How to steal a picture:
- Go to http://search.creativecommons.org/
- Choose a source – for example, flickr
- Enter your search term.
- Choose a picture, and check the license terms.
Using Creative Commons gives you access to many thousands of pictures – and other media – that people have, in a sense, donated for others to use. 99.9% of the pictures I put up on flickr have a Creative Commons license; all I ask for is attribution. (To be fair, though, you might have to do a lot of sifting through the search results to find just what you want.)
But never, ever just help yourself to a picture without checking the copyright terms.
Tracy at milkayphoto.wordpress.com blogged last week about a tool – a bookmarklet – that she had found, that uses Google Image Search to find matches of pictures that you choose. She found several copies of her pictures that had been used illegally, and was pretty angry about the whole thing – and understandably so.
I gave the tool a whirl myself, and I found a mix of my images that had correct attributions along with a few that had been just plain stolen. One of the stolen images, a shot of the college campus where I work, was blatently displayed on a Taiwanese web site that matches students with American colleges; another one of my shots was on a Russian web site. I’m not expecting much luck with getting either of those taken down.
However, I did have luck with one blogger, who had used one of my shots on 4 different blog entries. I sent her a note, and received this in return (copied here with her permission!):
Thank you for your notice. Your picture has been removed and you have taught me a valuable lesson about reading the information on some of the pictures that I use. To be honest, I hadn’t. I just googled what I was looking for then used it accordingly. It just goes to show that I have a lot to learn where blogging is concerned.
I’d like to think that’s true in most cases: that people just need to learn how to find pictures that they can use legally.