All My Friends Are Kleptomaniacs

Yep, we're aware that this image is broken. It was intended that way for dramatic effect.

We’ve all been there. You have a presentation in an hour, and slide 14 is looking a little bare. Or you have a marketing email to send, but you’re worried no one will read it if you don’t spice it up a little. Or maybe you have an article to write for your company’s blog, and you just need one last picture to illustrate your point. A quick Google search brings up the perfect companion image. Just a simple right click, a quick “save image as…” and you’re home free… right? Well, technically yes. You’re done with your project. You just also happen to be a thief.

That’s right, copyright law applies to internet content too. Admittedly there are a lot of grey areas, owing to the fact that copyright laws were written before the dawn of digital communication, but why take the chance? You can still get what you want without breaking any laws. You don’t even have to pay for stock photography (although that is always an option, and if all you need are web resolution images it’s probably cheaper than you think). The guide at Social Media Examiner (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/copyright-fair-use-and-how-it-works-for-online-images/) breaks down the legal issues pretty simply, while sites like the Flickr Creative Commons (http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/by-2.0/), morgueFile (http://morguefile.com/), and Stock.XCHNG (http://www.sxc.hu/) offer free images with clearly defined licenses. And if you ever find a picture you like that doesn’t clearly state what sort of licensing it’s protected by, just send the owner a quick email to ask for permission to use it- they’ll probably appreciate your consideration, and aren’t likely to say no.

So the next time you need a quick image for a small project, make sure you’re not creating legal problems for yourself down the road. It’s as simple as asking politely, and only takes an extra minute.

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