Dec 182017
 

This is a photo of Kenton wearing a giant plushie vulva, and his head is where the clitoris would be. He's emulating Zach of Buzzfeed who wore a similar costume in a Buzzfeed video and adorably realized his head was the clitoris and was very excited. As part of a new-to-me end-of-the-year series of posts, I’m telling you about my favorite things from 2017. Today I’m talking about my favorite dildo maker of 2017 – Kenton Johnston, the singular person behind Funkit Toys. Regular readers may be scratching their heads at this point because I named Funkit Toys as one of my favorite brands of 2016, but even though Kenton is the brains and creator and talent and silicone-pourer-and-puller of Funkit Toys, Kenton is also just…Kenton. a lovely human. Yes, the sex toys he creates a fabulous but today I wanna talk about the person.

My reasons for picking Kenton are varied and sundry but many can be condensed to: go look through his tweets. He’s engaged with the community in the best, most respectful way. He is an ally and a fighter for causes. He’s quick with the puns and the deeply-geeky science-y answers. He is always down to answer my science questions and then re-answer them so that my brain understands them. He is humble, kind, ethical, punny and engaging. He understands that a sex toy does not need to be created or prescribed “for women” or “for men”, but for body parts – and often, not even then! As he explains here the same design can often work really well for stimulating g-spots AND prostates, or creating a fullness sensation desired by both butts and vaginas. 2017 has, overall, been a trash fire of a year but so many times this dude had me laughing my stress away.

Kenton has battled alongside the social justice warrior bloggers and helped behind the scenes. His creativity with sex toys knows few bounds. Sure, he was the first person to create clear silicone dildos with vivid swirls of color buried below the surface, but have you seen these bases? Fucking genius design. He is creating unique items and doing SUCH a good job.

The personal is the political and 2017 has seen my tolerances for bullshit from companies/brands/creators at an all-time low. I want to spotlight and support the people and brands who have gone above and beyond simply “not fucking up”, but catapulted into allies, friends and folks that the rest of the industry should model themselves on. While I will avoid recommending that you, dear readers, spend your dollars supporting companies run by jerks, I will also be purposely pointing you towards good humans making good things. Supporting the good humans is good for the world.

Don’t take just my word for it, here’s what others have to say about Kenton:

Lunabelle, Ninja Sexology: “I love his relentless drive to Do Better, in the realms of both education and product development. The NoFrillDo project is an example…he saw a need, figured out a way to fill it AND spread the word about body safe materials. And he does it all in a way that’s fun and engaging. Also, he plays pun/song lyric games with me and I will love that forever.”

Sandra of SheVibe: “Kenton is a wonderful amalgam of Artist, Scientist, Activist and Storyteller. His heart is pure and his aim is true.”

Ruby Goodnight, blogger and US brand rep for Doxy: “Kenton just GETS what it’s like to be a small scale manufacturer when you’re up against the mega-corporations. He doesn’t try to compete with them, but he does try and be better than them. He KNOWS his market – and he listens. He doesn’t try to create the ‘better version of this dildo that everyone is doing’ – he makes his own path.”

Logan, blogger at TheNotice: “Oh my god. Don’t even get me started. I have a huge Internet crush on Kenton LET US NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN. He’s just such a genuinely good bean and he’s so funny and committed and it does Things to my brain.”

Sugarcunt writes: “He’s so fun! Our impromptu duets at SFS17 are a super fond memory”

Kate, lover of puns and blogger of GirlyJuice states: “He takes genuine delight in a good pun. I love connecting with fellow punny weirdos.”

Caitlin who writes at Sexational said: “Kenton is a hilarious goof but also one of the most earnest people I know. He’s always trying to be a better person, a better friend, a better creator. Always considering how what he brings into the world can effect it, whether that’s being a goof with his friends or designing new things.”

Indigo says: “I love that he is really willing to engage customers. Email, Twitter, etc are all open for folks. And on top of that, he is human. Like he clearly has compassion, isn’t a robot or in it for money, etc.”

Taryn eloquently summed it up with “SAME” because, yeah. Same.

Do you know Kenton? Do you also love him? TELL ME WHY IN THE COMMENTS!

We’ve seen one-person dildo makers come and go, but I really hope Sir Kenton of Funkit sticks around. He is creating the most unique stuff AND it is modular – meaning it all works together, solidified as a Kit, a very Fun Kit, by that unique base he’s created. To check out his work visit his site or the items SheVibe is stocking. You should also check out his Patreon where you can sign up for cool extras, discount codes and more. And for fuck’s sake, follow him on Twitter. You will not be disappointed!

Image above courtesy of Kenton.

 Posted by at 8:40 am
Dec 132017
 

SheVibe's cover art featuring themselves! As part of a new-to-me end-of-the-year series of posts, I’m telling you about my favorite things from 2017. And while SheVibe has been a Favorite Thing for years now they upped their game this summer with a site redesign that prompted my interview below. You may see them as just another sex toy retailer so I wanted to share with you a little insight on the many reasons I love SheVibe. I’m so privileged to know these folks, and to have gotten to know and understand so much about the way they operate on a personal and professional level which isn’t something we get with many companies. We don’t get to peek behind the curtain. Consider this your peek!

Dangerous Lilly and SheVibe – The Love Story Begins

After working with a lot of retailers in my earliest years of reviewing I slowly grew to be somewhat of an anomoly in the reviewers circle – I had a “primary partner” for a retailer, who would supply most of my toys and get most of my affiliate links. This started to really pay off with drastically increased sales at my first primary partner, EdenFantasys. Yes, they’re terrible and we know that now but I’d stuck by them despite early issues because, at the time, there were so many features of the site I liked for my readers – plus their site was responsible for 75% of my earnings, earnings I badly needed in 2011 and 2012 due to being out of work. But shit went down in 2013 that I couldn’t abide; I made the decision to hitch my wagon to SheVibe for supplying most of my review items and I started slowly changing my EF links to SV links. 

I first worked with SheVibe briefly towards the end of 2010 when they reached out for me to review the Vamp Greta. I wouldn’t review again for them until 2013 with my second Fucking Sculptures (RIP) glass dildo and I’m pretty sure the SheVibe team had reached their wits end with me on that review – I kept bringing up the fact that the FS items were so unique that a stock image of each style wouldn’t exactly work, that they might sell more if each item was shown off and measured. They eventually took my suggestion, though, and seemed to not dislike me too much because a few months later Sandra and I had lunch1 and a bond was cemented. Her passion and compassion shone through as we traded horror stories and insider tips. I knew immediately that I would grow to love her more – she was like the ultra-cool older sister I’d always wanted.

Let Me Count the Ways

My SheVibe avatar as their image for "silicone dildos" I’ve written a lot in the past about why I’m so devoted to SheVibe and my devotion only grows stronger, in part because I know and love the owners as friends. I know how they run their business and I know their ethics. I understand their business decisions and still recommend them over anybody else despite the fact that they carry a (relatively small) number of porous, realistic dildos and vibrating dildos. Although, happily, they have changed their business model over time to drop a large number of porous material internal vibrators. Their stock is very different from many other larger retailers who literally carry everything the distributors offer. SheVibe curates their stock while being open to supporting up-and-coming brands, indie brands, and adding – and removing – products to the site based on customer and reviewer feedback. One recent example is the HIKY – All it took was my bad experience and a confirmation experience for SheVibe to drop the dangerous HIKY2. They act quickly to remove dangerous or painful sex toys and lube.

In the four years I’ve been sending most of my readers to SheVibe I have never had a single complaint about customer service, shipping, returns, product issues, etc. Not a single complaint. I know the SheVibe staff – I know who is dealing with the customers, and this hasn’t changed over the years. They don’t have high staff turnover like so many sex toy companies.  I know the lengths they will go to to help their customers have the best experience possible and get them the most accurate answers. While there are other small feminist shops who also have great ethics, customer service and education – shops I also highly highly recommend3, these shops lack the large variety of stock online that most of my readers usually want. 

This year SheVibe did their first truly major website design overhaul which has incorporated ideas I’ve long nudged for, like the ability to filter by size and material. Their art has expanded to be more intersectional and diverse; something they’re still expanding and improving – personally and professionally. No matter what the topic or issue I know, without a doubt, that Sandra, Thor and the rest of the SheVibe team truly and honestly gives a fuck. Lots of fucks. I have never felt so heard and valued when dealing with a sex toy retailer as I do with them, and I know I’m not alone. They’re the type of company, and friends, you want in your back pocket when life deals you lemons. They’re generous with everything they have to give.

Whether it’s their above-and-beyond customer service, their support for smaller brands, their support of the blogging and sex ed community or their simple willingness to take advice or critcism and create positive change, the SheVibe team shines like a beacon. In a world where literally every month this year some company has made an egregious error in ethics or judgment I have the utmost faith that SheVibe will never be out of my favor. Empathy, humility, generosity, sincerity – these are the traits that come to mind when I think about Sandra and Thor.

SheVibe’s Origin Story

Lilly: Why THIS business? What convinced you to start up a sex toy retail site?

Sandra: When Thor and I met, we immediately started experimenting with sex toys. At that time – 14 years ago now – most of the sites were kind of hinky; lots of jelly, misleading descriptions, mistakes with our orders and widespread misogyny. We thought we could make a better go of it. We had both run small businesses and figured we could vastly improve the sex toy business model.

L: Do you remember what your first sale was for?

S: Yes! It was for a weight loss supplement called Lipodrene on July 4th 2006. The site started out much differently than it is now – there are so many products and categories that we have ditched along the way (including brownies, shoes, mainstream movies and vitamins).

L: Let’s talk about the early years especially the magazine. That seemed like a LOT of work with all the advice columns. How did you get people to write in with questions? What made you decide to create all those different characters!

S: Ugh, the magazine was a beast. We had no idea what we were doing, but Thor and I fancied ourselves decent writers and thought we could create interest and indexable content for the site by having the companion “magazine”. MySpace helped a lot back in those days – we are still friends with some of those folx. We would get questions from them, some from our immediate circle of friends, and some questions were our own – meaning we wanted to learn about specific situations relating to our own experiences and decided answering those questions would be fun and interesting. The characters were the backbone for the theme of the site which was Superheroes (before Superheroes were cool, ahem). We wanted each of them to have diverse backgrounds and we really tried to make their stories relatable. We cringe looking back on it now, but at the time it felt really forward thinking and progressive.

Stock the Stock

SheVibe Lumberjill coverL: You are known for carrying “indie” or smaller single-person company creations where many other online-only retailers do not. How do you decide what to carry (be it from their line, or deciding on a business, period)

S: Most often, we select indie brands after they reach out to us or have been recommended by a trusted blogger. We practice due diligence by checking out their social media culture and their website to see how they are presenting themselves to the world. If we like what we see, we’ll bring in a small run and see how it does. It’s very rare that a brand takes off quickly; it can often take years for a newbie brand to take hold. But if we have to re-order even just once within a year, we’ll stick with them. It’s not easy and it’s a tough business to navigate. Very often, these are artisan pieces that are pricey (and worth every penny) so the public needs a gentle education on why they’re worth it. The blogging community has been invaluable in conveying how important these brands are.

L: Question from a reader: “how can small brands position themselves without losing the plot trying to get into retail?”

S: There’s no magic bullet. The long (and short) answer is: you do everything yourself and you do it well. SheVibe grew as a company by consistently keeping down costs while slowly building a loyal following. To this day we do EVERYTHING in house. We don’t outsource. From accounting to marketing to coding to photography and beyond, we do it all ourselves. Yes, it’s a ton of work – and it’s how you build a brand. We’re probably the poster child for “if you want something done right…”. Chances are, if you’re lacking in any of these significant skill sets, you’ll have a more challenging go of it.

L: You carry so many things I love and have requested but I’ve noticed some brands come and go over the years. What makes you decide to stop carrying a toy or line?

Thor: A few things: It doesn’t sell. We can’t source it reliably. The quality is consistently compromised. The manufacturer is cutting corners. Frequent customer dissatisfaction. It’s that simple.

L: You’ve been in business a long time and have seen many changes – so what are the next trends you expect to see in sex toys?

T: You’re going to see a more prominent focus on penis toys. Virtual reality, air pulsation, variances on the “stroker” format. Technology will play a big role, somewhat awkwardly at first. Silicone will continue to dominate and we’re hoping body safe toys will become more and more affordable.

Behind the Art

That glorious time when SheVibe featured Epiphora and I on their coverL: Your monthly cover art ideas seem unending! How do you decide on the monthly art?

T: The SheVibe team has a creative meeting every Wednesday. Covers are selected from a variety of source material. We’ll promote a manufacturer or a new toy. We’ll pull from pop culture. We’ll also do covers paying homage to those we love and/or respect in our industry. Once in a while, it’s a mini-operetta! Multiple covers will tie-in to each other. It really varies. This year, there’s a consistent element that runs through every cover… Can anyone guess what it is?!

L: The comic strips in each category are also something unique to you – what gave you that idea?

T: We are geeks. One of the partners is a comic book artist. We wanted to be different and make people feel comfortable. Comic panels seemed relatable and fun. That’s really all there was to it.

L: How did you decide on the style of art you wanted?

T: It all comes down to Alex Kotkin. He’s a very talented comic book artist and we went with his expertise in this area. In the end, it just worked!

L: Many retailers use, at most, bland photos or over-the-top sexy images that feel like they could appear on any random adult site, but your art stands out (as I’m sure it was meant to). What made you focus on art so much throughout the site?

T: The art allows us to present ideas, promotions and subject matter without the graphic (and sometimes grating) visuals many adult sites rely on. We wanted to make people comfortable shopping with us. The art is disarming and it seems to make people smile.

Respect and Karma

L: What terms do you like and dislike for sex toys? (pleasure devices, sensuality hardware, etc)

T: We try not to employ terms that “dumb down” or disrespect the user. Sandra hates “naughty” and we all dislike vulgar product descriptions. We can’t always rewrite product copy but we always try and modify the especially egregious. Sometimes specific terminology indexes better with search engines and in those cases, we’re at the mercy of the web…

SheVibe Blogsquad posterL: Another reader question: “There are some sketchy sex toy retailers out there. What methods do you use to get customers to trust you? “

T: That’s easy. We always do right by our customers. We never lie. It’s part of our corporate culture. SheVibe practices Karma. That’s the best you can do and so far, we think we’ve built a great deal of trust with our customers. If we’re wrong – we own it, but we work hard at not being wrong.

L: This year’s overhaul was huge – what prompted it and what will folks see as the biggest and best changes?

T: A few reasons: Accessibility was a primary factor. We now present the same way regardless of the device you’re using to access our site. We wanted to incorporate faceted search. This gives our customers more options when trying to find that perfect toy. We wanted to utilize modern technologies to increase speed, security, reliability and customer experience. We feel we’ve accomplished all of these objectives with the new site, but we’re always making improvements.

L: What has been the best part of this adventure over the last 11 years? The worst?

S & T: SheVibe has always considered “the worst” to be a gift and part of our learning experience, we try not to dwell on the negatives. Yes, we’ve had challenges and heartache but we don’t let those events define us.

The best? Hands down – it’s the human experience and culture at our company. We were lucky enough to form a partnership of creative energy. Combined, our small staff incorporates expertise in graphic design, photography, original art, web coding, advanced technologies and years of business management. Most significantly, we are all like-minded social justice warriors and share in our triumphs and defeats with equal measure. We all love each other and that’s rare in the workplace.

~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~

Thanks for reading, folks. I realize that some of this was incredibly effusive and mushy but when I love something, I love it. I’m as generous with my words of love as my words of loathing. I hope this gives you a little more understanding on why I refer you so much to SheVibe. There is no absolutely perfect retailer, I’ve found, but the SheVibe team has a level of compassion that is rarely matched; I have no doubts about the longevity of their success and I have no doubts about the level of care you’ll get as a customer. I believe in supporting businesses that are run well by decent people and SheVibe gets that hard-earned stamp of approval.

  1. I live a few hours from SheVibe Central and drive past it in my travels to my homestate
  2. They’ve decided against a sex toy based on my one bad experience before, and only didn’t this time because I wasn’t certain that the incident wasn’t related to the fact that the battery died mid-suction. Once we all thought about it for a little bit, knew that that could happen to someone else, and then sure enough quickly were told about another person’s evil experience, they dropped it from the line-up
  3. To name just a few: Smitten Kitten, Sugar of Baltimore, Early to Bed, SheBop, Come as You Are, Self Serve, Vibrant
 Posted by at 9:49 am
Dec 122017
 

For years now I’ve kept up a tradition of talking about the Best (and Worst) things I’ve reviewed over the prior year. But this year I looked at my reviews (lacking though they are) and found that there were actually very few things I reviewed and loved. I could make a list of the worst, easily. My goodness so many things let me down – whether they were loud and weak, over-promising and under-delivering, simply not worth the hype and cost, the cause of literal injury and pain or pretty okay except for some bafflingly unfortunate button placement. Many others just left me bored. But love? Adoration? Not this year. At least, not that I’ve had time to review, yet.

I dealt with a lot of personal bullshit this year, while also feeling the terror of my worst fear coming true: Trump as president. Depression, anxiety, and stress played a big role in my life this year and kept me from giving a shit about a lot of things – one being this blog. I’m trying to get back here, though. Our patience for bullshit hit an all-time low this year, collectively, so it’s no suprise my Blacklist got a little bigger. And while one sex toy brand came off of my Blacklist, another went back on it due to their heinous behaviour at Woodhull 2017 and their complete lack of understanding of consent and privacy. Fuck you, Screaming O

I can tell you that you’ll have a few good reviews to look forward to in 2018, like the Blush Real Nude dildo or the Sola Cue vibrator. I’m hoping that my reviews trend more positive in 2018, at least a little, because I really do want to be able to wholeheartedly recommend some awesome new stuff for you. Yes yes, it’s important to uncover the shitty things and I’ll never stop doing that but, yikes, it’s been bleak. You know I’m picky so let’s hope the industry ups its game!

I did manage to write a couple of articles I really like, topics that have needed to be addressed for a long while now:

You’re going to see posts between now and the new year about some of my favorite things from 2017. I’ll be updating this post as a sort of Master List. And if I can think of anything else or YOU can think of anything else, I’ll add to it!

My favorite sex toy retailer: Shevibe.com! 

My favorite dildo maker: Kenton of Funkit!

My favorite blogging inspirations! Check out why I loved these 11 folx this year. 

My favorite blogging tools: Apps, tools, plugins and more – these are the things that allow me to cobble together a blogging existence.

I never wrote a whole post about it, but one of the best things on social media in 2017 was EffinBirds. I have a folder saved of some of their images that work best as lazy-salty responses to asshats on Twitter; this folder is on Dropbox so that I can have access to these salty gems from any device (which is really crucial). Effinbirds lets me quickly and easily respond to mansplainers and jerks with exactly the amount of effort they deserve: none. I’m embracing my palty number of fucks to give in 2017 and amping up my salt.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s December 31st as of the last edit and I have a fuck ton of laundry to do. Can’t start 2018 with nothing to wear, right?

 Posted by at 8:19 pm
Oct 122017
 

CN: mental health, grief, weight/loss and physical health issues

“This is a call to all my past resignations, it’s been far too long.”

Every time I draft a post like this I wonder “Should I really publish this? Does it really belong here?” but then I remember that at the end of the day this is MY blog. A blog. A personal space to write whatever the fuck I want and I do not have to be perfect and be “on-brand” with every post. I never have been so why start now, right? Being authentic online is not something everyone does because, hey, we like to appear that we’ve “got this” but I’m just tryin to be me.

You may have noticed a distinct lack of posts this year, but it ebbs and flows. I’ve written half as much as I did in 2016. I’ve already discussed mental health issues earlier in the year but they don’t seem to be letting up. I’ve spent my year dealing with anxiety worrying about my partner’s mental health and our jobs. It’s eaten away at me. My depression is likely a symptom of my overall terrible mental health.

I thought for sure that attending Woodhull’s 2017 Sexual Freedom Summit would revitalize me, and the blog. But it didn’t. That same month was the 20th anniversary of my father’s death. Why is it that this anniversary hit me so hard when other years the date passed by without my even noticing? I’m not sure yet, but it wrecked me. For weeks I couldn’t stop crying. I’ve tried talking with psychics and mediums for some relief/closure, but that has opened up another can of worms. There’s really a lot more to it than that but this paragraph is all I have it in me to write about this topic.

I’ve spent a good part of this year worrying about, being anxious about, so so much: a family member, my partner, a few good friends, my health. I’ve spent a lot of time worried over politics. There’s been impatience and spinning tires. Worry. Anxiety, Tears. Anger. “Where’s the good stuff?” you’re probably asking. Well – I don’t know. I mean, it happened. There’s also been love, laughter, and support. But there’s also a big disconnect for me.

I’m currently trying, for the 15th attempt, to lose weight. My health hasn’t been good and frankly I’m worried about dying young but that could just be my health anxieties taking over. I have a few diagnosis reasons to have some concerns and that’s why I’m working so hard, again, and hoping it sticks this time. But as usual I’m being hard on myself. I’ve lost 20 pounds but that’s not good enough; it’s a drop in the bucket; it happened too slowly, etc. #noadviceplease

I haven’t been able to write, lately. That last post was something I’d actually written months ago but never published. The thought of writing a review, for the most part, makes me want to retreat. Maybe a real good salt-report hate-on review would get my attention but otherwise it’s hard. And my list is growing. I have some Blush Novelties items and a Sola vibrator that deserve attention, but I know they’re understanding. I have those new Je Joue Bullets. I have a bunch of Kegel exercise products I need to write about but I’ve been having a weird disconnect with my vagina this year and penetration/insertion isn’t on my top 30 list of things to do. Hence my using and reviewing things like the Funkit Cashew plug hasn’t happened yet. Because of the way I write my reviews, with many comparisons to other, similar items it’s been hard to deal with writing about the O Wand, those Je Joue bullets, etc. I have a lovely Doxy 3 to tell you about, and a confounding Hot Octopuss Queen Bee to figure out. There are even items I have some interest in (or feel an obligation to) but I’ve refused to be sent anything anymore until I can get through this review queue to mitigate guilt a little. 

My depression and overall mental health made me skip my blogging anniversary this year. I will admit I’ve had a few passing thoughts lately of “maybe I’m done?” but I don’t know what to do with that. A psychic told me that “this” is my career – that thing you do for passion and love, that thing that drives you. She told me I’m good at this career and that it needs to evolve. But, according to her, that evolution needs to involve me disclosing to my immediate family and being more “out”. I don’t think I have the courage for all of that, though. And really, evolve to what? Being an educator is HARD. I’ve seen the hustle and the struggle from so many of you. I don’t want to put myself through that – frankly I’m too damn old and cranky for all that. But what else is there that is “next” from this?

Instead of writing I’ve put what I could into other things – supporting friends, building a new/old project, fostering a little more community, and attempting to course-correct my poor health. So this is where I’m at. I don’t know when the next review will be, I don’t know how good it’ll be. But this confession had to be written and that’s that. Please, don’t feel the need to comment. I know folks mean well but hearing “hey it’s your blog, you can write when and what you choose” is more harmful than helpful in some odd way. This is the State of the Union and well…..we’ll see what’s next, I guess. I have things I want to accomplish here but it all somehow seems too hard.

 Posted by at 9:29 am
Sep 062017
 

If you go to any stock photography site, free or paid, you’re going to find a lot of sad, uncreative results for “sex toys”. Existing photos most often feature outdated jelly sex toys; if there are people in the photo, they are thin/fit and white. If there are any decent images they’ve probably been used a hundred times by other companies. So what is a sex toy industry business to do?

Ideally, they take their own photos. Unless your entire inventory is drop-shipped, surely you have nice sex toys readily available for a photo shoot, right? Sadly we too often see companies, especially new companies, using Google Image (or Bing, whatever) as their “stock image” pool with the mindset that “if it’s on the Internet it must be free for everyone to (ab)use”.

And before we get too far, it’s not just sex toys. We’ve seen companies grab images of people for their social media persona. We’ve seen companies use images of people on their business website! That shady, gross UK glass seller used a commercial image of Jennifer Lopez for years. Years! We’ve seen Charlize Theron’s Dior image used by the first owners of sex toy brand Dorr. 

Hot tip: Your ignorance on Intellectual Property / copyright law does not give you a free pass, an excuse, or the right to do as you please. You are a business, for fucks sake. Behave professionally! 

There are three ethical and legal ways to use images on your social media account or website:

  1. Take or create the image yourself
  2. Purchase from a stock photo site or download from a Creative-Commons free stock photo site
  3. Pay for limited use rights to an existing photo and include attribution links to the content creator

That’s it. It’s that simple.

So let’s say you just can’t find a cool photo that fits your style and you don’t have the means to create the image yourself – how about finding the owner of the image you yoinked from Google Image search and ask for their permission to use it? You should expect to pay them and/or provide an attribution link. If you are a truly ethical company you will insist on paying them and giving an attribution link. Many bloggers take amazing sex toy photos and some may be very open to an ethical business proposition!  It is not hard to find the original owner – there are a number of good Reverse Image Search tools to use – even Google will do that!

Recently one new company tried to use an image of Epiphora’s that contained a one-of-a-kind item which friends and avid readers will recognize: the sex toy bouquet Aerie made for her. When confronted on Twitter about their random use of this image they claimed that they “found this cool image as stock online and used it for a quick tweet!”. Five minutes and two reverse image sites later proved that Piph’s photo was never on a stock website and, in fact, seems to only have been on her site (and visible in Google Image search) –  I couldn’t find evidence that it was used elsewhere without attribution.

Copyright and Instagram

While we’re on the touchy subject of copyright and photo use, let’s also talk about Instagram. You see, Instagram doesn’t have a built-in feature for “re-blogging” or sharing someone else’s post the way Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr do. Yet folks have created add-on apps to break this and get around it. Some re-gram apps will add the original owner’s Insta handle to the photo itself. Some will also/instead add a link to the original account in the image description. Other apps do none of this and do not give attribution to the original owner of the image, relying on you to do that – and many of you do not. 

The simplest fix here is this: Use only re-gram apps that heavily attribute (in the decription, not a comment) AND ALSO ASK PERMISSION FIRST. When you set out to use an app in the way it was never intended it is just good ethics and good business to ask before you put someone else’s photo on your Insta profile. Ideally, though, you should just create your own content – that’s the entire point of Instagram.

If you use other people’s images and don’t obtain consent you could end up losing your Insta account and users can file takedown requests when they find their stuff being used.

Watermarks are Not Attribution

Many bloggers will add a copyright watermark to their images – I do for most of mine. This does not count as “attribution”. Unauthorized use of these images still counts as copyright violation and image theft and, if the owner reports you to your hosting company, will end in the hosting company forcibly removing the protected content from your site. If you do this too much your hosting company will shut your site down.

Attribution is Not Permission

You may be thinking here that the key to being a good, ethical company is to use our photos but tell people they’re ours. It’s not and content owners can still file (and win) DMCA takedown requests with your hosting company if they don’t consent to their photo being used for your gain.

Permission, or let’s call it a word you may hear more: consent, is crucial to ethically using other people’s work. They may say no. They request payment. But you absolutely must respect that. If you can’t respect copyright and simple consent how is a blogger or customer supposed to trust you?

Creative Commons

The idea behind Creative Commons is to have free, legal content of all types on the Internet for people to use. One key tenet of Creative Commons licenses is that the person using the thing must give proper attribution to the creator. They don’t need to ask permission, because the Creative Content license note on the person’s website acts as the permission. Many bloggers choose not to use this, however, and that is their right.

The content creator needs to go to the CC website and decide how “open” their content is going to be. CC explains it:

Creative Commons provides a range of licenses, each of which grants different rights to use the materials licensed under them. All of these licenses offer more permissions than “all rights reserved.”

Does This Apply to Me?

While the subject of my ire here is aimed at businesses the etiquette and law of copyright, attribution, and permission applies to anybody on the Internet. The incorrect assumption that because it’s “on the Internet” it’s free1 for the taking is not just wrong, it’s illegal. Copyright is real and enforceable. The copyright owner needs to do nothing but show first publishing to prove ownership. Web hosting companies are required to take this seriously and most do.

 

  1.  Quick litmus test to know if someone is an asshole: They’ll tell you a version of “If you didn’t want people to use it, you shouldn’t have put it on the Internet”.
 Posted by at 8:51 am
Aug 292017
 

I’ve finally made it?

I’m taking a few days off social media (unrelated to this) so my hope is that prospective retailers do their legwork. There is an Australian person claiming to be me, writing to retailers using the email address “dangerouslillyreviews@gmail.com”. This isn’t my email address, I’m not the person contacting you. 

I cannot do anything on my end; I can’t get Google to get rid of the Gmail account. They’re trying to scam YOU, not me, so please report them for that to your local authorities.

 Posted by at 10:33 am