So an artist wouldn’t mind if I posted an image of their work on my blog (in a post about their work) as long as I credit them and note the copyright of the work is theirs? It seems like a legal gray area, like I wouldn’t be able to put an mp3 of a Depeche Mode song on my blog when talking about how much they inspire me if I simply add a copyright symbol by it.
I think this is a great question and a legitimate analogy to music. Please keep in mind that I’m not an attorney, so I will not address the “legal gray area.” I do think, though, that using the entire mp3 of a song (a complete work that is fairly easy to download and copy) is quite different from using a small, low-resolution image of an artwork.
What I’m talking about here is giving someone free publicity. Put aside the law part for a minute.
IF you write something nice about someone . . .
And IF you have a decent blog that doesn’t contain objectionable content (sexual, political, or something else that might offend) . . . any artist in his or her right mind SHOULD be thrilled with the mention.
Newly added: Clarification since I was apparently not making myself clear: This post was written with regard to using an image to go along with something nice you've written about an artist's work. It is not intended to refer to art used to decorate someone else's post. I also made it very clear in the previous post that the work should carry complete credit–including the © notice. I apologize for misunderstandings.
You are taking an image that is already available on the Internet (presumably you got it from the other artist’s blog or website) and sharing it with your readers.
Reread some of what I wrote above. If your art appears on a site that has objectionable (to you!) content, you’re not going to be happy even if full credit is given. The reverse is also true (if you feature the art of someone who objects to your content). I’m thinking of the recent suit that Jackson Browne won against the John McCain campaign, which used his song without permission. Since Browne is a liberal activist, he might not have sued had Obama done the same thing, although I certainly won’t speak for him.
If your site is a fairly innocuous artist site and all you’re trying to do is promote the art of another artist, there is no reason in the world that you should worry about using an image along with your post. If you think there is reason for anyone to object to your content, it's probably best to get permission ahead of time. And always remove something if requested. The fight isn't worth it.
Some years ago, I found that artists were a little touchy about allowing use of their images. Today it's different. Only the uninformed would feel that way. Every artist whose work I feature is THRILLED beyond belief. They recognize the value of free publicity.
By the way, because of the nature of this question, I asked Lesley for permission to use her work here. I don’t usually ask! But I do send an email informing an artist that I’ve used one of their images–just so they can do the happy dance. More clarification is needed here, too. I have a prior relationship with the artists whose images I use. It was irresponsible of me to suggest that I use random art to “decorate” my newsletter and blog posts. I know the people whose art I am using and I send them an email telling them that their art will appear.
If someone uses your art without credit
If someone uses your art without credit let them know you are displeased without threatening them. Send them an email saying “Hey, I see you liked my work. I sure would be happy to thank you for featuring it if you would just give me credit. Please provide this credit line and link and we’ll be cool: . . . “
(As an aside, about 5 or more years ago I made the gigantic–ha!–mistake of using someone's image in a newsletter without getting permission ahead of time. I got a nasty note from that person as if I had done them irreparable damage. They demanded that I should have asked permission. I apologized profusely and then quickly removed the image from the online version. I'll be darned if I was ever going to feature that person's art in any way, shape or form. Please see my clarification above. It applies here, too. I had met this person face to face. But it was the single time that I forgot to email someone and tell them that their work would appear.)
Make sure you're giving credit to yourself
Incidentally, I think you should also be crediting your own work whenever you post it. This is a huge failure of most artists. Sure, it’s your blog and most people will correctly assume that the work is yours. But if it’s their first visit to your blog, having your name under all of your images will help establish name recognition. I like the way Brian Kliewer does it.
Incidentally, Brian's use of the © notation is correction. It's © followed by the date, followed by your name.