By Alan Graner
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Below are some general guidelines about copyright protection. For definitive answers consult an attorney.
All images on the internet are NOT free for you do use.
Just because you find an image on Google Images, Flickr or other sites with downloadable images, don’t assume they are copyright free. In most cases they aren’t.
To be safe, only download images from sites that state specifically their images are in the public domain or are covered by Creative Commons licenses. There are many articles directing you to such sites.
Using public domain images can be tricky
Let’s say you want to use a Van Gogh painting you found online. Since Van Gogh has been dead for over 100 years, the painting is in the public domain and you can use it.
However, that may only apply to the photo on that particular site. If you download a Van Gogh painting that was photographed by someone else, it’s possible that photo is copyrighted.
Or, if you copy a Van Gogh painting from a stock photography site or a copyrighted book of his paintings, you’ve violated copyright law.
If you visit the Van Gogh Museum website you can download images free for non-commercial purposes. But if you use reproductions of the paintings to make money, you must pay a free.
If you download Van Gogh’s original letters written in Dutch or French, they are in the public domain. However, if you download translations of those letters into another language such as English, the translations may be copyrighted.
A simple rule of thumb
Unless you know for a fact an image is in the public domain or the copyright has lapsed, assume its copyrighted and DON’T USE IT!
Otherwise you leave yourself liable for a major fee or expensive lawsuit.
What are your experiences downloading images?
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business public relations and marketing content firm. For content that makes you stand out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.dsprel.com.