I post stuff here, on fetlife, and on tumblr. Well, I used to - now I hardly do at all.
Not because of copyright. I understand that when you post something on the internet, you're posting it for everyone to look at, and it's going to get shared around. But the comped-up piece of shit you see above (minus my commentary) is all over the internet - it's far more widely distributed than my original version. Back when I used to read my messages here and on Fetlife, I had 12-20 messages per day about stuff like this. Mostly it was people trying to be helpful and telling me "HEY! Look over here, there's another person who smeared shit all over your art!" And it used to take me an hour every morning to cut and paste URLs into DMCA requests to get this kind of crap taken down.
But that's really only the tip of the emotional iceberg for me. About 1 in 10 times that I post a DMCA I'd get a message from the person who had posted it. So not only would my inbox be filled with woe from all the copyright violations, I'd get a breakdown approximately as follows:
10% You #*!@&^!ing @#*&!@! I hope your !&*!&^# falls off and you die of cancer!!!
30% By posting an image on the internet it's in the public domain (followed by 3 pages of complete wrongness about copyright)
30% You can't make me stop! Nyaa nyaa nyaa fuck you nyaa nyaa!
20% A lecture about how mean and rude I am
5% A genuine apology
5% Well, I like it anyway, so in spite of your having complained to me and explained why you don't like it, is it OK if I keep it up? (completely clueless in other words)
Understand, as I do, that that's a small percentage of a small percentage of all the people who share my images around. But with the size of the population on the internet, it's a large number in total. On a site like Fetlife, that equates to about 100 threatening or angry emails a year. Yeah, it really makes me feel appreciated.
I set that against the times when someone comes up to me at a conference and says "dude, I love your photography!" or I get an email from someone asking please please please for a high resolution version of the file because they want to make a big print of it and frame it for their sweetie. Or, the occasional emails where someone thanks me for my stock photography helping them get a cover gig for their first book cover. Those are great. I love those moments. But they sure as hell aren't as often as the angry, petulant, bratty, or downright snotty lectures I get from ignoramuses who want to hide behind their personal interpretation of copyright law (which, by the way, is universally wrong) or who are incapable of saying "I'm sorry."
Let me tell you a true story: one of the better online friends I made on Deviantart is someone I got to know because they ripped off one of my artworks and photoshopped on it (brilliantly) to turn it into a photocomposite. I told them they couldn't do that, and they said they loved my stuff, and I suggested they use a different image - here - ... and we were off to the races. We've been swapping ideas and I've been shooting custom stock for them ever since; It's a positive and nurturing creative collaboration.
You see, I'm not some ogre. I want to get my art on just like you. But I am increasingly feeling backed into a corner. I got into doing the wet plates because a) it's cool b) I get to work with nasty dangerous stuff c) it looks awesome d) you cannot duplicate a plate; it's a unique artwork. I started doing wet plates in order to protect myself emotionally and to protect my art. Oh, want to know how that turned out? Some cheese-brain was taking the scans I post of my wet plates and removing my art from them, so he could use the edges in his images because, yeah, they look cool!! He. Threw. My. Art. Away. Because. The. Only. Part. That. Was. Useable. Was. The. Edges. I almost offered him a wet plate so I could get his address and go talk to him about it face to face.
These are the emotional trade-offs I'm up against. I've finally had to confront the fact that if I want to keep posting stuff on the internet, I'm going to have to utterly concede to the faceless horde out there. I will have to either stop altogether or give it all away. Not just give it away technically, give it away emotionally. And that's the problem: if I don't care, it's not going to be any good.
If I didn't give a shit how my photography looked, I wouldn't give a shit about someone photoshopping their bad high school poetry over top of it. I wouldn't argue with them. I'd just have to lie there and take it, and I know that eventually it's going to mean creative death for me. Perhaps where I am headed is toward making photos just for myself, and not sharing them with anyone. That's sort of where I am, already. I have boxes and boxes of wet plates on a shelf over at my studio. There, they sit. I have tens of thousands of digital images on my hard drive(s). There, they sit. I am frozen at the perfect apex between anger, disgust, and the desire to quit.