German Language Skills – Because hey, one language just isn’t enough! I took a short German course as a kid and, inexplicably, the one and only sentence I remember is “meine Jacke ist hellblau und dunkelblau,” which is remarkably unhelpful. If nothing else, I’m at least going to learn how to tell people the colour of my current Jacke.

Begin Robotics – The course description lured me in — the way to my heart is through robot history, apparently, and maybe also the promise of getting to test drive a robot.

If you’ve got any links to awesome courses I can add to my list, I’d love to see them!