Don’t Use the Fair Use Excuse

Don't be a pirate! Photo credit: Flickr/ryanrocketship

When it comes to the Web, I think sometimes we forget about copyright. And we throw around “Fair Use” to justify our actions. The U.S. Copyright Office has this to say about Fair Use:

The distinction between “fair use” and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

If that doesn’t make you stop, maybe you should think about this… If you were a photographer, and you made your living taking photographs, how would you feel about someone using your photos without your permission? This goes for video as well. It’s getting so easy to TiVo, compress and post… “Oh, but it’s just my blog, so it doesn’t matter. “Besides, they’ll never know.” “Images are so easy to get off the Internet. You just right click and…” Uh, excuse me, it’s wrong. So DON’T do it. DON’T use images on your blog/Web site that don’t belong to you (unless you get permission from the photographer/publisher). It’s a matter of courtesy, oh, and it’s also sorta the law.

So don’t use the Fair Use excuse.

Here are some terms you should get familiar with:

Royalty Free — material that may be used for profit, without paying royalties. Royalty-free media is usually acquired for a ‘one time only’ fee. Royalty Free does not necessarily mean it is FREE or no cost. Public Domain — Music and lyrics published in 1922 or earlier are in the Public Domain in the U.S. No one can claim ownership of a song in the public domain, therefore public domain songs may be used by anyone. Creative Commons — The Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization that has released several copyright licenses known as Creative Commons licenses. Depending on the licenses, the creator may restrict only certain rights (or none) of the work. (source: Journalism Education Association Digital Media Resources Copyright Info and Audio Material You Can Use) And here’s some more light reading for you…

Please don’t get into bad habits now. You should always act professionally, even if you’re still in school and just playing around with a personal blog. Use your own original work, even if you don’t think it’s good enough. My rule is to NEVER swipe images off another Web site and post them to your blog or news story unless you have EXPLICIT permission to do so. Just saying “courtesy Joe Photographer” doesn’t cut it. Same goes for music and video. Create your own or take the necessary steps to obtain an image/audio/video that you can legally use.

Image Resources

If you’re looking for images to add to your blog post, try one of these five resources for free images:

  1. Creative Commons – which will let you search Google, Google Images, Flickr, Yahoo and Wikimedia for images
  2. EveryStockPhoto
  3. Flickr
  4. Wikimedia (Images)
  5. Yahoo Creative Commons search

In a pinch, you can purchase photos from:

Music Resources

If you’re looking for music to add to your audio assignments, create your own music using an app like Garage Band or try one of these five resources for free music:

  1. Creative Commons – which will let you search jamendo and SpinXpress for music
  2. Internet Archive: Audio
  3. Wikimedia (Sound)
  4. MelodyLoops
  5. Royalty Free Music

Video Resources

If you’re looking for video to add to your assignment, create your own video using iMovie of Final Cut or try one of these three resources for free videos:

  1. Creative Commons – which will let you search FlipTV, SpinXpress and Wikimeida
  2. YouTube *Be sure you are using video that is licensed for commercial use.
  3. Vimeo *Be sure you are using video that is licensed for commercial use.

Photo credit: Flickr/ryanrocketship

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