Copyright, the web and South African techies: when is grabbing an image okay?

Before the arrival of the internet things were simple. Copyrighted items were not easily reproduced and distributed on a large scale.

Things have changed and copyrighted items are now available all over the web.

  • FACT: Just because you are able to access an image does not mean that you may use it.

A creative work is copyrighted by default the moment it is created. When you encounter an image online, on a web site or on social media it is best to assume that the image is copyrighted. This usually means that you may not reproduce the image without the copyright holder’s consent.

  • MYTH: Images on Google Images are in the public domain and may be reproduced.
  • FACT: Google is not a collection of public domain or copyright-free content.

The platform has provided users with a way to ascertain who created an images and who holds it’s copyright.

Click here to access Google’s blog on the topic

  • MYTH: Content on social media sites are in the public domain and may be reproduced.
  • FACT: Social media sites sometimes gain usage rights pertaining to users’ copyrighted content. These rights do not extend to other users of these platforms.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media platforms warn users that the content featured is not necessarily copyright-free.

Visit these links for more:

Twitter’s terms and conditions

Facebook’s terms and conditons

Pinterest’s terms and conditions

  • SCENARIO: I need a photo urgently. Where do I source one?

There are some royalty free web sites that offer copyright free images. Examples include Pexel, Pixabay, Morguefile and Unsplash.

Creative Commons is a great platform for sharing and obtaining creative content. It belongs to an American non-profit organisation that allows people all over the globe to share their works. Licences that describe the copyrights attached to works are made available by the organisation and guide web users effectively on what they may and may not use.

Click here to visit the Creative Commons web site.

  • SCENARIO: I am a journalist who needs a photo in connection with a breaking news/current events story.

After asking official communications officials, you may resort to social media to source an image. The Copyright Act sets strict requirements are called the fair usage rule and must be adhered to before such use of copyrighted images can be justified.

  • The usage of the image must be limited in accordance with necessity;
  • The journalist must go to all reasonable lengths to confirm who the copyright holder of the image is and ask the copyright holder’s permission;
  • The copyright holder/source of the image must be credited.

In addition hereto, common sense dictates photographers, media companies, journalists, bloggers and content creators will generally object to the unauthorised use of their images. Anticipate this and do not resort to nabbing content from such web users, as your copyright violation will most likely not be justified by the fair usage rule.

FACT: It is not acceptable to reproduce images or other creative content found online without having obtained authorisation.

In addition to the international community, South Africa’s law reiterates this principle. Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms are with the program.

Any web user should be, too.

Click here for an international perspective.

Eloff is an admitted attorney, reporter and legal adviser for Caxton, this publication’s parent company.

Also read: #DrosRape – Time to review the law protecting rape accused

  AUTHOR
Helene Eloff

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