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5 Commonly asked questions about copyright

Copyright? Really? She wants to talk about COPYRIGHT!?

Yeah…but don’t leave the page just yet! I’ll try to keep this interesting and engaging for you…

Alright, copyright isn’t the sexiest of topics and it seems like a huge ocean of grey area. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life and a big topic to digital arts of all kinds. So, let’s dive right in.

As I have talked with teachers and students over the years, there have been a lot of questions and issues that pop up about copyright. As this is only one blog post, I have narrowed it down to 5 commonly asked questions.

Also, if you stick around to the end, you’ll find a free cheat sheet for finding free images on the internet! But back to our copyright questions:


1. Images can be found on the internet SOOOO easily, why can’t I just use any image I see?

Just because you can see it, that doesn’t mean you can take it! Think of the internet as a huge department store. Let’s say I see a shirt that I like, would I be able to take it home with me just because I saw it and I liked it? No! I believe they call that stealing! You can take that same philosophy and apply it to images you find on the internet. Don’t take things (real or digital) just because you like them.

thief copyright
Image resource

 

2. When I look at the image, there is no copyright notice or watermark. Why can’t I just take it?

You can use the same response as above, but also, our federal law states that a creator doesn’t need to post a copyright notice. Therefore, unless an image is from a “public domain” website, you shouldn’t use it!

Image removed.
Image resource

 

3. I changed the image so that it is almost unrecognizable, is that ok?

If I took a design from a friend and switched the colors and added a few extra frills, do you think they would still recognize it and claim it as theirs? You bet! Alterations don’t necessarily change the ownership of an image. Check out this article discussing an image of Obama that was altered by a designer: http://www.ethicsingraphicdesign.org/test-for-legalities/

Obama hope
Image source

 

4. When I use images, I never use them to make money, so what’s the big deal?

Making money isn’t the only factor to be considered when using images found on the internet. You should also consider the impact your use will have on the creator’s pride. Let’s go back to our department store example. Let’s say that you take a shirt, just wear it around a little and then return it as if it was never gone. You never sold it to anyone, or altered it in any way, you just borrowed it. Would that work for the department store? Nope! The same can be said for images found on the internet.

copyright
Image resource

 

5. It seems like people are using images from the internet all the time! Why can’t I?

While it may seem like the easy thing to do and there may be a lot of internet image pirating going on, it is a risk that everyone has to decide if they are willing to take. Many cases will never even be discovered. It may be that nobody will ever know if you took that image, but you risk being found out and fined. With fines ranging in the $100,000s, I’ll tell you it’s not a risk I am willing to take!


The best way to avoid issues that arise around copyright is to just use free images! I’ve got a cheat sheet below that you can use to find some great websites with 100% free images that anyone can use!

You may be thinking, “Aren’t there circumstances where I can use images found on the internet?” You bet! Next week, I’ll discuss these circumstances and how they fit into the Fair Use law.

I know that this is not an exhaustive list of issues that arise when the issue of copyright comes into view, but it is a good place to start. If you’ve got more questions for discussion, I’d love to hear them! Head over to my Facebook page to get the conversation started!

Click below to get your FREE cheat sheet to finding free images on the internet.

 

 

Want more clarification on how to "deal with copyright" in your classroom? You're in luck! We'll be hosting a webinar all about copyright later this month (January 2020). Click below to save your seat!

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