Friday, September 14, 2012

To Blog Or Not To Blog

That is the question..

Over the past week I've been pretty depressed about this whole blogging thing. Why? Well it started with Sumayya Mehtar and the realization of how ruthless and shameless people are nowadays when it comes to other people's property and work, and since then I have been contemplating my need or desire to continue blogging. If you don't know the background of this incident you can read my previous post about it:
American Bedu's post here:
Carol's new touching post about this issue:
and Aafke's post here:

Eventually her fraud site was closed down and before that some of the plagiarized articles which had been reported to Google team were removed by them. Not surprisingly, she opened a new blog (not going to mention the name sorry to "disappoint" you folks) with most of the plagiarized material in it. She lost the AdSense though and her days as a modern day Robin Hood were over.

I checked through her new blog briefly and found a rewritten post on Janadriya (the one stolen from American Bedu had been removed by Google). When I saw three of my photos from Images of Saudi blog used on that post (cleverly combined with pics of her posing in front of various Janadriya locations) I just lost it. I mean, is this for real or am I just imagining things because surely nobody would continue stealing after being publicly called out for doing so then claiming she had only then realized stealing was in fact wrong and promising not to ever do it again? This was a bad joke right? I asked my husband to check just in case I was hallucinating or something, because it was simply so MIND BOGGLING.
Nope, it was real, and I was REALLY pissed off.

With smoke coming out of my nostrils from rage, I searched Google images for "Janadriya" to see what that produced. I was shocked to find two additional cases of copyright infringement of my material. This time it was not a attention-desperate blogger though, but reputable online news websites who cannot, unlike Sumayya Mehtar claim ignorance to copyright rules. To my surprise a photo collage that appeared on Al Arabiya English website had used three of my images on it that had been taken from the Images of Saudi photo blog. I was pretty taken aback and could not believe it. If even a newspaper is taking my work without permission, then what else is out there?

Next I Googled "muttawa" to check this key word which often brings hits to my blog. Well surprise surprise, another of my images, on the top results btw, was taken by a news site called Albawaba. Again no credits or mention of sources.

Then I stopped searching, frustrated and angry, finding it pointless. Some of these images even had watermark on them. What is the point of placing the watermarks again? It doesn't seem to matter if even Alarabiya can use them regardless.

All this just made me feel that my work on Images of Saudi is for what? For people to come and ruthlessly just take it? Or for people to see perhaps a side to Saudi-Arabia they didn't know before, maybe learn something new or even change their outlook on this country that has such a bad rep in general all over the world?
I started that blog for the purpose of showing the world what Saudi-Arabia is really like, from my perspective of course. When people think of Saudi they usually have a negative and boring image of it. There is more to this country than sand and camels. I wanted to try and portray a more realistic picture of Saudi people too. It's not all just black and white.

Now I started to feel this blog is being used merely by people to come and pick and choose what they like and use as they wish without any recognition. Like a free image gallery of Saudi-Arabia. I felt like a fool. I put so much time in that blog, it's not just snap a pic and go upload it then click post. It's much more than that.

Naturally I was aware of the possibility and even likelihood of my images being used without permission when I started blogging and had accepted that, but all this was just too much. I was so naive to think people would have the same level of integrity as I do. I had good faith in people. I've always had a problem of trusting people too much.

So I started placing watermarks on some of the most searched (and assuming most stolen) images, if that would deter the laziest people. I placed it blank in the middle so sneaky people can't crop it out. I don't care if it looks ugly! This is my work, don't steal it!
However if I were to place watermarks on all the images, on both blogs, that would mean about 1800 images. Do I have the time? Do I have the energy? No. So what to do?

I have decided to either close down the Images of Saudi blog altogether, or leave it as it is and slowly add watermarks and see how I feel. I'm so utterly frustrated and overwhelmed that I can't simply get all the images protected with watermark now. I wish there was some easy way to do it, but I noticed that the only way to make it work is doing one by one and carefully selecting the placement. The watermark program I used to do hundreds of images at once (which I lost after the computer crash) simply placed the watermark on the same place on each image and it's not visible clearly or then can be cropped out on some of the images. Is there a company to hire to do this?? In any case there are still ways to remove the watermark. The disable right click option is annoying to readers and it also means you can't open many pages or links from the blog.

How about a watermark like this on all the images from now on :)
P.S. I contacted both news websites and Al Arabiya english responded promptly, took the images down and are now investigating the matter.
Albawaba did not remove the image but placed a mention of the source on the image caption.
Sumayya Mehtar's new blog is now for invite only.
P.P.S The good news is Carol aka American Bedu has asked me to help by providing her with images for the American Bedu documentary project! I am so honored and excited about it :) The primary message of the documentary is the need for building bridges between cultures and spreading awareness of support for cancer.
Here is the link for the trailer and fundraiser:
Half of the proceeds resulting from the sale of the documentary are being directly sent to organizations involved in cancer research and patient support.

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