The way that internet works is having strange effects on how people are changing their approach to the idea of personal property. The fact that it is much more difficult to police the internet and enforce copyright and other laws has made people drunk with this newfound freedom, and you will often find people who have always been law abiding braking regulations without batting an eyelid. Naturally, not everyone is doing this, and not everyone that is does it because they’ve stopped caring about the idea of personal property. Some people are just not sure what exactly is and isn’t allowed. It is for that last group that we have created this brief manual.
First of all, it is important to realize that just because someone decided to post an image on the internet and allowed you to view it doesn’t mean that you are allowed to use it in any way you want. People are often led astray by how simple it is to just download the image and manipulate it. However, if you want to do this without exposing yourself to possible repercussions, make sure to contact the owner of the image and inquire about the liberties that you are allowed to take with it. It is not nearly enough to just give credit to the source, which is the approach taken by many people who are making the least amount of effort to make it seem like they tried to be fair to the image owner. Naturally, you have to specify in which way you’ll be using the image, and have to comply with the possible limitations that the owner will set for you.
Some people, on the other hand, think that it is perfectly acceptable to take an image they like, modify it in some minor or even major way, and claim it as their own intellectual property just because they’ve added some captions or something similar. This might be a bit of a hyperbole, but this is similar to painting a smiley face on Mona Lisa and then claiming the painting as your own masterpiece.
Another common misconception (or contrived attempt to evade copyright laws) is claiming that you are using a certain image, or indeed any other type of intellectual property, under the “Fair Use” provision. A lot of people just have the most basic understanding of this concept, and figure that it is pretty much enough to mention those words and that they’re in the clear. The idea of Fair Use is much more complex than that, and does in no way give you the right to just take anything that you want.
The best solution if you are in need of an image would be to visit one of the websites that are offering images under the Creative Commons license. Again, not all of the licenses of this type are the same and they are not all giving you the same freedoms so make sure to check the details of the license before going ahead and using someone else’s image.