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    Can I Use That Internet Image in My Book?

    You saw a photo on the internet that would work perfectly to illustrate your book. Can you legally use it?

    Courtesy of Chris Brown (zoonbar) under Creative Commons

    That’s a complicated question. Let’s begin with some advice from an intellectual property lawyer. Deena B. Burgess, Esq., Managing Partner with the Law Offices of Deena Burgess said, in an interview on Web Worker Daily , “The first thing that needs to be understood is that every photograph is the intellectual property of the person who took the photograph.  Copyright protection attaches even where the person has not put a copyright notice and even if the copyright is not registered with the Copyright Office.” To use a copyrighted image you need permission from the copyright holder. Simply crediting the creator of the copyrighted material is not enough. As Burgess explains, “Without permission, even if you were to give credit to the copyright holder, you would still be infringing their work…If you were to contact the photographer and ask for permission to use the photo, you then would not be violating the rights of the photographer provided you abide by whatever terms the two of you agree to.”

    There is one condition under which copyrighted images may be used without permission. That’s the legal principle of fair use. [Stories To Tell has discussed fair use in regard to printed material in a previous post “Fair Use” in Memoir and Family History Books ]

    Sara Hawkins provides a discussion of its application to images in , Copyright Fair Use and How It Works for Online Images on the Social Media Examiner site. Fair use is a complex concept and applies only under very specific conditions which have been defined by the courts in case law. It is important to realize that fair use does not apply to all images on the internet. Hawkins warns, “Please keep in mind that stock photo services…are not subject to fair use due to the rights they carry. Stock photo services require you to pay for a license…”

    One way to navigate the issue of using internet photos legally is to look for photos licensed under Creative Commons. Founded in 2001, “Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.”

    The organization has created an easy to use licensing system for a variety of copyrighted intellectual property. The Creative Commons website explains how photographers may license their work, “Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved. Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.”

    Creative Commons offers six licenses, ranging from the least restrictive, “Attribution (CC BY) - This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation,” to the most restrictive, “Attribution Non-Commercial Non-Derivs (CC BY NC ND) - This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.”

    By complying with the terms of the Creative Commons License chosen by the copyright holder you can safely use the image. Images licensed under Creative Commons are easily located. Google offers a tool to  Find Creative Commons Images in Google Images . A search bar entry Flickr Creative Commons displays photos posted on the site under each of the various Creative Commons Licenses. Most major photo sharing sites have similar features.

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    Reader Comments (3)

    Am I able to use my own photos if I want to make a book about certain subjects? For example: If I wanted to write a book about video games, can I use my own photo showing a PS3 or my video games inside my book that I can publish without any copyright issues?

    Jul 12, 2013 at 1:24PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

    Good question, John. Yes you can use photos that you have taken.

    Jul 15, 2013 at 8:21AM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

    Dear madam/ sir
    I want to publish two Spanish textbooks for college students but I want the textbooks to be free for anyone. I do not want to get any profit from them. It seems to me the Creative commons should be the right option.
    Now, my textbooks have many images than go from CC 00 to CC BY to CC BY-SA to CC BY-ND. I have made sure all images are perfectly attributed with image link/author link/license link info up to date. I have placed the attribution under each image.
    Now, Can I place my textbooks under the following license CC BY-NC-ND, despite the fact that some of the images I have included in my textbooks are under different licenses. I was wondering if it will be ok to have in my textbooks the following license deed:


    This eBook is for the use of anyone at no cost.

    Some rights reserved:
    @ This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
    @ I do not hold copyright of any of the images used in the book. All imagess has been properly credited or attributed to its author(s). If someone intends to use the images elsewhere, please read carefully images licensed terms and conditions compliance or contact their author(s)

    I would greatly appreciate if you someone can help me or guide me.

    Oct 5, 2014 at 9:06AM | Unregistered CommenterAixa

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