By T.K. Wilson
In this digital age, it can be very easy to take pictures and films for granted. Being bombarded by visual media all day, every day, we get used to it, not thinking that there’s a person or company behind that image. The fact of the matter is that a good deal of people don’t pay attention to how well they cite something. And that can lead to BIG trouble.
In 1998, a bill called the Copyright Term Extension Act passed Congress. Now, before we go father, I’ll explain copyright law for the rest of us who don’t speak Lawyer. Copyright is simply the protection granted to a person who creates a product (film, picture, character, invention, etc.) for the public consumption. These protections are in place to ensure that the person who created it can never have it taken from them, and thus are guaranteed the revenue from them. After the original person’s death, that protection is granted to their family or estate, whoever they name in their will. In the US, thanks to the 1998 law, that term is the author’s lifetime, plus 95 years.
This means that any images you find on the internet, if they were created AFTER the year 1923 are still in copyright. This includes fan-fiction (stories using characters from published or filmed works) and fan-art (images or films using characters from published works), which fall under the copyright of the original producer. Just because they are available for public consumption does not mean you can just snag them up willy-nilly and use them for whatever. That’s not what that word means. That means you have to give proper CREDIT and CITATION for whatever you use, and above all, you CANNOT sell it.
This may all seem very intimidating. After all, companies who publish even things like crochet and knitting patterns have very deep pockets and would think nothing of soaking the little guy. All very true, but much misery and heartache can be avoided if one cites things properly. And it’s not hard, and with tools like Google Image Search, it’s easier than ever.
In academic circles, the process can be frustratingly time consuming. I was English Major, I speak citation as a second language. However, for most casual bloggers, a simple page link or caption giving credit to the owners is all that’s required. Some sources already come under the “fair use” rules, such as stock photography from sites like Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash. These photos are copyright free, and free to use for everyone. Below is an example of an “aesthetic board” that I use for planning how my story characters will look and feel. In the caption, you can see an example of how to cite photos PROPERLY.
In order, I listed: Fox (who own the character of River Tam), WallpaperCave (for the plain backgrounds) Christopher Tin (songwriter of "Dream of Flight"), John Rzeznik (Songwriter of "Iris"), Heather Dale (songwriter of "Mordred's Lullaby") the BBC (owners of the "Frankenstein" Miniseries starring Luke Goss), Pixabay, and Unsplash (the stock photo companies)
These rules can save you a LOT of time and a potential trouble with the law. These apply to everything from blogging to Pinterest, not to mention all the headaches people go through trying to track something back. It may take more time in producing your work, but you know the old saying: "A stitch in time..."
**Opinions expressed on blogs about which I write are the opinion of the blog authors and DO NOT necessarily reflect my own opinion.