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Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Trawling the Internet for inspiration is one thing. Finding and adapting digital assets (effects, textures, illustrations, photographs, clip art and fonts) for use in your creative projects is another, because these and many other resources come with a license to ensure fair and responsible use.

For students and professionals alike, it’s worth knowing that some resources can be used without obligation or legal restrictions, whereas others are protected under Intellectual Property (IP) law.

IP covers four main areas:

  • patents (how something works)
  • designs (what it looks like)
  • trade marks (what you call it)
  • copyright (artistic or literary expression)

So before downloading digital resources (books, novels, technical reports, technical plans, manuals, illustrations, photographs, music, songs, dramatic works, films, television and radio broadcasts, promotional literature, advertising, computer software and databases), be sure to check the terms and conditions of use and that you are not infringing someone’s copyright.

What’s copyright I hear you ask? Here’s an extract from Wikipedia:

“Copyright is a form of intellectual property which gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights for a certain time period in relation to that work, including its publication, distribution and adaptation; after which time the work is said to enter the public domain…”.

There are many image stock options available online. Most allow you to browse and once you find an image you’d like to use, you can either do so by getting permission from the owner and attributing them or you can purchase the rights for a nominal fee (see below).

Below are some terms and basic principles that govern the complex area of IP law, copyright and licenses, together with some useful links for image stock websites and more information.

Copyright Free

See Public Domain.

Some examples of copyright free stock images:

Creative Commons (CC)

CC is a free, easy to understand and use copyright licensing system for online creative work. CC licenses let people easily change the copyright terms from the default 'all rights reserved' to 'some rights reserved'. Depending on the license used, images can be copied, altered, or distributed, provided that the owner or creator of the image is acknowledged, which is called attribution.  A video explanation of CC licenses can be found here.

Some examples of CC stock images:

Public Domain

Public Domain images are considered free of some or all copyright, meaning that it can be used by anyone for any purpose, either because the copyright period has lapsed or because its creator as declared it so. Again, before downloading any image, be sure to check the terms and conditions of use.

Some examples of public domain stock images:

Rights Managed

With Rights Managed licensing, images are essentially rented from a photo agency or individual photographer and a price for a specific use is negotiated. Restrictions might be placed on the images use, such as: the geographic location, period of time the image can be used or what size it can be reproduced. An additional fee will be added to the cost of the image rental if it is used for any other purpose.

Some examples of rights managed image stock:

Royalty Free

Royalty Free usually applies to images that state that once a flat fee has been paid, the image can be used by the buyer wherever and how often desired (unless otherwise stipulated) and that no additional fee need to be paid to the copyright holder.

Some examples of royalty free stock images:

Using Search Engines to find images

Contrary to popular belief, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Dogpile and any other search engine is not a public gateway to free image stock or resources! However, you could do an advanced search in say, Google to find out whether an image can be modified and/or used commercially. Here’s how:

Conducting An Advanced Image Search on Google

How to make money from your own Stock Images

Selling stock files that you have created can be a great income and vehicle for exposing your own work. In all cases, read and check the submission criteria. You may also have to answer a quiz, fill in an online form or submit a few samples to become a seller. The type of stock files you can sell include: Flash animation, audio, video, pixel fonts, photographs, press photographs, 3D models, textures and illustrations.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This Work, Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, by kpryce is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.