Images and Copyrights: What's ok and what's not?

Thread Title:
When is permission to repost images needed?
Thread Description:

Adland point to this post by blogger Jason Calacanis on reposting images. Naturally Jason is talking about it in the context of blogs, like there was some kind of difference between a blog and a regular site, but as many a web dev knows, it's a tricky issue.

From the adland post:

it seems there's a new idea forming - posting images without permission is OK as long as they are small?? Please help me out here, am I reading this right? Fair use? Has the world gone mad!? Is this the guy Denton thought should be the one to look up to when it comes to blogger ethics?
The web does cause trouble in this area, but would this new 'rule' hold water in court, or work in the long run - in a fair way? I don't think so.

And I see his point. But then the idea of images as fair use doesn't sound all that crazy does it?

Opinions? I know we have a few copyright experts in here, let's have your thoughts...


Fair use...

There is clearly a case for fair use in the United States:

Fair use was established to create public discourse, and public discourse occurs today--in large part--online, and on blogs.

There is a test for fair use, and that test is based on four things. One of the things is "Amount and substantiality," so the world has not gone mad, this has been the case for a long time.

It makes perfect sense in fact. If you want to make comments about a story you've read on my blog you have the right to quote (aka copy) sections of my blog and put them on your site. You can also do this with the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. This makes society better, because we have an open discourse of ideas.

Now, if you take the entire story from my blog, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal you are now making it harder for me to make a living. That is another part of the four part test which discusses the "Effect upon work's value" of fair use.

From WikiPedia:

"This fourth factor considers the effect that the use of the copyrighted material has upon the copyright owner's ability to exploit the original work."

The spirt of this is what is important, because the copyright and fair use laws are not defined clearly by design. These rules are too be applied to situations by the parties involved, and if they can't work it out, then by the courts.

Wikipedia talk about the benifits of fair use in fact: "Fair use can even aid the copyright owner, by helping people to decide in purchasing a work, by including a portion of the work in a description; online retailers such as frequently resort to fair use to display cover art or portions of a work."

Now, I'm no attorney but I've been dealing with issues like this for over 10 years as a publisher, and I've been on both sides of the table. At the end of the day what matters most is respect, discourse and intent.

IMO If you don't respect the copyright holders, if you don't engage in constructive discourse on the subject, and your intent is not pure you will wind up in a bad place with regard to fair use.

However, again IMO, if you respect others, talk to them, and have good intentions (i.e. you don't try to impeed someone's ability to make a living, and you do try to be reasonable in using only the images you need), then you will be OK.

Consult your lawyer if you have questions.

Since you deleted this from your blog.....

I posted this in Jason Calacanis blog, it was deleted even though it was neither abuse not aggressive. I am only trying to be helpful by linking the fair use FAQ as you seem to have misunderstood it. The exact wording of my post there:

Your comments: ...where have you gotten the idea that "fair use" applies to images when they are used as "decoration" to a post, rather than say, being the object of a debate/class/critique?
See more about fair use:

in particular, the slide collection example here might interest you:

Now, you argue that there are benefits of fair use, as the Wikipedia correctly points out, as people may decide to purchase work. Clearly we're talking about excerpts of books here, not a full photograph. Quite a few photographers make their living photographing important events in the news, or less important events such as car shows. Say you take their image to post on your - in what way will this benefit the photographer who has not gotten paid for those pictures, which were intended to get paid for when used in exactly that way (Ie; being poublished)? Linking to the photographers site will not help, he takes photos that are not art posters, it's not likely that you'll "benefit" him by bringing him more customers. In fact, you're more likely to succeed in bringing him crowds of bloggers who also want to use his photos on their blog for free. One photograph is not like an excerpt from a book or an article. Period.

Fair use has it's place, but this is not a fair use case. You have fallen into the trap of so many webheads and believe that fair use is something else entirely. I am not a lawyer but I have been dealing with issues like this for 20 years, as a buyer and seller of images for publication. Not text. Images.

Consult an IP lawyer if you have any questions.


Firstly, welcome to Threadwatch Robert. please introduce yourself..

I agree. I think there is a strange trend developing amongst bloggers that runs along the lines of "we are exempt from the laws that apply to everyone else" - Take the kottke case. I must confess to not being familiar with the specifics but the way it's spun in the blogs would lead me to think that bloggers consider themselves to have special rights that pertain only to them as a group.

I dont think this is a very healthy way to go for publishers in general. Whether it's a blog or an ecom site, we all should be subject to the same rules or none.

Secondly - let's please keep the discussion cordial, these things have a tendancy to devolve rapidly and i'd appreciate it if it didnt go that way. Thanks..

thanks for the welcome.

I agree with you completly there, publishers (like weblogs) clearly already have standards to adhere to, but weblogs seem to think the law (federal law at that) does not apply to them. I'm baffled as to why. Quite a few blogs are run like businesses with advertising income and paid staff that write, why should they not pay for the rights to use images as well?

FYI there's another thread now

Over at Digitalphotography it's being discussed again.

Calacanis Digital Photography Blog.

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