Home > Public Domain Data > Can I use that Picture? Terms, Laws, and Ethics for using copyrighted images

Can I use that Picture? Terms, Laws, and Ethics for using copyrighted images

An infographic on The Visual Communication Guy website from Dr Newbold, whose background is Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design, offers a way to fairly quickly and easily help data users decide if and how they can use copyrighted online images.  Given the ease of sharing of data in our cloud-based GIS world, we write frequently in this blog and focus part of our book on discussing copyright. While Dr Newbold’s infographic is intended for those using still photography, much can be applied to spatial data.  Keeping with our theme of being critical of data, however, verify this infographic against other sources before beginning any project using imagery and data that are not your own.

My rule of thumb in using  photography in web maps, storymaps, map layouts, web pages, and in other ways is to use my own photographs whenever possible, such as on this story map, since according to copyright law, I own the copyright to them. Lacking my own images, I then turn to US government or other non-copyrighted images, or images marked as Creative Commons, such as most images from Wikimedia.  If all of these sources do not result in the images I need, and I truly want to use a copyrighted image, such as a few on this Colorado map I created, I ask permission, clearly stating my (educational) intent, and I do not use the image unless the permission is granted.

Clear, helpful definitions of key terms accompany the graphic:  (1)  Copyright:  The protection given to any created image or work from being copied or distributed without permission.  All images are immediately given copyright to the creator when the image is created.  (2)  Fair Use:  The legal right to use copyrighted images as long as the images are used for educational, research, or personal use or as long as the image benefits the public good in some way.  (3)  Creative Commons:  Images that are copyrighted but the creator has put provisions on their use.  A creative commons license might stipulate, for example, that an image can be used as long as it isn’t modified in any way.  (4)  Public Domain:  Images that no longer have copyright restrictions either because the creator willingly relinquished their copyright or because the creator is dead and no one owns the copyright.

Can I use that Picture?  Terms, laws, and ethics  for using copyrighted images

Can I use that Picture? Terms, laws, and ethics for using copyrighted images.

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  1. February 2, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    I really like the flow chart for Fair Use of materials and plan to use that in my classes on Web Page design. I have been teaching high school a long time and in the computer field for 15+ years. Much has changed with computers but copyright and fair use have not progressed as hoped. Your succinct definitions are strong enough for my students also.

  2. March 30, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    A little late here but here’s my much simplified version

    http://www.slideshare.net/mobile/azolnai/data-upload-choices

  1. January 14, 2015 at 11:00 pm

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