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My favorite question: “Why post pictures of your kids online if you don’t want them stolen?” in a tone of Well, you’re asking for it.

A camera crew from the Today Show left my house yesterday afternoon and all I kept thinking after they left was “did I make sense?” “Did I really get my point across?”

You’d think someone like me, who has appeared on television countless times would know how to handle an interview but the truth is, I prefer being on the other side of the camera when it comes to questions.

behind the scenes Today Show shoot

So here’s the deal, long story short: People sometimes steal my pictures and use them without my permission.

This has ranged from Etsy stores, stock photo sites, Facebook pages, and so on. I normally don’t make a huge deal about it because I know how to handle it and it gets handled.

I was nervous before the segment aired because I worried it was going to turn into a shaming session like so many ill-informed people make it in the comments section of Yahoo. Thankfully, they got it right, and had an excellent expert explain what I feel like I’ve explained a hundred times.

I OWN my work. This website, my photos, my written words… Mine. You know how authors own the rights to their books? Or all of those warnings at the beginning of your blu-rays about duplication? Or how you wouldn’t scan a photo out of a magazine and upload it as your own? Much like that.

Would you be scared of a photographer or author coming after you for copyright infringement? If so, you should be scared of a blogger too.

Pillow-girl-today-show

Sure, people search google images looking for the perfect photo for a meme and–thinking it’s innocent–grab a picture of my family… After all, they aren’t trying to make money off of it, so it’s fair use right? WRONG.

It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

The problem isn’t parents sharing images of their kids. The problem is people not being informed and feeling entitled to whatever they find on the internet. Thinking it’s a place that’s “free game” once it’s out there. It’s new territory, so I understand we’re all trying to navigate new terrain together. We’re trying to figure out what we can and can do, should and shouldn’t share. But my most explicit warning isn’t for those who are wondering whether or not to share (I choose not to live in fear) but for those who take without asking.

Please, for the love of everything holy, ask first. Because a lawsuit could cost way more than the few laughs that meme was worth.

Here’s the segment in case you missed it. I’m working on an FAQ post for parents about sharing my kids’ photos online and how I handle things when I see they’ve been taken (UPDATE 3:30pm: Here’s my FAQ post). So let me know if you have any specific questions. In the mean time, here’s the segment in case you missed it. (I can’t wait to show Lil’ J when she gets home from school!)


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Leah Sannar says:

I saw the segment on The Today Show this morning, and you’re right, I thought they did a fabulous job! When I first started my blog, I worried about my photos being stolen.. Not just because my kid is adorable (which obviously, he is :o) But we were having issues with his birth mother at the time. We have, thankfully, been without incident… but I’m sharing this article with as many people as I can. Because I agree, we need more awareness. I learned a lot about it when I first started blogging.. people don’t always know that you can’t just save an image off Google and use it however you want. Thanks so much for sharing!!

nicole says:

well said, good points. nice work!

JMH says:

So, I know this isn’t going to be popular, but here is how I honestly feel:

No, you should not have your children plastered all over the internet. Sure, you own the photos, but you do not own your children. They are people, individuals. They may not even want you blogging about their daily lives, posting milestones and photos of them for your own gain. I could go on and on on this one, but I think you know what I mean. Of course you may not see it this way, but as a parent I couldn’t fathom sharing their little lives with other who don’t know them.

Frankly, I don’t believe it’s because your kids are cute (really, no offense). There little lives, list most, are unremarkable. They are no different than the next kid. But, most parents don’t put their kids out there as you and other parents have, so they take what they can get. Need biracial kids for a meme? Well, a quick Google search will pull up your children. I, too, have biracial kids, and guess what? You could never find them on a search. I don’t put them out there for unnecessary scrutiny. You know, kinda like my feedback I’m giving now.

All this to say: Let your kids have their own lives. Let them decide what they want to share publicly. Stop plastering their pictures everywhere for some weird type of validation. Blog about your life, okay, but please stop with publicly sharing your kids, well, everywhere.

Good luck, and have a Happy New Year.

Hi JMH. I’m guessing you’re new here. Welcome! I say that because I’m very open with my daughter about what we’re sharing with others and she definitely plays a part in this blog. Sure, when she was younger (and for my son) that wasn’t the case, but it’s an ongoing conversation we have together, and as she gets older she may change her mind about what’s out there and I’ll respect that.

My children aren’t plastered “all over the internet” they are here. On a blog, I author and own. If people take it elsewhere then they wind up having a problem with me.

Just because you don’t share your kids’ photos doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with others who do. But I appreciate you opinion anyway 🙂

Leah Sannar says:

I could not disagree more… her kids are people, of course.. but are they not a part of Jennifer’s life? She’s sharing HER life, and her kids are a very big part of that. As I’m sure you read in her article, most of us bloggers are very aware that at a certain point, our children may or may not prefer to be a part of our stories publicly.

The bigger issue here isn’t whether or not journalists, authors, photographers, or bloggers “deserve” to have their materials stolen… the answer to that is clear: Nobody deserves to have their property stolen or manipulated. But the bigger issue, in my humble opinion, is working to spread awareness to people who are stealing images off Google, who perhaps have no knowledge that what they are doing is illegal.

On top of that, I – like many of Jennifer’s readers – have benefitted greatly from her willingness to share her life. Her creativity and expertise with documenting your life with your family has allowed me to document my precious family in ways I never dreamed possible. For that I’ll always be grateful she chose to share her life, and hope that she isn’t discouraged to the point of shutting down, by people who either don’t know that what they are doing is illegal… or choose not to care.

Kristina says:

You make great points and you did very well. But I was less concerned with my images being taken for financial or popularity gain, and more worried about them being sexually exploited. Those people have already proven they’re not following the rules, and I doubt a cease and desist would phase them very much. Regardless, I like what you said about not living in fear. That’s a good way to be.

Thank you Kristina! I hear this concern from time to time and I’m not sure where this big fear stems from to be honest. As if this is some huge fad that is happening to every parent online. In my experience and searches I haven’t come across any sexual exploitation uses. And I disagree in that a site like that wouldn’t be phased much but a cease and desist. Sex sites make big money and a lawsuit (and child porn charges) would do big damage.

Rania Osburn says:

Good information to know and looking forward to the FAQ. I would love to know what are good ways to protect photos on blogs which didn’t seem to be covered here outside of searching for them online to stop it. Is there a way to stop people from copying and sharing outside of privacy settings on pages like Facebook?

Dani says:

JMH you told us so much of who you are with that hateful response. Lol, Jenn, Leah yall are so nice. Jenn go girl. So well done!!
I will continue to post my kids online until they get grown and in their teenage feelings and are like gawd maaahm staaahp. Til then. Snap snap post post.

JMH says:

Dani –

“Hateful” is such a bizarre word to use. I am talking about children, vulnerable children. Children who are beings of their own and don’t need to be blogged about. What happened to photographs that we keep for ourselves and our family?

There is no hatred here, just hard truth. As parents, a lot of us seek validation. Many more of us parent through ego. What good does it serve to welcome strangers into the life of your children. Until they are older and can decide for themselves to start a blog or have Facebook, perhaps we should respect our children and their right to privacy.

And I have no reason to hate anyone. You’ve never seen my kids. You’ve never seen me. We are one of the best loved, best looking, smartest (oh, the list goes on), families you’d like to meet. But trust me: I won’t be showcasing them on a blog.

-JMH

Leah Sannar says:

JMH –

I don’t doubt for a second that you have a very nearly perfect family, and the world is probably the poorer for not knowing you. But I’m surprised to hear that you think “hateful” is a bizarre word to use when describing your initial comment. Despite the multiple times you said “no offense”, most of it was full of assumptions about Jennifer, how she parents, and the reasons she blogs.

I think you would find that almost every single person here completely respects your choice to keep your children and family off the internet. I’ll go even one step further and say that we would all even respect your choice to vocally disagree with Jennifer’s choices.

I think what Dani, myself and probably many other readers here are having a hard time swallowing is the fact that you think because you disagree, you should be able to imply we are parenting out of ego or blogging for validation and then act surprised when you are called “hateful” for it.

As Cindy Szlaien-ng and so many others have so eloquently proven, it’s 100% possible to express your opinion, or even your disapproval without being insulting. When you decide to do so, I can guarantee you… your opinions will be much better received.

Thanks – Leah
*A Blogger, Adoptive Parent, & Lover of Jenn’s Blog

Natalya Danilenko says:

I do not understand people who steal other people’s photos. Why people do it if everyone can make their own photos? and here I’ve found the answer: how to make beatiful baby pictures, enjoy: http://motherhow.com/baby-photography-how-to-make-beautiful-baby-pictures/

cindy szlaien-ng says:

When I had my son I thought about if I should include pictures of him on there and made the decision that I would not show his face other than a few. I have a fear of what someone might use it for. Maybe its irrational but its something that I decided was best for my family. I also do not post pictures of him on facebook other than a couple just to see him grow. We all need to decide what is right for our families.

Joe Naylor says:

Hi Jennifer,

A friend told me about the Today Show segment and in searching for it I found your blog. Great job with the segment and great job with this blog. I have three kids of my own: a daughter who claims to be 4 and five quarters and 2-year old boy-girl twins. So as a parent I very much appreciate what your chronicling through this blog.

The reason my friend told me about the segment is because I started a company called ImageRights International for the purpose of identifying unauthorized image use for professional photographers. We then also assess which claims we think we can pursue on their behalf vs those which probably just warrant the sending of a take down notice. For our client base, they typically want to be compensated for these unauthorized uses.

But I’ve often contemplated how we could apply the technology and the service we have built towards helping parents track the potential proliferation of the photos they are posting online. As you yourself have experienced, anything can happen once you post. We had a woman contact us because a friend of hers saw billboards across Hungary with a photo of her family that was being used in ads by a national grocery store. So you never know.

I would be curious to hear your thoughts on this. Perhaps we could collaborate on how we can effectively assist parents with this problem.

Thanks – Joe

I love that you won’t let this stop you from doing your bliss! Theft shouldn’t defer creative people 🙂

Lauren says:

I don’t post pictures of my daughter online, because I know pedophiles trade pictures of kids online like baseball cards.

Lou Leady says:

Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

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Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget

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I'm a former journalist, and lifelong creator striving to make the world a better place. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day by cherishing our individuality and celebrating our differences.



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