So, I know it’s been a bit quiet over on the blog the last few weeks, and even though I have no excuse, other than settling down into a new job and having an awesome 9 – 5, I am back with a bang.
Today, I have a guest blogger here on the blog, chatting about something you all wonder – can I use someone else’s images on the internet as my own? Today’s guest blogger is not just any guest blogger, she is an attorney and she is here to tell us all a bit more about image copyright rules every blogger should know and more.
Stop stealing images off of the Internet
You wouldn’t go into a store, take a candy bar, and then leave without paying for it, would you? That would be theft. You are also committing theft if you take images off of the Internet without paying for them or obtaining the owner’s permission. This is because the creator or owner of the image has a copyright, which is a U.S. federal law that protects original works of authorship.
A copyright gives the owner four rights:
- Reproduce the work;
- Display the work in public;
- Prepare derivative works based on the original work; and
- Distribute copies of the work.
Thus, when you take images off of the Internet without the owner’s consent, you are committing copyright infringement.
So how do you obtain images for your blog or website without committing a crime?
Here are some good sources:
The public domain
Public domain works are not restricted by copyright, are free, and do not require a license to use. The three main categories of public domain work are: (a) works that, by their nature, are not copyrightable, and thus enter the public domain upon creation; (b) works that have been assigned to the public domain by their creators; and (c) works that are put in the public domain because their copyright has expired. Some great resources where you can find these public domain images include the Smithsonian Institution for Public Domain Images, Project Gutenberg, and the Prelinger Archives.
Free image websites
The fair use doctrine
This doctrine is a legal exception to the owner’s rights. It allows copyrighted works to be used without permission for the benefit of the public. For example, if you are writing an article on the death of a famous person, you may be able to use a picture of this person even if it belongs to someone else. Be careful though, the fair use doctrine has many complex requirements. The work must be used for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. In addition, courts can spend years dissecting why this image was used, the nature of the image and the effect of your use on the market value of the image. Sometimes, it is best to stay away from the fair use doctrine altogether and find your images in a safer place.
And there you have it! Image copyright rules every blogger should know and understand.