Last time, I speculated about the influence that the television show Petticoat Junction had on me as a child. I primarily spoke of one of the main characters, “Uncle Joe,” (who moves kinda slow) being a primary character model, a subconscious philosophical wellspring, if you will, for the next four decades of my life.
Little did I know, at the time, just how much the character of Uncle Joe was still to impact my life in a very tangible way. You see, when I first posted that previous blog entry, I thought it would be fun and cool to put up a picture of Uncle Joe from the series, played by actor Edgar Buchanan, to add a little visual interest and flavor to my blog. Big mistake. I found a nice little photo online, of Uncle Joe sitting in his rocker, and put it at the top of my blog, with the actor’s name, copyright notice and source of the photo right underneath, which seemed only fitting and proper. I honestly didn’t give a second thought to using a forty-eight year old photograph of a character from a television show in my personal blog, properly credited, of course. I wasn’t attempting to use the photo commercially or to seek financial gain. I knew a very little bit about something called “fair use” of copyrighted material, and without much contemplation I assumed my use of the photo to fall in this category. I guess I saw the photo as a very small piece, a snapshot – literally, of the character and the series as a whole, with credit to the fine and obviously memorable work of actor Edgar Buchanan.
I was quite pleased with the final article when I published the blog with the picture. It looked good, especially for someone like me with no graphics experience. It was no less than a tribute, as far as I was concerned.
A few hours later, I decided to check back in with Uncle Joe and see how he was doing. To my dismay, the photograph had been deleted off the blog, with a just a teeny little rectangle left above my three-line credit. I was surprised at first, and tried to figure out what had happened. But it took only a moment for my worst suspicion to take shape in my head. I shrank back into my chair, ashamed. My eyes darted to my door, half expecting a Copyright Violation Agent to be peering in through the window at me. I would have surrendered peacefully, and asked for a paper bag to put over my head as he led me away.
I didn’t really get into any kind of trouble, that I know of, at least not yet. I didn’t get a scathing email from the copyright holder or get my blog site membership revoked. Neither did I get any explanation as to why the photo had been deleted. But I did feel bad. I wasn’t about to complain, and bring even further light to my illegal activities. I read up on “fair use,” and alas, it seems in using the photo I would really have been using the whole copyrighted work, not a small fragment — which is allowed in certain cases. Would it be different if I captured a single frame of the actual show opening, and used that? I don’t know, and I’m not ready to find out. I even did a little searching on the web to see if I could find a photo of “Uncle Joe” that would be free-use or for which I could easily get permission. Never having tried to do anything like this before, it turned out to be more of a goose chase than I had the energy for.
Anyway, after the photo vanished from my blog, I removed the credits to avoid confusion and to try to obliterate the evidence of my wrongdoing. But I think we all know it’s not really obliterated. The internet keeps everything. In multiple copies. And backed up on servers in underground government facilities. Is there a statute of limitations on copyright infringement, I wonder? Could that Agent still show up at my door 5 years from now, waving screenshots of my initial blog post with the photo on it, and saying, “You’ll have to come with me, Mr. Kurtenbach.”
Maybe I should consider moving to Canada. I wonder if they extradite for copyright infringement. I don’t know enough about this stuff. I need a lawyer.
Perhaps next time I’ll actually talk about how this Uncle Joe is affected by slowness in reading and writing.