Copyright law has protected creative people for hundreds of years but is often misunderstood as it can be a complicated area. Generally if you’ve created something original you have the copyright on it, you don’t have to put a (C) symbol on it, or register it, it’s automatic (in the UK at least).
The internet though has muddied the waters somewhat and numerous myths have popped up and as the recent kerfuffle about online service terms and conditions and what sites can do with your images showed there is still much confusion over the issue.
Recently I heard someone saying that images uploaded onto Facebook are copyright free, that if someone uploads something you can download it and do what you like with it. Big no-no there – even Instagrammed pictures of someone’s dog in the park are covered by copyright and belong to the person who took the photo, not Facebook, not even the person whose Facebook account they were uploaded to, unless the copyright is assigned to that person.
Where an online service says, in their terms and conditions, that they can use your images typically you’ve granted them a perpetual licence not the copyright to the image. When I signed up to Olympus’ Flickr group I granted them such a licence though as my images aren’t taken with a Pen camera they’re unlikely to use my images – the licence is that specific. This is why the recent flurry of people posting copyright notices on their Timelines was pointless.
The images I use on this blog are carefully selected from either a library of royalty-free images I have, sites which curate the millions of high-quality royalty-free images on the internet, and mostly via the content suggestion engine built into wordpress.com provided by Zemanta. The term royalty-free and the Creative Commons licence are important as they give you the right to use the creators work but not to claim that it’s your creation, even if you modify it. Lifehacker has a good article outlining how to avoid breaking the law here.
Whether we write blogs, books, Facebook statuses or tweets we need to respect the creativity of others and their wishes as to how their work is used, copyright law sometimes struggles to keep up with how technology is changing as we move further into the digital century but it’s still important.