A recent blog posted here on October 3, 2010, titled "Does Your Garden Advice Lose its Flavor on the Bed Post Overnight?" generated a significant amount of commentary both on my site as well as on Kimberly’s, who blogs at Garden in Paradise. Kimberly ran with the proverbial ball, so to speak, by continuing the dialogue on garden advice at her site. Her post is titled "Bloggers Bawl" and was posted on October 7, 2010.
Then, a very interesting development occurred on both her blog and mine. At some point in the conversation, the commentaries turned to the topic of accreditation. I went back to re read all of the posted opinions to make sure that I understood each replier’s point of view. After several reads, I concluded that this subject is not only very controversial but also, that there can never be a consensus because there are too many opposing opinions. The most prominent are two that I label “Black-White” and “Grey”.
Those in the Black-White camp follow the guidelines of the publishing and communication industries. All intellectual property belongs to the creator or the purchaser and should not be used without the express permission of the current owner and that permission must be acknowledged by the user. From the perspective of those in this camp, it is important to appreciate that creative people earn a living from the intellectual property that they produce and that publishers earn a living from marketing the intellectual properties that they purchase.
The grey camp believes that after an image has been acquired, paid for, and posted on line; it may be used by bloggers for non commercial purposes, without time-consuming prior permission, as long as it is accredited. That accreditation includes acknowledging the site where it was found and a link back to that site. However, the exception occurs when an image is expressly copyrighted by the owner, or when a site posts a warning that forbids its re use under any circumstances.
From the perspective of those in the grey camp, it is important to recognize that there is a tacit understanding between blogger and site owner. A link-back from a blog provides free publicity to a commercial website with the hope that it will generate revenue in terms of sales of products, services, or subscriptions. At the least, it is expected to increase the number of unique visitors to a site; a number that has great significance because it is a measure of the attractiveness of that site to potential advertisers. In this manner owners, who have legitimately paid for the images posted to their sites, are happy to share that intellectual property with bloggers who might send them additional reader traffic.
Our community of garden bloggers may have reached, or is about to reach, a confrontation point. Accreditation by link-back, without prior permission, is not acceptable to one camp while the other camp cannot fully appreciate the sacredness of intellectual property. Never should there be a judgment on the intelligence or ethical integrity of either group. There may be serious differences between them on this subject; however, members of both camps are otherwise held in high regard by their respective readers and by their garden blogging colleagues.
I hope that the two opposing camps will not create a schism within our community. That is an occurrence that no one wants as it would be counter productive to the harmony and mutual respect that we now experience. Therefore, in the same spirit that we acknowledge that there are no absolute truths in gardening, we should also agree that bloggers accredit their sources as they please.