Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Copyright, Fair Use, and Online Images

A recent conversation with someone in the Art and Art History department reminded me that confusion over the online use of copyrighted images persists, even among some faculty members. This really comes as no surprise. Copyright is complex, the parameters of fair use are murky, and the fair use of digital images require us to consider elements that didn't exist when the Copyright Act of 1976 was passed. It's a mystifying topic for most of us. Over at the Social Media Examiner, Sara Hawkins has written a very helpful piece, Copyright Fair Use and How it Works for Online Images. As an attorney, Hawkins is well versed on this subject, and here she provides an excellent overview of the issues that we should consider before using others' images online.

While brief, the article does a great job of introducing this complicated subject. After discussing key points about copyright and fair use, Hawkins outlines "5 Things to Think About Before Using Copyrighted Images":
  1. Do you understand the term fair use?
  2. Why are you using the image? 
  3. Have you transformed the image?
  4. How much of the image are you using?
  5. Are you willing to risk your site being taken down, getting a cease and desist/bill/DMCA or being sued?
In summary Hawkins notes,"When it comes to photos, when in doubt, assume it’s subject to copyright and don’t use it without the appropriate permission." Check out the article -- it's rare to find such a straightforward and clear introduction to this topic.

Image: Jason Pettus (jasonpettus), mytatt.jpg, 2007, available from Flickr under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.