During the course of a normal workday, I advise clients on several issues regarding their online presence, including the importance of copyright issues. Many are unaware of the legal ramifications of using copyrighted materials on their website, or in print. By not ensuring that you have a license for a photo or piece of artwork, you open yourself, and your business, to potentially crippling lawsuits.
It is generally not legal to download and use images, photos and artwork that you happen to find using online search. Even if a piece of content had no copyright information, it does not mean it can be used. In this day and age of ever increasing technical prowess, a copyright owner can quickly search the internet to locate where their property resides, especially in places where it should be.
For example, Google Image search allows you to simply drag a photo onto the search page and discover where else it resides. If you the individual can do this, image what a Fortune 500 could do. However, this is not the real reason not to “borrow” content from the web without permission. It is simply illegal. Even if an image or photo is marked as Creative Commons, it does not explicitly allow you to use it on your site, or in your printed media.
Being a content creator myself, I have a full understanding of the hard work involved in website design, logo creation and the construction of print media. My livelihood depends on my ability to create unique pieces of art and design. The same can be said about your livelihood. We all work hard to be productive and pursue happiness at the same time. However, we certainly don’t want others taking credit for our work.
Even if you are not using someone else’s image, or design, for commercial benefit, it likely still cannot be used for your organization, group or personal endeavor. Using copyrighted material on Facebook remains a gray area at the moment. However, the laws are starting to change.
The rule of thumb to follow is:
1. You created the image or design media being used.
2. You hired an artist or photographer to produce content for you. This assumes you have the right to use the work they produced. Always check.
3. You licensed a photograph or image and have the legal right to present it within the copyright agreement.
These words of advice also flow into use of fonts, background images, cropped photos and other forms of media. Content that is explicitly marked as public domain can be used without having any agreement, but read the fine print. Material and content produced prior to 1923 can be used, and media prior to 1977 without a copyright notice can also be used. However, we are only Wicked artists and not lawyers. Do confirm your rights to be sure.
In summary, you should strive to protect yourself, but also pay for the things you use in life (though the best things are free :).
Places to obtain stock photography, artwork and images include the following:
Needless to say, Wicked Design also provides photography services in the Loudoun County and mid-Atlantic regions.