It seems many people don’t really really understand copyright. If you take a photo, and you publish it to the internet, it doesn’t then become the property of the internet. It is still YOUR PHOTO. You have rights to earn commissions, royalties for use, etc. Unless you specifically state that the image is public domain. Public domain means anyone can use it for any purpose, be it reference material for painting, printing and reselling, etc.
A lot of people display that Creative Commons button on their blogs, just because they have it displayed doesn’t mean they understand what it means. Let me summarize. If you see original text on a blog by that blogs author and you republish it, you must credit the author for that text. Regardless of whether or not they have that CC button. If THEY have text on their blog written by someone else, they must credit that author. Written word should be credited to the author just as much as imagry. Let me explain.
Royalty-free images: These are images that you pay for, once, to use on things that bring you income. Royalty free images may still have conditions – such as personal use only at a given size, but above a standard size you must pay for the image. Once it becomes used for business or promotion, expect to make a payment to the creator – unless you prefer to pay a percentage of your income to the creator in royalty payments.
Attribution: ALL Images – if you didn’t take them, if you don’t personally own them, should have credits to the artist and or the source unless you’ve paid for royalties (and some conditions of royalties is that the artist be given credits). This includes images used for personal things, even if you just say you like “this photo” on your blog.
Changing stuff: Public domain images only. You can’t just change up an image unless you took the photo/drew it, have specific authorization to make changes or paid for it and have a specific copyright release – because part of copyright means you cannot alter an image.
Artists always, always retain copyright to their images. Regardless of sale. Unless it has been deemed public domain.
Graphics: You may have purchased a design package. That package includes stuff for you to use and display for personal use. Prices are set for things like banners, etc. to display, to gain traffic from, those prices permit you to use them for that purpose. You do not pay for the right to use those images on items that will earn or have the potential to earn income. Consider that those images may have limited use and/or specific terms. You should always check with the creator before you pursue anything of that nature.
Artwork. Last but certainly not least. This applies to photography, photoblogs, illustrations, custom illustrations, caracatures, paintings, pictures of paintings – etc. No artist on the internet is going to give you free unlimited use of thier creations. Not-a-one. Many are generous enough to give you freebies to use, and they will say “these are free to use” and maybe “credit me”. If there are no rules stated, that does NOT mean no rules apply. Copyright is copyright, and it does not need to be spoken every single time. Copyright immediately belongs to the creator at the MOMENT the creation is created. Personal use – is personal use. You can’t change it or alter it, that is against copyright law. You can’t deface an original artwork, regardless of whether or not you commissioned it. That is also against the law.
Consider that by not crediting the creator, you are effectively eliminating any potential for them to earn an income from their work. Consider that by altering their artwork, you are falsely representing their creation. Consider that by capitalizing off of their imagry (or even text) without a specific release, you are, in a word, stealing their income and you could very well be expected to pay royalties when the artist is notified of its use.
Violating copyright is wrong. On so many levels, but first and foremost it is offensive to the creator of the image, the person whose creativity you are saying is worthless by not paying their due compensation for their time and talent.
Note: This post was spurred by several incidents, not one particularly – this is a public service announcment, basically. A reminder for some, an introduction for others.