Since I started using Pinterest, I’ve been exposed to a lot more blogs. It’s interesting to see the commonalities and differences in how blogs in different interest areas are developed. A weight loss blog is likely to have before-and-after photos. A home decor blog will usually have a ‘home tour’ page with photos of the blogger’s home. A writing blog will feature images of…well, usually images of the writer’s self-published book cover.
One common habit I’ve noticed across all the various blogging niches is that we generally do a lousy job of attributing images not our own but used in our posts. There seems to be a misconception that if it’s on the internet, it’s free for the using, but that’s just not so. Or we stick an “Image Credit” at the bottom of the post or behind a link and call it attribution. It’s not. In fact, you could find yourself in a whole heap of trouble. If you don’t believe me, read Roni Loren’s story of the nightmare she endured when she unknowingly used an image under copyright by the photographer. She thought what she was doing was okay, and it was anything but. Her situation is not something I want to go through, that’s for sure!
So how do we find and use images properly?
The first step, in my opinion, is to gain a greater understanding of copyright and fair use. I’m no expert (I’m still in learning mode), but I can point you in the direction of some folks who know a whole lot more and have the information to prove it: Smashing Magazine’s “Copyright Explained: I May Copy It, Right?” is a comprehensive, informative, plain English discussion of many aspects of copyright and fair use. Read it. (Hat tip to Lorelle on WordPress for pointing me to that valuable resource and saving me from a potentially costly and/or embarrassing situation.)
Okay, we read it. Can we go find images now?
Not quite. Many images and creative works have copyrights under Creative Commons licenses,so we need to learn more about those. For that, why not go to the Creative Commons website, specifically, the license page. In addition to an explanation of the license process, there’s a good summary of the various types of licenses. Some works can be modified, some can’t. Some can be used commercially, some can’t. And so on. It’s a good resource to bookmark.
One way to avoid issues with copyright is to use works in the public domain. Wikipedia has an excellent list of resources for finding public domain images. Please note their cautionary warning at the top of the article: “The presence of a resource on this list does not guarantee that all or any of the images in it are in the public domain.” It’s still our responsibility to research the copyright.
And one last thing to consider. We can always contact the image source and ask permission to use the image, politely thanking them no matter what their response.
Copyright might seem like a dry subject, but it’s important to understand what it’s about. It’s both an issue of respect to our fellow creative types, and an issue of protecting ourselves from legal repercussions.