Recently there’s been a fair amount of controversy over the use of uncredited images sourced from the Internet. Shepard Fairey’s use of an AP photo to create the now-iconic Obama Hope poster has especially been in the news. Fairey’s appropriation of the image was intentional, and he altered the photo so much that it effectively became an all-new image. Still, this does bring up the question of what is considered fair use of images sourced from the web.
At Small Dog we recently made the mistake of using an image without attribution in our Tech Tails newsletter. It was a photo of a tasty glass of Shed beer on Flickr, from Flickr / Twitter user Found_drama. We wanted to acknowledge the importance of this issue, and of course, to apologize to Found_drama for using his image without attribution!
In this case, the rights of image owner were very clear. He used a Creative Commons copyright license that allowed for sharing, remixing, and sharing the work (under the same license) as long as it was for noncommercial use and had attribution. You can read the specific license by clicking here.
You’ve probably seen Creative Commons-tagged images and documents while surfing the web. Creative Commons is an excellent (and free) service that lets “authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from All Rights Reserved to Some Rights Reserved.”
It’s very easy to read CC licenses to determine if you can use someone else’s image or other work in your own projects. But how do you determine if you can use images that don’t have CC license, or any other obvious trademark or copyright? After all, it’s exceedingly easy to find, copy, manipulate, and share digital images.
At Small Dog, most of our images are sourced from our own photos, directly from companies like Apple (with copyright provisions as part of our reseller agreement), stock photo libraries such as iStockphoto, and from boxed stock photos like Adobe Stock Photos and the Big Box of Art. We tend to get a lot of photos directly from the manufacturers of the gear we sell. Sometimes, we also use other people’s photos with attribution.
In most cases, it’s wise to assume photos and images you find online are, indeed, protected by copyright. Click here to read a good article about this subject, including Fair Use of images and information.
You can also read about Fair Use on Wikipedia by clicking here.