February 01, 2011

A Quick Guide to Media Licenses

Very often we are told that some one ‘googled’ that image up and used it in his presentation and we are pretty ok about it. Recently, I was shocked to find out some images from my blog used in some presentation! It disturbed me a lot. When I wrote to the author, he found the image on Google and had no knowledge about something called ‘licenses’. Technically I can take legal action against him for copyright infringement! But I thought it to be a far better idea to write about Media Licenses, since there are many people who are unaware about this!

This post applies to a variety of media including pictures, text, audio, video or fonts.

So here it goes.

Copyright : From the wordnetweb, Princeton University , copyright is ‘a document granting exclusive right to publish and sell literary or musical or artistic work’. Essentially when you create some work, you are automatically granted a copyright! Usage rules are simple: Unless you are the copyright holder, or you purchased a license from a stock image site, do not use this stuff. If you're not sure, assume that the content is covered by copyright. That goes for anything you find on Google Images or your average blog. If you can't contact the copyright holder, or there's no specific license attached, then don't use it.

Public Domain : Public Domain (PD) works have no restrictions on usage. Anybody can use them for any reason at any time. Sometimes they are PD because the author expressly wishes them to be; other times because they precede copyright laws; other times because they have been produced by a government body; or because copyright has expired. The image to the left is how Wikipedia.org indicates it.  In some jurisdictions, content creators are not allowed to relinquish copyright. Some great minds mark their work as "free for use" or "unrestricted usage" or something similar. These can be usually being trusted. Still a safe bet would be to read the author’s policies once. Though be careful, many rights-holders are themselves ignorant of the rules!

Creative Commons : Creative Commons (CC) is a more flexible copyright scheme that expands on sharing of digital works, and usually demands attribution wherever the works is shown. So you must link back to the author. It can be useful in some applications.

CC-licensed material will say so explicitly, and may have restrictions on use, such as no commercial use (generally avoid this) or no derivatives (you can use it as long as it's unmodified). There are many levels of CC, and the usage terms can often be incompatible and downright bewildering. This also goes for other novel rights schemes such as GNU, Copyleft, and so on.

So where can I get the images from?
A nice link here : “Thirty free image sources” article and links on where to find free images

A small note about using images from sites like Flickr.com : 
Many users have marked their work to be in ‘Public Domain’, yet the fine print reveals that they are still beholden to the parent company Yahoo's license restriction as long as they are on flickr. A way to get hold of these images is to write directly to their creators (and believe me, in most cases they are more than happy to help you)

This was a small introduction to licenses on the web. Do read more in detail about them and save yourself a trouble of fighting a law suite!


Anonymous said...

Very informative, Gadkari. I hope you have never 'googled' images into your presentations yourself. Also, in the spirit of honouring licenses, I suppose you have always spent an obscene amount of money on all your operating systems, MS Office, and all those design-softwares you use. If you are not spending lakhs of rupees annually on those softwares, perhaps the laws are a little hazy on your content generated illegally! Just saying.

Pratheek_ir said...

Good post!!! I had my works stolen by a college in Mysore for their event posters!! apparently they got it off deviantart... -__-" was really annoying!!

ceeyus vareed said...

how to claim copy right for the works we have done ?....should we approach any authority to get copy rights for our work Prassana?

Prasanna Gadkari (M.Des in Product Design from I.I.Sc. ) said...

Hi Ceeyus,
As the creator of the work you own the copyright by default. If you wish to register the copyright to your work, so that you can claim this right, you can register it in India here : http://copyright.gov.in/

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