Using images found online

All Rights ReservedRegular readers should be well aware of my feelings on Copyright and fair use here in the US. But a combination of factors lead me to this post.

The first was the Google Secrets presentation (video will be posted when available) I gave yesterday for NNYLN. While talking about the features of Google image search I tossed out the obligatory “just because you can find it in Google images doesn’t mean it’s free to use” line and then moved on.

The second was this article from KTVN Reno: “Copyright lawsuits filed over pat-down photo” Here’s the relevant bit:

The Post published its TSA photograph on Nov. 18, and it was distributed to media outlets by The Associated Press. The picture was widely used to illustrate the debate surrounding increased security measures at airports.

In a notice to readers published Nov. 14, the Post said it would use all legal remedies to address copyright infringement. MediaNews did not return messages seeking comment about the lawsuits.

1[sic] of those sued by Righthaven is Brian Hill, 20, of Mayodan, N.C. Hill said he found the Post picture on Google Images and posted it on his news and politics website, not knowing it was copyrighted. [emphasis added]

Hill said an attorney from Righthaven called him Feb. 10 and said he could be liable for up to $150,000 in damages but could settle a lawsuit filed in Denver on Jan. 27 for $6,000.

Hill, who said he receives Social Security disability payments, said he cannot afford that amount and noted he had taken down the photo from his website. The suit is pending, and he’d like to represent himself in court in Denver.

"I was scared and fearful, and then I decided to speak out on the matter," Hill said. "We told them that we couldn’t afford it, and we were going to continue our court case."

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t read that article yesterday morning lest my presentation on search be derailed and turn into a copyright talk.

So, as a reminder, how can you be sure the photo you’re reprinting is ok to reprint? Head on over to Compfight and limit your searches to Creative Commons: Only to the right of the search box. Any results you received will be CC-licensed content that you’re free to use within the limits of the particular CC license. In most cases, just remember to give credit and the chances of you being sued is practically zero.

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