Introduction to Digital Humanities

RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

“Stealing” and Re-purposing online pictures

I found Melissa Terras’s blog post interesting because it touched on what we talked about in class on taking other people’s pictures online. It is also a very common thing that happens today and it is unclear of when it is acceptable or not or if you are breaking any copyright laws. She mentioned the website Etsy and I think that that is a great example for this issue. The way Etsy works is any person can have their own “boutique” so-to-speak where they can craft their own merchandise and sell it to any buyers usually through pay pal.

tangled disney iPhone case, iPod case, Samsung case, HTC case & Xperia Case available plastic and rubber case

Vintage Disney Posters Alice In Wonderland iPhone case, iPod case, Samsung case, HTC case & Xperia Case available plastic and rubber case

Iphone 5 iphone 4/4s  5S 5C  Breakfast Club VIntage  Movie Posters  mobile cell phone cover snap case

These are pictures of a few phone cases that I found off of sellers on Etsy. All I had to do was search “Disney phone cases” and “movie poster phone case” and these appeared. These are actual phone cases that I can purchase from a random seller on etsy and the accessibility is what makes it a controversy. Obviously, these images do not belong to the seller and these are images that one can google. Most likely, the seller of the phone case obtained these images somewhere online and then printed it on to a phone case and called it their own creation. While they did make the phone case, they do not own the image. The question rises, is it okay for one to reproduce these images on a phone case and they sell it for profit. Well these images are very public and can be found almost anywhere…but does that mean it is okay to take it? Like the author mentions, there are many copyright laws attached to pictures that people don’t even read or even understand so every artifact is different.

The author proposes : “Put out of copyright material in the public domain to encourage reuse. Go on! what are you scared of?” which I have mixed feelings about. While I do feel that such popular images such as “The Breakfast Club” movie poster above are very easy to find and it’s sort of impossible to stop all reuse of the photo, I think if I personally took a photo, I would be mad if other people re purposed that photo and made money off of my work.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your post! As an aspiring writer and photographer, I would also be upset if people profited from my work while I got nothing. Some photos are definitely widely known, and I loved the photos that you provided. It got me thinking about what would and wouldn’t count as a copyrighted thing, and even though there may not be a clear answer to that, it definitely made me think twice. Great job!

  2. I think that the notion of who owns content has been skewed with today’s widespread internet culture, and the line of what can be “borrowed” online has become blurred. I think that many forget, or do not realize, that just because something is in the public domain, does not mean that it available for use. Content is everywhere, and images of almost anything can be found with a few simple key inputs into Google image search. What is not always clear is what permissions, if any, the user has to use or reproduce this content, especially since many images are not on, for example, the original owner’s website. I found this point by Melissa Terras very interesting as there is a lack of clear rights of what can and cannot be done with digital content.

    Regarding the phone cases, I am honestly surprised that these phone cases can be sold on that site, especially the ones that contain the Disney images, which very likely fall into the category of copyrighted material. I know in the past Disney has been very protective of their copyrighted material, so unless this seller is paying some form of licensing fee to Disney to generate a profit using their images, it really sounds like the basis for a lawsuit. I think this is an example of where the line is drawn between “borrowing” and stealing. If you take a copyrighted image and turn around and sell it for profit it is unethical and potentially illegal. Even though it may not seem to be hurting the original creator, especially in this case with Disney, it is not right to pass content that is not yours off as your own.

    Kyle C.

  3. Once an image is posted online, does it really have an owner anymore? In the reading, and in your post, ambiguity is addressed over ownership. Do you think ownership should be given to the original creator of an image, like Disney? or does being on a publicly accessible forum make it public use? Obviously these are more ethical questions than thoughts relating to facts, as there is no international digital security agency. Just food for thought.

  4. Shane-Justin Nu'uhiwa

    September 29, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Your blog post provided an interesting perspective to the reading. The title of your post stood out as it reminded me of cultural appropriation versus appreciation. In other words, we are in a digital age in which thoughts and ideas can be “repurposed” and used by others. The point I am trying to make with cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation is that its easy for someone to make a profit off of the culture of an indigenous person. For example, it is easy for someone to make dreamcatchers and sell them for profit instead of appreciating the culture and its value. While the Disney Tangled phone case may provide an appreciation for the Disney culture, it may be viewed as an appropriation of the product for monetary gain. While I believe it is good to reuse ideas for a mutual benefit, there are other items that should not be shared because of the labor and cost to the original person.

  5. I liked reading your post and how you put the article in context with the images. What I got from reading this is that it is not okay for people to re purpose work and profit off of it. Does it make a difference if the work is famous itself? I think that just like a famous person does not have complete right to their work I think that same could be said about famous work of art. There is a time that the art loses its intellectual property also for the purpose of it being remade isn’t there? -CC

  6. I found This blog post very interesting also for the simple fact that it covers what we talked bout in class about copywriter and things like that. I also like how you connected the article with the pictures. This blog post had me thinking about what is technically considered copywrite because a lot of the time people are unaware Of copywrite.. Anyways great job !

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