July 12, 2001
I've been doing a lot of thinking about copyright the last few days. We've been discussing it on the crafters' mailing list, and a couple of friends and I have been discussing it for other than crafting purposes, too. Much of these discussions have been on what was appropriate or not in terms of websites.
This link is to the U.S. Copyright Office. It also has information on international copyrights.
I am very, very careful to observe copyrights. I know some people may think I'm too stringent, but I also know what a fit I would pitch if someone used any of my work without permission and I found out about it. I don't want anyone to be that mad at me!
The bottom line, for me, is if you don't have the copyright owner's permission to post something on a website, you just don't post. There is a wonderful little picture of me that was taken when I was about age two. It was done at a photographer's studio, and part of the charm of it for me is that you can just barely see my mother's hand on my knee...she wasn't supposed to be in the shot, but was touching me to make sure I knew she was right there. I would love to post it. But I won't, because I do not have the permission of the photographer to use it.
I feel so strongly about knowing who has the right to post what that back on June 1 when I posted the picture of my father holding me, I mentally ran through the chain of rights ownership on that one while the scanner was warming up. I do have the rights, by the way, or I would have described the photograph, not posted it.
Lots of people enjoy creating things to use on websites, and are happy to share them for free with any who want to use them on personal sites. Some people are even happy to have you use their work on commercial sites. In case you're not clear on what's a personal site and what's a commercial one, I'll use my sites as examples. I consider this site to be my personal site. I share thoughts with any who would like to read them. But my two other sites are commercial, since they have been set up to allow me to sell goods and services. I want to make money from Rebeccaworks and Counsel Giver. If I used artwork intended for personal sites' use, I would only use it on this one.
I'm sure many people who post things they don't really have the right to post are not thinking of what they're doing as theft, but that is what it amounts to. Copyright violation is theft of someone's intellectual property.
So my rule is, If you're not sure you have the right to post it, don't post it. If you just want to show off someone else's work, link to their site. If you want to use someone else's design on your site, make the necessary arrangements (including payment!) to do that.
It is, after all, the right thing to do.