Well, the answer is no, you cannot download and use someone else’s Intellectual Property (IP)/copyright unless you have permission from the photographer or licensed it from a stock photography agency. Although this seems like we are taking this too seriously because you’ve probably seen millions of people freely downloading and resharing someone else’s copyrighted image on social networks, blogs, forums, etc., right?
Yes, this is pretty common today, but it is illegal, and the internet is starting to crack down on the biggest copyright offenders. The truth is, the internet is still in its Wild West phase, in which lawlessness is pretty much everywhere when it comes to copyright infringes stealing images for use. And today, that is a problem because we are only now in the infancy of enforcing IP/copyright laws on the internet.
Hell, you might even be guilty of doing this because you didn’t know how copyright works when it comes to the internet. The best remedy to avoid this situation is to use your own images, get permission from the content creator, or use stock photography.
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But in the meantime, I want to give you all the information you’ll need to know about Facebook’s rules and regulations and general information about copyright and IP law.
We are seeing IP holders and companies sprouting up to help content creators enforce their copyright, and even in some cases, they have helped photographers collect money. Two of these companies are ImageRights and Pixsy, which help content creators track down image thieves and collect money.
While most of the time-image thievery isn’t really worth enforcing for some content creators because they don’t want to waste the time or money, you can still effectively get the image burglar to take down your image.
How? A DMCA takedown. DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which is a U.S. federal law that an IP holder can invoke when it is found someone is using your content unlawfully. IP holders and photographers can issue a DMCA takedown to the webmaster or web hosting company of the person using your photo, and 9 times out of 10, they will take it down if you can prove it’s your IP.
Any creative work automatically obtains a copyright that belongs to the creator. This applies to photos, art, music, writing, or video. The copyright can be bought or transferred with the written consent of the owner, generally done by a signed contract.
If you want to instantly access that permission without having to track down the photographer and get permission, stock photography is the number one way of doing so. Not only is it almost instantaneous, but royalty free images can often be used over and over again.
For example, at Stockphotos.com, the licensing is quite lenient. In fact, once you download an image from us, you can use that image forever. You also don’t have to put a special watermark or copyright symbol within the image, as some stock photography agencies require.
Sharing a posted photo on a social network using a share button is actually fine because you are crediting the owner of the photo. Downloading a photo to your computer and using the image without written permission is not allowed.
In fact, here’s Facebook’s exact wording on copyright:
- Copyright is a legal right that seeks to protect original works of authorship (ex: books, music, film, art).
- Generally, copyright protects original expressions such as words, images, videos, artwork, etc. It does not protect facts and ideas, although it may protect the original words or images used to describe an idea. Copyright also doesn’t protect things like names, titles, and slogans; however, another legal right called a trademark might protect those.
Learn more about Facebook and copyright by reading “How Stock Photos Can’t Be Used on Facebook.”
The term ‘public domain’ is misunderstood. Since the birth of the internet, people are confusing the legal definition of public domain and public. Public domain refers to books, photos, and written work that have fallen into a status where the copyright has expired.
Facebook, the entire internet, google, yahoo, are public search engines or internet pages, but they are not ‘public domain’. For example, the book Pride and Prejudice is now in the public domain and can be downloaded as a free book and Alice in Wonderland is the same. This confusion has people grabbing photos, books, and artwork from the internet and thinking that they have full right to the object because it is on public display.
Copyright and Intellectual Property laws have been a great debate so far and will continue to be a discussion in the years to come. If you find a photo on Facebook and really want to use it, ask. Send a direct message to the Facebook user who posted the photo and request permission. If permission is not granted, it’s simple, you can not use it. If it is granted, obtain the permission in writing and pay for the use. After all, it is a friendly thing to do.
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