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The deal with copyright

May 24th 2006 02:46

I know this is something that has been mentioned before, ad nauseum, but it has to be said again. And again.

Fundamentally, we're all doing it wrong, myself included. Jon asked me to sort it out once and for all, and write the definite guide to copyright.

First, if you're interested, go check out the Australian Copyright Council. There's a lot of good information there, and it's an official source of information.


Don't do it. It's easy to know when you've crossed the line... if you didn't think it up, it's not yours. Taking credit for someone else's work is so not cool.

You might get away with it to begin with, but the nature of the internet is that it's like a giant, amorphous blog, with snaky tendrils probing in every orifice of the Net. If you get decent traffic to your site, someone might just catch the similarities...

Don't plagarize. Sorry, Australians, that's plagarisssse.


We all think we know what that means, but what is it, really? And how does it apply to writing for the Orble network?

Basically, it comes down to this: if you created the content, it's yours. Other people cannot use it, without your expressed permission.

Now, I know the appeal of the internet is the facelessness, the anonomity, the savage nakedness as you run through a virtual jungle composed of electrons and photons...and that it's so easy to grab pictures and text from other pages and post it on yours.

In one simple statement:

You CANNOT take pictures from other websites and paste them into your posts. No. Never. No, you can't.




Images from other sites are copyrighted, even if they don't explicitly say they are. Australian copyright laws are potentially stricter than American laws, and the trade agreement between the two countries suggest that Americans can sue your Australian ass for violating copyright.

Copyright-free images

Josef Stalin
Josef Stalin (from Wikipedia)
The good news is that some things are in the public domain. Public Domain means that the public owns the copyright, and as we are all part of the public, that makes us all part-owners.

For example, Wikipedia is an open, community-driven encyclopedia. They've made everything on the site available to the public, generally speaking.

For example, this photo of a Lava Tube was released into the public domain by its generous author.

There are funky rules about public domain, and Wikipedia has a great store of information on them.

For example, this talin3.jpg" target="_blank">picture of Stalin was created before 1973 in the Soviet Union, making it copyright-free in some countries.

If you find a public domain image, post it to your site without a second thought.

Material from Wikipedia

Tim Tam Kiss
A Tim Tam Kiss (from Wikipedia)
Wikipedia is operating under the GNU Free Document License. This license is brilliant... you can use materials from Wikipedia, as long as you acknowledge the source, and allow your work to be free as well.

For example, if I quote Wikipedia now:

"Jam is a type of fruit spread made by boiling fruit with sugar to make an unfiltered jelly. Jam is often spread on bread and also as a culinary sweetener, for example in yogurt."

I can do this, no problem, but somewhere in my post I should include:

This article is licensed under the <a href="">GNU Free Documentation License</a>. It uses material from the <a href="">Wikipedia article "Jam"</a>.

By using part of the GFDL, you are implicitly agreeing that your new material is also licensed under GFDL.

Which means that your article can now be pillaged by the public domain as well.

Look at the bottom of this post to see the declaration of copyright-free status for the Tim Tam picture.

Fair dealing (fair use)

Luckily, there are provisions for using copyrighted images in both American and Australia. In America, they have a concept called Fair Use, which is called Fair Dealing in Australia... it basically says that you can use copyrighted material for the following purposes:

Research and study
Review and criticism
"Reporting the news"
Legal advice

So? Great. Fabuloso... you can use copyrighted images on your post, as long as you are reviewing or making a critical commentary on that item.

For example:

It's OK to review a movie like Candy, and use the film poster or screencaps from the movie in the post.

It's not OK to copy and paste a picture of Heath Ledger from People Magazine's website. That's a violation.


It's not OK to post a picture taken by some photographer, without permission.

However, it IS OK to post a picture that you took of a painting in a public space, since that is reporting the news.

However-however, it is NOT OK for you to post someone else's picture of a painting in a public place, without the photographer's permission.

What should you do?

I know this makes the whole process of blogging much more complicated, but that's the way it's gotta be. Like I've said before, the best case scenario is that the owner of the material will ask to have it removed - the worst case scenario is that they sue you. And you'll be forced to sell your iPod and your trendy, oversized sunglasses.

The best way to post pictures, then, is to get them from Wikipedia, and make sure they are licensed under the GNU Free Document License. Every picture on Wikipedia has an info page that contains that information.
For example, this page was released by the owner into the public domain:

But this picture is still under copyright, but used for fair dealing!

Some images on Wikipedia violate copyright, so be sure to check out the information page...


Hmmm, I don't have anything clever to say. So I'll finish with a poem:

"anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did"

- e.e. cummings

and the punchline of a terrible joke:

'Got any gwapes?' the duck asked the bartender.

This is copyright distilled into mushy oatmeal for those of us that aren't familiar with law. If there are any corrections to be made to this post, please let me know, and I'll change it immediately.

Also, Australia is going to rehaul the copyright laws this year, so we'll see how they turn out, when they come out of the wash.

* images on this page were taken from the following Wikipedia pages:

Tim Tam
Josef Stalin

The first picture is licensed under the GNU Free Document License, while the second picture is not protected by International Copyright Laws, due to being published in the Soviet Union before 1973.

** the poem by e.e. cummings was taken from the Wikipedia page on e.e. cummings, and is licensed under the GNU Free Document License.

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6 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by Matt

May 24th 2006 23:58
hmmm... So how far do the "Reporting the news" /Review and criticism conditions go? Say for instance i did a post on the state of origin and used a pic from the official site in the context of reviewing the event... would that be acceptable?

As most of the content i produce is review based, i would be interested to know whether this whole time ive been putting myself in a horrible position...

Unfortunately as most of the things that i write about are current events in sydney, there isn't much hope of using wikipedia to escape the copyright trap.

Comment by Laura

May 25th 2006 03:32
so do we really need to reference like you did at the bottom and say" these pictures were taken from wikipedia" if we already state that they are from wikipedia in the title!?

hmmmm... good thing i take photos of the foods i make.. saves a lot of copyright problems...

Comment by Cibbuano

May 25th 2006 03:50
You should either state at the bottom where the picture is from, or in the text of your document. To be totally on the ball, you should state the copyright status of the picture.

Taking pictures yourself solves all problems, Laura!

Matt, if you report on the State of Origin, and you use a picture from their site, it's ok under fair dealing, provided you cite and link back to the source.

If you write a post about gumballs and put a random picture of Catherine Zeta-Jones just because she's pretty, that's a violation.

Comment by Matt

May 25th 2006 23:50
okay thanks a lot, no more random images!

Comment by amy

May 26th 2006 06:35

Hassle City.

It takes twice as long. Are you sure its not sufficient to caption the source?

Btw for us Australians its "plagiarise" =P

Comment by Cibbuano

May 28th 2006 22:24
You can't caption the source... maybe the owner doesn't want you to use their picture! If you get permission from the owner, then a link is enough.

Yep, it's a hassle.

Yep, it's a pain.

you're in law, amy, you should be used to the hassle by now...

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