First I must admit, this blog post, in particular, is being written not only from my professional designer’s point of view but from a very personal place as well. Copyright matters affect me on both levels and evoke strong feelings about honor and courtesy, even before consideration of the legal aspects.
In the follow, I won’t get into the laws and formal regulations, as there are enough articles written about that. Instead, I will try to appeal to your common sense.
To simplify the concept of copyright into a few words is very simple: “I create it, therefore it is mine.”
Most of us are very familiar with the concept of ownership:
- If someone takes something from us without our consent, we consider it theft.
- If we want something that belongs to someone else, either we buy it or we will ask for permission to borrow it, take good care of it, and return it to the owner as agreed.
So why when it comes to copyright, do so many people disregard these basic rules?
Copyright infringements have increased along with internet growth. The internet brought us closer to endless resources, textually and visually. With so much data and material within reach, the lines of ownership become blurry. Adding to the problem, is the sense of anonymity users have, that in some cases translate to a lack of responsibility of how they act over the web.
More and more I see a shift of how people perceive “ownership”. What once was “I create it, therefore it is mine,” has become “I could copy it, therefore it is mine to use.” Well, not really.
As a designer I have been asked many times to integrate images or other artwork (provided by a client) into my designs. When I ask the origin of the material I often get the answer, “From Google or Bing image search.” My reply is always, “Sorry but I can’t use it, unless you purchase the license of usage.” Then, I have found myself with very disappointed and often angry clients who have a hard time understanding why they need to pay for something that they can just copy and paste to their own computer. After all, it was there for all to see.
Copyright common sense:
After years trying to simplify a good and short answer to explain what is wrong with that scenario, I came up with this analogy:
While browsing the web you like one of their images/articles, so you decide to take it and use it in yours;
Is the same as:
While eating in a restaurant you like their chairs, so you decide to take one to use in your home.
Even then, some people can’t shake the idea of paying for something that they could so easily copy and reapply to their use for free, thinking that after all it is the internet, who will know? But ask yourself, is it committing a crime suddenly ok, because your chances of getting caught are low?
Photographers, designers, writers, marketers… we all work very hard and put a lot of effort into what you see as a final product. Some materials may have been published independently while others may have been commissioned by clients. We are all happy that you like what we did, so much so that you would like to use it for your stuff too. What now? Ask us for permission. You may be requested to pay a one-time fee, or a licensing fee for repeat usage, or simply credit the maker. There will be times you may not receive permission to use the material at all. But there may also be times you are able to at no cost.
If you can’t locate the author, too bad. That does not mean you can use the material, it just means you need to keep looking till you do. Or try creating your own original material. In summary, I hope people will apply the same common sense on ownership ideals on the web as they do in real life.