Blogging, Copyright and Image Attribution

by flickr user opensource.com under CC BY license

by flickr user opensource.com under CC BY license

 

I was teaching a class on blogging this past semester at Southeast Missouri State University. As we discussed the importance of images in blogging and storytelling, I told the class, “Just because it’s on the Internet does not mean it’s free!” I explained that you must attribute any image you use back to its origin.  Unfortunately, that was not explanation enough and apparently caused confusion.  As I struggled to explain more thoroughly, I thought there have to be others out there with this same perplexity!

“The law automatically grants full “copyright” over any creative work a person makes unless otherwise stated.

Copyright law is incredibly complex. Adding to that complexity is the fact that most of the laws governing copyright were written long before the World Wide Web. Regardless, here are some tips and best practices.

If you are unwilling or unable to pay copyright royalties, you have essentially three options:

  1. Use free public domain images.
  2. Use Creative Commons® images.
  3. Use your own photos or use images you’ve created (from scratch—you cannot modify someone else’s image and call it your own)

Public Domain

Copyright.gov explains that a work of authorship is in the public domain “if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.”

These types of images are ideal for blogging or educational use.  Works may also be public domain if their copyright has expired or if they are uncopyrightable. Even public domain images should be attributed to and linked back to the source. Two sources for finding public domain images are The Public Domain Review and The Getty Open Content.

Creative Commons

If you can’t find public domain images that fit your needs, you can use Creative Commons-licensed images – as long as you correctly attribute according to the terms of the license under which the image is offered.  Some Creative Commons images only require attribution and link-back, others are only available for non-commercial use, or may be used but not altered. This infographic by adityadipankar is a great “crash course” in Creative Commons:

What is Creative Commons?

by Folography. Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

There are a number of sites where you may find usable images.  Creative Commons and Wikimedia are two.  My personal favorites are Flickr and Google Images—but you have to filter on only those with a creative commons license. For example, on Flickr it’s at http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/ but on Google, you have to go to the advanced image search and scroll down to “usage rights” and choose “free to use or share.”  Keep in mind, Google protects itself with the warning:

So, you found a usable image but aren’t sure exactly how to properly attribute the photo? This blog post (by Peter McDermott) does a great job of explaining and demonstrating:

The bottom line when looking for images to use in your blog posts (or web page, portfolio, etc.)… as Benjamin Franklin said, “When in doubt, don’t! “

What sources do you use for finding images? What advice would you add?

This post by Tressa Robbins originally appeared on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog at http://www.burrellesluce.com/freshideas/2014/04/blogging-copyright-and-how-to-attribute-images and is cross-posted here with permission.

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