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The laws around image copyright and creative commons

“Copyright is not reserved just for professional artworks or photography; the selfies you took on your last drunken night out are, in fact, covered by copyright.”

The laws around image copyright

In the first blog of this series, I wrote about why businesses should be concerned about image copyright, and what consequences can arise from stealing copyrighted images to use on your website. Now I'm here to tell you a little bit about the laws surrounding image copyright in Australia.

Copyright was created, not for the distinct purpose of allowing artists to deny the use of their work, but to encourage the creation of work without the fear of its theft.

Copyright is attributed to every creation, as soon as it has been created, without the need of any paperwork and applies to both published and unpublished work. It is not reserved just for professional artworks or photography; the selfies you took on your last drunken night out are, in fact, covered by copyright.

Copyright does not depend upon skill or labour, and is considered a right afforded to everyone with any creation they have made. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you are being sued for copyright infringement, the skill and labour used to produce the photo can sometimes be used as a means to determine the monetary loss the artist faced at the theft of their work - so naturally, the more professional the image, the larger the lawsuit.

Even in regards to Fair Use, there are a number of laws and regulations surrounding copyrighted images that protect artists from theft, as was discovered by Kari DePhillips at The Content Factory, when they were sued for $8,000 for using a copyrighted image:

"Current Fair Use image copyright laws say that you're financially liable for posting copyrighted images, even if:

  • You did it by accident

  • You immediately take down the picture after receiving a DMCA takedown notice

  • The picture is resized

  • If the picture is licensed to your web developer (Getty Images requires that you get your own license, thankyouverymuch)

  • You link back to the photo source and cite the photographer's name

  • Your site isn't commercial and you make no money from your blog

  • You have a disclaimer on the site

  • The pic is embedded instead of saved on your server

  • You found it on the Internet (that's not an excuse!)"

The only way to obtain permission to use a copyrighted image is to ask the artist and gain written permission from them - attribution does not equal permission and unlike plagiarism, and it does not make the illegal use of an image legal.

Then, there's creative commons

There are artists out there who are kind enough to allow people to use their work, for both private and commercial purposes, within a particular set of restrictions. These images come under the Creative Commons Licences.

These restrictions vary depending on the rights the artist has reserved, so here are some terms you should acquaint yourself with to ensure you know how to properly use images within the Creative Commons:

Attribution (AY) - This means whether you copy, redistribute, remix or transform an image found in Creative Commons, you must always give credit to the original artist.

No Derivs (ND) - This means you may only use the image in it's original form - you are not allowed to alter it in any way.

Non-Commercial (NC) - This means you can only use this image for a non-commercial purpose, so businesses best back away now from anything labelled with this restriction.

Share Alike (SA) - This means no matter how you copy, remix or transform an image, your newly created image must be used under the same Creative Commons Licence, meaning others can use your image and copy, remix, transform it and redistribute it too.

When you understand the laws around image copyright, it's much easier to understand how simple it is to legally use these images for your website.

Visit past Indiesights in the series and see what's coming up:

Chapter 1: Why you should be concerned about image copyright
Chapter 2: The laws around image copyright
Chapter 3: How to properly attribute an artist
Chapter 4:Free image sourcing tools.

Disclaimer: The materials in this Indiesight are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of current laws around image copyright.

Indietech blog article author - Digital Marketing and Web Design insights
Noted by Penny Wilson

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