A few months ago, a friend of mine was scrolling through a photography website when he saw something that made him jump out of his chair. There on the screen was a photo of his 6-year-old daughter– sitting on the grass under a stunning summer sky in her beautiful pink dress, having a tea party with her stuffed animals and three kittens. There were several problems with the photo. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, my friend had not taken or posted this particular photo of his daughter. In his original photo, the sky was overcast, the dress was yellow, and his daughter– who is actually dangerously allergic to cats– was enjoying a quiet moment alone. More importantly, however, the person who created this composite had never asked for permission to use the original. Needless to say, my friend was more than a little pissed off and immediately set to the task of tracking down the photographer and “politely asking” that the image be taken down immediately. It took a while, but the photographer eventually complied.
Wikimedia: Because the Monkey Pressed the Shutter, It Owns the Picture
The two pictures above were taken by British nature photographer David Slater in 2011, when a black macaque walked over to him and hijacked his camera, proceeding to take numerous amounts of selfies. With the pictures going viral, they found themselves on Wikimedia’s Commons page, where they’ve been available as public domain. The problem? When David Slater requested the pictures be taken down, Wikimedia refused – the reason being that because it was the animal pressing the shutter, the photo didn’t actually belong to him.
It’s safe to say that Wikimedia might be going a bit bananas (I’m sorry.) here, because what they’re basically saying is that since the monkey took the picture, it owns the copyright.
Can I Use That Picture? This Flowchart Helps You Demystify Copyright Law
UPDATE: the chart was wrong in in more than one way, we took it down. You can still see the original link in the article, but I do not suggest following its advice, you can read more about it here.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding copyright law and when it’s okay or not okay to use photographs that are not your own. Fortunately, Curtis Newbold, AKA The Visual Communications Guy, created this handy flowchart to help you assess when, why, and where you can use certain photographs. If you find yourself frequently questioning the legality (or morality) of resharing an awesome photo you came across on the internet, you may want to bookmark the chart for quick access.
The flowchart (click here for a big version) makes it easy to understand the differences between Copyright, Fair Use, Creative Commons, and Public Domain–four topics which are often the source of great confusion. On the flipside of things, the chart may also be useful to photographers who wonder about their own photographs and the purposed in which others may redistribute them.
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