Us Kenyans on Twitter are a scary bunch. Long before the Trey Songz and Actual Expert sagas, there was some uproar on Twitter because @shikolaptop twitpicced @kaytrixx payslip. As a result, Kenyans on Twitter ganged up and turned #Shikolaptop into a trending topic. The wording was anything but friendly.

Because I use Twitter Web rather than applications, it took a while to figure out what was going on. Apparently, Kaytrixx was changing employers, and it was rumoured that the reason was money. Shikolaptop decided to post the payslip to refute the rumours. It seems she’s some kind of accountant. The rest is dirty laundry.

The offending twitpic was eventually taken down, so I have no clue of the figures involved. It seems people were mad at Shiko for exposing dude’s earnings – that’s quite a guarded secret in Kenya. Personally, I’ll issue bank statements to anyone who asks – as long as we’re not related – so I don’t see what the big deal is. Still, it made me wonder about internet privacy.

Usually, when I’m doing a blog post, I use Google to find images. I’ve never given much thought to copyright and things like that. I know that my blog isn’t commercial. I use it to display my skills and wares, and that indirectly brings me business. But I don’t get paid for the blog itself. Based on that reasoning, I assume that no one will sue me for using their photos.

I know some may argue with that reasoning, but I function on the same principle. I don’t mind people using my work, as long as they:

(a) don’t plagiarize

(b) don’t get paid for it

I put it up for free, so no one else should earn money from it.

I suppose it’s a little harder for pictures, because they don’t always come with bylines. You can’t always tell where it came from and who took it, especially if you got it off Google.

When I first wrote this post two months ago, I wanted a picture on KCPE. I got this image of a pretty girl named Sharon Wanjiru, and there were full credits to the photographer, James Njuguna. I wanted to use the picture, but I was uneasy – it seemed too close to home. How sure am I that the girl’s parents won’t read the post and try to sue me, or that James won’t claim non-existent royalties?

I thought about the other pictures I use. They’re usually random shots of strange kids in cute poses. I assume that they’re models, and that they wouldn’t mind the exposure, but who’s to say their parents don’t see shots on blogs and look for lawyers? Where’s the line?

[It’s like the argument I use to torrent movies, books, and rock, yet I’d never pirate local films or music. Weird.]

Another assumption is if it’s on the internet, it’s free to use. After all, if you didn’t want it used, it wouldn’t be online, right?

Well, here’s the thing. My … relatives … have a talent for stealing pictures. I don’t know how we do it [or why] but if you enter any of our houses, you’ll find baby photos people shouldn’t have. I personally have infant pictures of my grandparents, and they given weren’t willingly. Hence, our albums are padlocked with combination lockers – just in case the ‘models’ try to take their photos back.

In the digital age, it’s even easier. I’ve made an album of my nieces and nephews [I have like 50 of them] simply by raiding my relatives’ Facebook pages. Granted the pictures are under tight security, and not just anyone can view them, but if I could access the shots so easily, anyone can.

I took up the task for family reasons, but I could do it with rivals, bosses, or even exes. Combine that with some soap opera tactics and a lot of damage could be done. Before you know it, interesting pictures from your boyfriend’s profile could end up in a national daily … or a stranger’s blog. *shudder*

Where’s the line? When is it okay to download, save, copy, and paste … and when is it not? What does this mean for photographer’s livelihoods or babies’ birthday parties?

I suppose the logical thing to do is not to post any pictures online. I’m consoled that my Facebook shots are private, but they can still be accessed by a friend of a friend of a friend, and of course once the pictures are tagged, all bets are off, yes?

Plus … what happens when you’re unfriended and the pictures are still on their hard drive? How do I know that my personal pictures aren’t showing up Google images under ‘free for all’?

I think I’ll be more careful about finding out where pictures are from and attributing them, even if it’s only with a url caption. It could save some baby’s privacy, and it’s way cheaper than getting a lawyer.

PS: Please don’t hotlink. Decent attribution is one thing, but stealing bandwidth is just not cool.

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