Fair Use: When Posting Copyrighted Images is Okay

Copyright infringement or fair use? Make sure you understand fair use so you won’t violate any copyright laws.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures often express what words simply cannot. They are used to enhance the stories that we tell. In today’s technological world, pictures are being shared all over the Internet. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even on personal blogs are filled with personal pictures, but also with copyrighted photos. “Everyone uses everything legally or illegally,” says Priscilla Elliot, Online Managing Editor of Bethune-Cookman University’s school newspaper, Voice of the Wildcats.

When is it okay to use a copyrighted image? Fair use. Fair use allows copyrighted works to be used without the permission of the creator for the benefit of society. An example Social Media Examiner used was if a photo of a product, like a cell phone or computer, was used on a blog that reviews products would be fair use. There are some limits to idea of fair use though. According to Section 107 of the Copyright Act, fair use of a copyrighted image is not infringement of copyright. Section 107 also state the factors in determining whether a image was fairly used are 1) the purpose and character of the use, 2) the nature of the copyrighted work, 3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and 4) the effect of the use upon the market or value of the copyrighted work.

When sharing images on Facebook or on personal blogs, one has to consider a few things. The Social Media Examiner, suggest these five questions to ask yourself before using an image.

Everyone tweets different photos to share with followers.

  • Do you fully understand fair use? Remember providing attribution does not steer you clear from any trouble. Fair use and attribution have nothing to with each other. Fair use is infringing on someone’s copyright without his or her permission for the benefit of the public.
  • Why are you using the photo? If the photo is being used for “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research” then you’re okay. For any other reason, permission may need to be sought.
  • Why have you transformed the image? If the transformed image contains the copyrighted image, then what is created no longer resembles the copyrighted image and copyright infringement may be escaped.
  • How much of the image are you using? If you are using a small image that links to the original content, then the chances of finding fair use are greater than if the image is just posted.
  • Are you willing to risk your site being taken down? The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA ) protects owners in the digital arena. So be careful.

    Instagram is a place where people share all kinds of photos.

    A piece of advice from Elliot, “Be careful. People will sue.”

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