by J. Rae Chip

This post is an addition to a previous blog entry that goes into better detail about steps you need in order to act on issues presented in the following paragraphs. You can find the previous blog entry here.

Law in the United States is about as straightforward as warp drive technology. Copyright law is a constant issue for artists because it’s hard to understand. I have literally called the U.S. Copyright Office to ask a question on two separate occasions and received different answers.

However, recent events have caused me to be forced to clear up my own understanding of copyright laws in the United States.

Most of my experience has been with published work and copyrights, as I have been published a few times.* If you grant them LICENSE to your work for the sole purpose in the contract. I could license something for use / reproduction, derivative work production, distribution, etc. If I license a work to someone for use purposes, that does not give them the right to use it outside of those terms, and I could sue them if they do because they are violating my copyright. Before I license work, I have a lawyer look at their licensing agreement as a way to help me decide if I want them to use it for that purpose, and whether or not they have motives to do other things with my work. I’d highly recommend doing the same.

I register all my work, licensed, published, or unpublished, with the U.S. Copyright Office, and it is really important to do that. Unless work is registered prior to its theft, the artist cannot collect punitive damages if his or her work is stolen. If it is unregistered, it is still copyrighted; however, the artist can only collect actual damages. This means that the artist can only collect moneys they lost from the theft of the image, and it is the thief’s responsibility to prove they made profits of their own accord and not because of the stolen image.

The first thing I learned recently is that I really need to make a will. My work is worth more once I’m dead that it will ever be worth while I am alive. I imagine, without even getting my work appraised, that I could exceed the $1 million limit set by the IRS defining the point at which beneficiary has to pay estate tax. People who I name in my will would likely have no idea what to do with my work once I’m gone, and I need to outline it for them in the will. IE I need to say who I want to get all my printed work, paintings, digital copies, how much they are worth, and then even give directions for filing the paperwork.

I learned that you really do need to WATERMARK your work. The image I had stolen was one submitted under the stipulations that it not be watermarked, and it was a mistake to agree to that. Watermarking an image shows the users that it belongs to someone. Though you’re not required by law to put a copyright notice on your work anymore, a thief can claim it was accidental and he or she thought it was public domain unless there is a notice on the work, and that significantly reduces the amount of money you collect from the lawsuit.

If you can’t afford a lawyer, you can get cheap or free advice because of the Visual Artists Rights Act. If you Google it (or Bing it), there are resources available to residents of most states.

Lastly, I learned that copyrights solely belong to the “author” of the work unless it is written into a contract, and even then it might still belong solely to the “author.” A photographer maintains all rights to his or her own work unless it is “work for hire,” which means you are doing it for an employer. If you got a W2 because of the photography work you made, that is work for hire. Doing work for another person based on a contract is not work for hire. My work as a journalist is work for hire. My work as a freelance photographer is not work for hire. Another reason why someone else could own rights to the copyrighted material is if they contributed part of it, and it has to be a portion that can be copyrighted. A designer cannot own part of the copyright, nor can the model. However, the designer and photographer can have a say in how the image is used because it is their clothing or image being displayed.

A book I highly recommend purchasing: Art Law Conversations: A Surprisingly Readable Guide for Visual Artists by Elizabeth T. Russell

*The Albuquerque Journal, Arab San Diego, The Aztec, Department of Defense Reporting, Egypt Daily News, Gothic Beauty Magazine, The Guardian, Inked Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Maadi Messenger Magazine, Moderate Camel Chronicle, The OB Rag, The Oklahoman, Pinup Magazine, San Diego City Times, San Diego Union Tribune

by J. Rae Chip

<<This blog post will be continually updated as more information becomes available.>>

Last week I decided it was time to delete my Google Plus profile. I'd been an active user of the social network for several years, so there was a lot of information to delete.

When my Facebook friends who also knew me on Google Plus found out they asked me a few things: 1) Why did you do that? Don't you know it's going to kill your search engine optimization (SEO)? 2) Do you know what affect that has on the rest of your web presence, since Google owns so much of the internet now?

Thus, I decided to write about the affects of that decision around the internet. 

Disabling Google Plus versus Deleting Google Account
The option to delete your Google Plus page is located under "account" when you click on your profile photo in the upper right photo. Once there, click the "Google+" tab. Scroll all the way to the bottom to where it says "Disable Google+."

From there, it gives you two options. You can either disable Google Plus or you can delete your Google account. Disabling your Google Plus page means you will be deleting your Google Plus profile as well as any information attached to it including comments you made and posts you made, the +1 tab, and any profile information that was not made public.

It does not include your reviews on Local, or your pages. If you were the moderator of a community, you will still be the moderator of that community, as long as you're not the only person in the community. Photos don't get deleted when you delete your profile. They will still exist in Picasa (go to Picasaweb to delete them.) Connections to third parties and merged accounts will not be affected, and the contacts you had will not be completely deleted. The people who have you circled will still have you circled until they delete you, even if your Plus page does not exist anymore. That way, they can communicate with you through Gmail. The people whom you had circled will remain in a "contacts" folder.

Deleting a Google Account means disabling Google Plus and all associated pages. It also includes the deletion of Gmail, Google Voice, Google Drive, YouTube, Reader, Blogger, Picasa, Play, and other Google products you can use. If you want to get off Google Plus but keep these items in tact, you don't want to delete your Google account.

Search Engine Optimization
In case you don't know, I'm an entrepreneur and I rely on a web presence for a portion of my marketing plan. I've been kind of lazy with my SEO tags on this website (and elsewhere) and in the past, I chose to use social media to compensate for my laziness. I posted links to this website over there. When I wrote a new blog post, I posted a link in a post on Google Plus. I also did this with photos I made that I knew my audience would like, but that defied Google Plus' terms of use. I imagine my Google Analytics will tank now that I don't have those posts out there linking people to the content on the site.

If people who used Google Plus searched for my name, a lot of Google Plus results would come up. Posts would come up that had links to my website. When I deleted Google Plus, all of that went away.

I didn't remember that I had links to Google Plus embedded all over the internet, to include Facebook. I stopped posting to Facebook directly because I have issues with their terms of service. That meant that my SEO on Facebook consisted of a link back to Google Plus, which meant that once Google Plus was gone, so was all the SEO on Facebook. 

Links on this website to Google Plus became 404 messages, which some search engines penalize websites for.

Deletion of the +1 feature meant that all the times when I plus-one'd my photo somewhere else in order to gain the SEO from Google Plus, that SEO was gone. The plus ones to my own sites were also gone.

After realizing what I had happened to my business once I deleted Google Plus, I was faced with the task of trying to regain all the optimization I had lost with the deletion. It's a daunting task, as it takes time for search engines to crawl the web and index your content. I lost a lot of posts that were very high in ranking in search results, and others will fall in the rankings because their placement was based at least partially on something done on Google Plus.

Broken YouTube Links
After I deleted my Google Plus account, I went to YouTube and nearly lost my lunch. My account was blank. It appeared as if none of my videos were there. And I was horrified because I didn't want to have lost the views on those videos, as that was another piece of my SEO plan. 

Google didn't warn people about that when it gave information about the disabling of Google Plus. Had I not gone there looking for a video to post onto Facebook, I would have had 404 warnings and broken links everywhere until someone either told me, or until I finally figured it out on my own.

Luckily, I didn't lose all my videos. However, they were broken links everywhere because the deletion of my Plus page made them all visible only to me. This applies to all the videos I uploaded as well as every playlist I had saved of other peoples' uploads.

I was able to go into each playlist and each video and make them visible to the public again.

Because this happened with YouTube, I wonder if there are other Google products out there to which this has occurred. I have been combing my Google account looking for any other inconsistencies that could cause a 404 on my website or on someone else's website.

Speaking of other peoples' websites.... I now have lost some business contacts because their links to my Google Plus page went 404. They didn't want to bother with writing to me about it, and just dropped me. Some have called me already wanting a new link. Others didn't have my contact information to begin with.