In general, people seem to understand that they can’t take someone else’s words as their own – that they are required to quote that person. However, many do not quote companies or credit photographers or graphic designers.
by Roswitha "Rosevita" Schacht , http://mrg.bz/1Jazny
Regarding information posted on a company’s website: Many people assume that if text doesn’t include a byline that it is free for the taking, and this is just not true. This happens often when people and companies write articles about the foundation I run. They take the mission statement off of our website and insert it into the body of a press release or article without stating where those words came from. This gives the reader the impression that the copyright infringer wrote that text on his or her own, which just isn’t true. So, to solve the problem, if you are using someone else’s text, let your readers know, and if it is a lot of text, ask the author’s permission first.
However, the most prevalent copyright infringement I see is with images. In fact, I was recently working with a company on their website and was asking why all of their images looked so different. I would have thought that uniform images would have been easier and cheaper to design and would have given the website a much more cohesive look. Their answer? They found the images on a Google image search, copied them from the original website and posted them on their own. They even PhotoShopped one of the images to remove the copyright notice!
Once someone creates text or an image and publishes it, it is protected by a copyright. When they post a copyright notice (Copyright © 2009 by Moriah Harris-Rodger) it may just be a reminder, or it could signify that they have registered it with the U.S. Copyright Office. Either way, most images on the internet are not there for the taking. (Registering it is voluntary, but would be required for the owner of the material to initiate a lawsuit.)
Many photographers and graphic designers sell their images, which can be found on sites like http://www.fotosearch.com/ or http://www.wireimage.com/. Again, just because you could copy and paste one of these photos onto your website doesn’t mean it is legal.
Using free images
Many photographers and graphic designers also let others use their images for free. The only way to know if it is free is if the owner provides explicit permission. These free images can be found on sites like http://www.sxc.hu/ or http://www.morguefile.com/. Some owners request the user to notify them as to how the images will be used, but some do not. If they request to know, tell them.
Using images that you find
If you find an image you like and want to use, you are welcome to ask the artist’s permission to use it as well. For example, when researching for my blog post “Tree planting can be a cut-throat business — literally,” a great photo accompanied a CNN article I was reading on the topic. Wanting to use the photo, I searched the internet for the photographer, found his website and wrote him an email requesting to use the image. His agent wrote back and agreed; all I had to do was give the photo a particular photo credit and take it down after an agreed upon period of time. Sure, I could have just copied the photo from CNN, posted it on my blog, and the photographer would have never known, but doing so would have been dishonest. This brave photographer who traveled all the way through the jungles of Uganda deserves 100% of the credit for his photo, and I deserve none — because I didn’t take it!
If you have any further questions about copyrights, visit http://www.copyright.gov.
The owner of the material – give them credit for the work they have done if they give you permission; you are legally obligated to do so. And, they have every right not to share it with you; it belongs to them.
The user (or potential user) of the material – asking for permission to use someone else’s material, or notifying them how you plan to use it, is a great way to start a relationship with people who have similar interests.