5 Things You Need to Know About Online Images

Laurus College Blog – 5 Things You Need to Know About Online Images

5 Things You Need to Know About Online Images

by the Professional Business Systems Department at Laurus College

Sharing photos and images on social feeds and blogs is as natural as sending an email, but if you unwittingly share a copyrighted image, you could find yourself in the hot seat—a mistake that could cost you a lot of money in fines and legal fees, your reputation, and even your job.

As a student at Laurus College, you’ve already learned what copyright means and why it’s important, but since the consequences of copyright infringement are so costly, there’s no better time than now for a refresher course.

Years ago, authors, photographers, and artists had to go to great lengths to copyright their work, but with an increase in technology, the process is much more streamlined now. In fact, in today’s tech-centric world, once a creative work has been created, the creator automatically owns the copyright.

So, what this means to you, is that you must do your due diligence in making sure that anything you share online—on a website, in a blog, even on your Facebook page—doesn’t violate copyright law. This is particularly true when it comes to images; with so many pictures and photos available online, it’s easy to think that you can use any one of them without getting in trouble, but that’s simply not the case.

When it comes to making sure that you’re not infringing on someone’s rights, saying you didn’t know is never an acceptable defense. It’s up to you to make sure the images you use are copyright/royalty free, or that you have permission to use them.

Here are 5 things that you need to know about online images:

1. Just because an image is online doesn’t mean you can use it: The internet is a giant catalogue of material that has been posted, collected, and organized and it includes millions and millions of images. Those images belong to whoever created them, so before you just grab one or two to add to your website or presentation, you need to do your research to see who owns the copyright. Often, if you contact them, an owner will give you permission to use their images at no cost, as long as you give them credit.

2. Photos can be altered without your knowledge: Don’t see the © symbol on a photo? Don’t be so quick to think that means that it’s copyright free. Someone could have easily cropped out the copyright mark—even the watermark of the creator.

3. Content shouldn’t infringe on anyone’s rights: Pictures of people, buildings, properties, even historic sites are complicated. Think of it this way—how would you like to see a picture of yourself or your home on the internet without your permission? Exactly. That’s why there are model and property release forms, so that images don’t infringe on the rights of others.

4. You can’t always trust the Creative Commons (CCO): A Creative Commons (CCO) is a place where images and ideas are shared for creative use. This can include anything from images and vectors to sounds, videos, even copy, but just because it’s posted, doesn’t mean it doesn’t violate copyright laws. It’s still your responsibility to check to make sure.

5. Copyright includes intangibles, including trademarks and logos: Not everyone realizes that while an image might be copyright free, what’s in the image could be protected. For example, if you take a picture of the inside of your car and you have a Garmin GPS System in the image, while the image is yours, Garmin owns the right to have their property in the picture, which means, that legally, you would need permission to use the image. To keep yourself in the clear on this one, check out this link provided by Getty Images: Wiki.gettyimages.com.

All in all, the best way to keep yourself and your projects from infringing on the rights of others or violating copyright laws is to do your due diligence. Research those images; check them and double-check them and as a general rule, even when an image is copyright free, cite the source and to go the extra mile.

Melanie Bryant is the Professional Business Systems Department Chair at Laurus College. You can reach her through email: [email protected] or call (805)-267-1690.

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