An Ethical Dilemma: When Enjoying the Really Funny and Quirky Might Also Mean Being an Accessory After the Fact

Recently, a Facebook “friend” posted a link to an assemblage of 50 photographs that defy explanation, which I in turn shared on my own Facebook newsfeed. After I emailed the site to my wife, she asked where the images came from–a question that, I confess, I had only briefly considered but did not research before enthusiastically passing them along.

Tracking down their most recent layer of origin, it turns out, was easy enough, and in the process, I thought I’d found my favorite new blog site of the moment. Black and WTF appears to be the brainchild of Matt Stopera, a 23-year-old New Yorker who solicits (or hunts down) weird and wacky black-and-white images from other web users. The images are fascinating and funny, and Stopera is good about citing a link with most of the images.

The only downside to this practice is that we often still don’t know–as my wife asked–where the images originally came from. The image shown above, for example, was copied from Stopera’s site, and he credits it (with a link) to “mlkshk,” a website that appears to do some image borrowing of its own, since they credit the image (with a link) to “Thrillist,” another website that appears to gank images from elsewhere and share them (this time without any credit to another image source).

Stopera isn’t to blame, of course, for the zany and labyrinthine nature of hyperlinks on blog sites, but his blog raises a question about the duty that we bloggers owe to the sources of our “borrowed” material. Is it enough to just say where we found it, or do we owe the original owner of the image something more than just giving credit to the (possible) thief who took it from him/her and posted it without permission?

I’d be interested in hearing the thoughts of my photo colleagues and other interested friends and lurkers….

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~ by ericplaag on March 22, 2011.

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