Chris Dunmire : Using Pictures from the Internet
Hey! Before You Steal that Image off the Internet...
Important Lessons on Using Images "found" on the World Wide Web
By Chris Dunmire, Graphic Designer
Question: Where can I download free Web clipart and photos to use in my organization's newsletter?
Answer: So you're put in charge of creating your organization's print newsletter and are bored with the clipart selection that came with your word processing program. Or maybe you need some specific pictures that your image library doesn't have. What should you do?
Most people take one of two roads:
- They seek out and buy clipart / images (usually on software or from a Web-based vendor) for their project and license it legally, or
- They turn to the Internet and download (lift, take, steal) images from random Web sites to insert into their project without asking for permission and giving any thought to copyright and image quality issues.
This article is geared towards taking the first road and encouraging people, businesses, and organizations to do the right thing ethically, legally, and common-sensibly regarding copyright, compensating creators, and using the right elements for the job.
4 Reasons NOT to Use Internet Web Graphics in Your Print Projects
- Copyright Issues: If you're surfing along and suddenly find an image that you would like to use in your non- or for-profit newsletter, you don't have permission to take and use that image as you see fit.
If you use an image without first getting permission from its creator, you will be infringing on their copyright. This is not only limited to picture usage. Articles, artwork, videos, blog posts, and anything else created by another person belongs to them and is considered their intellectual property protected by copyright. Always ask for permission to use someone else's work, and understand that an artist has the right to ask for compensation or even decline your request.
In some cases, copyright infringement can lead to sticky legal tape and fines for you. It doesn't matter if your newsletter is free or non-profit, either. The fact is, the artist who created the image did not say you can use it, and you haven't compensated them for their work. That's how copyright works.
- Image Origination: While some "free clipart / image" Web sites offer up graphics that a creator has granted permission to use, some sites actually stock their libraries with clipart taken from somewhere else (stolen) without permission. Like the "telephone" game, by time clipart has been copied and passed around umpteen times, nobody knows where it originally came from. If you don't have a clue of the originating source, you could be risking copyright infringement (see #1).
- How Would You Feel?
If the copyright issues brought up in #1 & #2 still don't faze you, consider this: What if you created some nifty graphics or pictures and put them online to share with your family or friends, and someone came along and snagged them for their own Web site or print project? Or maybe you labored over a cool Web site design that someone passing through decided to copy and use without giving you credit or compensation for your hard work. Doesn't the thought of that happening perturb you even a little bit?
Why shouldn't you be compensated? It's your creation. You spent your time and energy on something that someone else values, but they would rather steal it from you than pay you for your talent. In some cases, they may even turn around and SELL your work for their own profit. Sure gives you a different perspective now, doesn't it?
- Web Graphics are Not Print Graphics
Finally, say you absolutely know who the originating source is for a graphic, and they have given you permission to use their art. For instance, Creativity-Portal.com has some fun free novelty patch clipart you can download for personal use. Everything is clear, so what's the problem?
Primarily, graphics created for the Web have different color and resolution properties than graphics made for print (RGB vs. CMYK). Often, Web graphics are saved in low-quality .jpg and .gif formats to download quickly from the Web. The process takes away color and detail from the image, so much at times that it distorts or blurs. Web images used in print formats are easy to spot with their amateur pixely-ness and look terrible to a trained eye.
So there you have it, four good reasons why you shouldn't use Web graphics in your print projects. Not only are there copyright and origination issues, but Web graphics are not made for print purposes and end up looking pixely-poor. And who wants ugly graphics messing up their print project?
So what's left? The first road, of course. If you need clipart or photos for your print project, there are plenty of legal options available. Compensate the artists who allow you to use the fruit of their labors by purchasing your clipart and images from on- and off-line vendors. You can also pick up cheap (or expensive) royalty-free image software almost anywhere computers are sold. Above all, you'll have peace of mind knowing you're doing the right thing. •
© Chris Dunmire 2005. All rights reserved.
About Chris Dunmire
Chris is a deeply engaged creative spirit, lover of wit, words, and wisdom, and the driving force behind the award-winning Creativity Portal® Web site. [...]
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