Tag Archives: intellectual property

We need YOU! Why Artists Should Make SOME of their Art Free (especially for #GraphicMedicine) #GM2019

Updated July 16, 2019, with livestream info, in-page section links, added a couple content links, corrected a couple typos.


Your Wikimania Needs You
File:Your Wikimania needs you!.jpg by John Cummings https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Your_Wikimania_needs_you!.jpg

Trust me, your Wikimania really DOES need you! And that’s what this post is about. I’m here to persuade you that it is worth it to YOU (and to the whole Graphic Medicine community) for artists and creators working in this space to share just one or two representative images of their work. Given that this is not happening right now, I’m sure the immediate reaction is something along the lines of, “Gee, I’d really like to, but, I just can’t.”, “I don’t get how this works, and I’m afraid if I start, people will take advantage of all of my work!” or, “OMG, NO WAY! If I do that, how will I EVER make any money?!? You don’t expect me to work for free, do you?!” Of course, not! This is actually about marketing and helping to draw increased attention to the entire field, which is something that will pay off for everyone. Here’s what I’m thinking. I’m drafting this out as a kind of an FAQ, based on questions that have come up in conversations I’ve been having about this.

QUESTIONS

ANSWERS

Why do I actually need Wikipedia to mention my work?

You’ve noticed when you do a search on just about anything, how in the top five results there is almost always a Wikipedia link? Yeah, that’s why. Also, this.

“Wikipedia averages more than 18 billion page views per month, making it one of the most visited websites in the world, according to Alexa.com, a Web tracking company owned by Amazon.” (Pew Internet, 2015)

If you want people to see your work, to find your work, to buy your work, it really helps if you show up in search results. The top fifteen most visited and most popular websites in 2019, according to SimilarWeb, are Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Yahoo, [three porn sites], Twitter, Instagram, eBay, Reddit, Wikipedia, Bing, and Craigslist. You are probably already putting some of your content in some of these places, but that doesn’t mean it’s easily found. For comics (and by extension, graphic medicine content), YouTube isn’t the easiest way to show off what you’ve done. YouTube is the #2 search engine on the planet, and a great tool for reaching an audience, but making a video of a comic can be tricky. It’s not easy to search and find content in social media, and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram seems sometimes to make it difficult on purpose. I could go on at length, but the short version is that Wikipedia is heavily used, and it feeds directly into Google, which is the #1 search engine on the planet. It’s a great way to be found.


So can’t I just make my own Wikipedia page, and put what I want on it?

No. No, you can’t. If you try, they will take it down. Why? Because YOU ARE BIASED about yourself. Go figure. Wikipedia has this policy about neutral content, and they take this extremely seriously.

That’s for you, but it matters also to Graphic Medicine as a field. If you are a big name in the Graphic Medicine field, you probably shouldn’t be editing content about graphic medicine for that same reason. You know all the answers, but you may insert bias into what is supposed to be neutral content.

Here are some tips from marketers (with DOs and DON’Ts) on how to not mess up using Wikipedia for promoting your content.

5 Things to Know Before Using Wikipedia as a Marketing Tool

How to Use Your Wikipedia Page as a Marketing Tool


Surely there’s plenty of graphic medicine stuff in Wikipedia already, right?

If you look in Wikipedia for content around graphic medicine, there’s some. Not a lot. What there is tends to be a little light on content. It’s kind of embarrassing, actually. I mean, how many international conferences have we had? If you look at Wikipedia, you really are going to have trouble telling that Graphic Medicine is a “thing,” that it’s important. We know it is, but how do we show the world that it is?

There’s a few of us who’ve been working hard to try to improve the Wikipedia content around the field of graphic medicine. This involves collaborations, finding partners, learning new skills, and spending time actually doing Wikipedia work. It means helping other people with their projects, and asking them to help with ours. It means proving that you understand Wikipedia’s editing rules and will follow them. It’s work. It’s not easy work. It’s not fast. We can’t do it without your help.

If you look at what graphic medicine content is in Wikipedia, you’ll find very VERY few pictures. Now, explain to me how we show people what our comics are about WITHOUT USING PICTURES? Aren’t pictures kind of the point in graphic medicine?


Why can’t Wikipedia just use my book covers from Amazon?

I wish. That would sure make life easier in some ways. I could just say that Wikipedia has rules saying we can’t do this (which is true), but it isn’t that simple. You see, they have the rules for very good reasons. Wikipedia is truly global resource, and intellectual property laws vary around the world. Even if the law here in the United States (where I am) said it would be fair use to use a picture of the book cover, that doesn’t mean the same is true in other countries.

Wikipedia has very good reasons why they make it a policy to try as hard as possible to only use images with public domain or Creative Commons licensing. Those images are legally safe to use in any country, anywhere around the world. So, your book covers on the publisher’s website? Those might be fair use, maybe, but in general, the idea is let’s not test that if we can avoid it. What they want most for images used in Wikipedia articles are those public domain and Creative Commons images.

“Because we want free content, ideally all images uploaded would be free for everyone, and therefore would be acceptable on our sister project, Wikimedia Commons. Images submitted to Commons are used the same way as images uploaded locally to Wikipedia and are automatically available on Wikipedia—as well as on hundreds of other Wikis run by the Wikimedia Foundation. If you have an image that meets our copyright requirements, please upload it to Commons.” Ten things you may not know about images on Wikipedia


Wikimedia Commons? What’s that? Are their rules different from Wikipedia’s?

What is this Wikimedia Commons? Just the most awesome databank of public domain and Creative Commons images in my experience, with full provenance for each image, sources, detailed information on how to cite that specific image, what kind of credit and attribution you need to provide, what limits are placed on what you can do with that image, and all that good stuff. They also provide images in multiple resolutions, sizes, and sometimes formats. Not just images either, but other kinds of media as well. But images you can find and use in your own art work isn’t why we’re here. Back on topic.

Yes, Wikimedia Commons has their own rules about what images are allowed, just like Wikipedia does. Here are Wikipedia’s rules and their style guide.

For the Commons, the short short version is that it’s okay to add either images you created or photographed yourself or images that are over 75-100 years old, with the extra guidelines that if the image is a photograph of a person, they expect you to get the permission of that person. More on that in a minute. Those are the rules for the images that are straightforward and likely to be legal for anywhere in the world, preferred images. There are grey areas in the rules for things that are sometimes okay (eg. low resolution versions of book covers), and there are types of images they really don’t want (eg. fair use). For the full details on what’s allowed and what isn’t, check the link to their rules. The most important bit to remember is you can upload your own images and decide the permissions for use.


Aren’t there other pictures you can use? You don’t really need mine, do you?

Nope, we really, really, REALLY need your help! Only YOU can share your images, and without examples of your images, how can Wikipedia editors say wonderful things about your work? I have personally searched through THOUSANDS of images in Wikimedia Commons looking for examples that we could use in some of the Graphic Medicine articles on Wikipedia. I found nine. Nine that might qualify. All of them are public domain, and all of them except four were created roughly 70 or more years before the phrase “graphic medicine” became a gleam in Ian‘s eye. Three of those are military, and one is only very superficially related.

Here, I’ll show you. All nine. Whoohoo!

First, here’s the first one that we could use. Wikimedia Commons includes the cover of “The Docs (2010),” publicized as Graphic Novel Helps Corpsmen Cope with Combat-related Stress.

The Docs, a graphic novel by the Naval Health Research Center.

Here’s the second relatively contemporary graphic medicine type of image, also from the US military (this time the Army), highlighting the adventures of “Captain Condom and Lady Latex” in a 1991 era educational comic to help prevent the spread of AIDS.

Shows two streetwise African-American superheroes protecting young men and women from militaristic villains.

Less contemporary (1966), we have a full page from the comic, “A Medal For Bowser,” illustrating the value of animals for research.

Full page from A MEDAL FOR BOWZER.

I’m going to go fast with the others, and just give you small versions of them, but I think you’ll get the idea. These pieces are more of a stretch, as far as being useful for communicating what’s going on in the world of graphic medicine now.

Woman in lab coat recommends self-amputation to a paitent. Cectic (2008)

Comic pokes fun at patent medicinesJudge Rummy (1926)

Jack Benny portrays a doctor selling patent medicines to the unwary.
Medicine Man (1930)

Alien jots notes about the experience of a bedridden human man. Mr Skygack (1907)

Two ladies feel better after soaking their feet in a purchased remedy for corns.Orator Woodward (1900)

A four frame illustration showing the delights and inappropriate humors of laughing gas. Laughing Gas (1800s)

There you go! That’s the visual world of graphic medicine according to Wikimedia Commons! (Unless we help change it.)


We’re only talking about pictures of my art, right? Not pictures of me?

That depends. Are you someone who might someday appear in a Wikipedia article? Yes? Then you might want to consider how you’d like to appear there. Here are the images used for two very influential graphic medicine artists and storytellers, Ellen Forney and Lucy Knisley.

Ellen ForneyLucy Knisley


You keep taking about “Public Domain” images and “Creative Commons” images. What’s the difference?

I’m over simplifying again, but public domain means anyone anywhere can do anything they want with an image. They can cut it, crop it, redraw it, recolor it, convert it into 3d, blend it with other images, make a collage, make a statue, snip out a tiny part and zoom into the details, ANYTHING. Creative Commons does NOT give people full rights to do anything. Creative Commons image licenses have several different types of license, and you get to make these choices. Here are some links to help describe better than I can what some of the issues are, and how making some images Creative Commons can be a brilliant idea, how it can help you as an artist, and how it makes it possible for you to help others.

What you didn’t know about Creative Commons: Creative Commons provides artists with access and raw materials. Big companies benefit too.

“No tool is better than the people”: CC artists in conversation on Collaboration, Community, and the Commons

Jomo Thompson: Is Creative Commons Good for Artists?

Why should I use a Creative Commons License?

How can artists who license their work under Creative Commons make money from their work?


If I make some images available for Wikipedia, what does that mean? Do I have any control over them?

This depends on what license you choose. Creative Commons, the organization, has helpful tools to support you choosing the right license for you, making a decision you are comfortable with. I’m guessing most published graphic medicine artists would want a license that tells people you have to use their name and give them credit for using their images. If you are making an image free, you might want to say that other people can’t use it for anything they sell, or that they can’t modify it at all. There are good reasons to say they can change, and good reasons to say they can’t. That’s a whole other blogpost (or a dozen).


What if someone decides to use the images for something else? Who else can use them, and how?

The short version is that once you make an image Creative Commons, ANYONE can use it. What you control is HOW they use it.

There are some licenses people choose that do say other people can not only use the image, but can change it. Of course, you want people to be able to talk about you and your work in Wikipedia. Having images there also means academics, teachers, scholars, researchers can write and teach about your work and publish about your work without having to get image rights for those images. Teachers can use the images in class, as examples for students, or integrate them in assignments. Other artists might include them in a collage or montage, or might do Andy Warhol-style mashups and manipulations. You can set limits on how far this goes. The most restrictive licenses say the image has to be used exactly as it was provided with no changes, and giving you all the credit each time it is used. They aren’t giving you money, but that’s the only thing they aren’t giving you. The most liberal licenses give people permission to mix and match and mash and generally use your image as a stepping stone to inspire new creativity. And there’s a lot of subtle steps in-between these two extremes.


Are there strategies for sharing images that can protect my copyrighted works and still get something in Wikipedia?

You betcha, but it might mean getting permission from your publisher (or employer, if it was a work for hire). This will depend on any contracts you might have with them, and what rights you’ve given to them. FYI, giving a publisher the rights to a work often means you no longer have those rights. It seems obvious when you say it like that, but it isn’t always obvious to creators that the pictures they drew no longer belong to them.

So, Wikipedia will only take small thumbnails of your book covers. If your publisher wants to have anything higher resolution show up there, you need their help. Another idea is to put in Wikimedia not the final version of an important image but an earlier sketch. You can redraw a scene more simply, or take a small excerpt from a large sketch. The idea is to make the picture different in some significant way from what was copyrighted, and to make this distinction. Of course, you can always use images that didn’t end up being included in the final work, or drawing something new.

If you are considering using an image that’s well known, be sure to check with a lawyer or your publisher/employer to make sure they are okay with your plans and the images you chose. Using a new image means you don’t need anyone else’s permission.

More Questions?

Do you have questions or concerns that I missed? That’s awesome! Add them in the comments or come next Saturday, July 20th, 2019, to an online AMA (Ask Me Anything) at noon Eastern Time. I’ll add the link here once I get the stream set up. Here’s the connection info!

To join the meeting on a computer or mobile phone: https://bluejeans.com/553249603

Connecting directly from a room system?

1.) Dial:
– 1-734-763-1841
– 199.48.152.152 or bjn.vc
2.) Enter the Meeting ID: 553249603

Just want to dial in?

1.) Dial:
+1 734 763 1841 (Last 5 digits from campus)
(US or Canada only)
+1.888.240.2560
International Callers (http://bluejeans.com/numbers)
2.) Enter the Meeting ID: 553249603

Want to test your video connection?
https://bluejeans.com/111

Heroes of CRISPR Through Twitter’s Eyes: A Sequence

Who knows? Perhaps the story behind the story began here, last October, with a tweet about an article in Wired on “The Heroes of CRISPR.”

Zhang, Sarah. The Battle Over Genome Editing Gets Science All Wrong. WIRED Magazine 10.04.15. http://www.wired.com/2015/10/battle-genome-editing-gets-science-wrong/

Maybe that made someone else think that there really ought to be an article with that title. Although, hints of this arose earlier, with articles like “Who Owns CRISPR?” from last April and “Law, history and lessons in the CRISPR patent conflict” from March, or even the 2014 article “First CRISPR-Cas patent opens race to stake out intellectual property“. In any case, the “Heroes of CRISPR” debate which erupted on Twitter (reaching trending status yesterday) has roots far deeper than the article of the same name, which triggered the flood, or even the US Patent Office’s recent insertion into the CRISPR patent battle.

Zhang, Sarah. An Arcane Patent Law May Decide Crispr’s Big Legal Fight. WIRED Science 01.05.16. http://www.wired.com/2016/01/crispr-patent-dispute-gets-really-arcane/

The early tweets were mostly supportive, creating awareness of what is genuinely an eloquent and educational article, especially for those outside the field. There were, however, hints of the later discord even among the earliest tweets. Later concerns arose more from informed readers on the inside of the professions working with CRISPR and aware of the personalities and politics behind the piece, and then snowballed.

* Early Tweets about ‘Heroes of CRISPR’
* The Heat rises
* The Response(s)
* Ongoing debate
* More information

EARLY TWEETS ABOUT ‘HEROES OF CRISPR’

12:48 PM – 14 Jan 2016

1:17 PM – 14 Jan 2016

1:33 PM – 14 Jan 2016

1:47 PM – 14 Jan 2016

2:09 PM – 14 Jan 2016

3:52 PM – 14 Jan 2016

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1:35 AM – 15 Jan 2016

3:17 AM – 15 Jan 2016

7:02 AM – 15 Jan 2016

7:35 AM – 15 Jan 2016

8:11 AM – 15 Jan 2016

9:04 AM – 15 Jan 2016

9:10 AM – 15 Jan 2016

12:26 PM – 15 Jan 2016

THE HEAT RISES

10:31 AM – 15 Jan 2016

10:36 AM – 15 Jan 2016

10:49 AM – 15 Jan 2016

11:18 AM – 15 Jan 2016

12:41 PM – 15 Jan 2016


We Can Now Edit Our DNA. But Let’s Do it Wisely | Jennifer Doudna | TED Talks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdBAHexVYzc

6:55 PM – 15 Jan 2016

THE RESPONSE(S)

4:01 PM – 16 Jan 2016

4:03 PM – 16 Jan 2016

4:11 PM – 16 Jan 2016

4:14 PM – 16 Jan 2016

4:21 PM – 16 Jan 2016

4:24 PM – 16 Jan 2016

5:44 PM – 16 Jan 2016

4:12 PM – 17 Jan 2016

5:51 AM – 17 Jan 2016

PubPeer on Heroes of CRISPR

11:43 AM – 19 Jan 2016

11:57 AM – 19 Jan 2016

1:19 PM – 19 Jan 2016

ONGOING DEBATE

3:19 PM – 18 Jan 2016

7:04 PM – 18 Jan 2016

3:33 PM – 19 Jan 2016

3:48 PM – 19 Jan 2016

3:54 PM – 19 Jan 2016

4:11 PM – 19 Jan 2016

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"Heroes of CRISPR" commentary

9:56 AM – 20 Jan 2016

MORE INFORMATION

USPTO: CRISPR Patents: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=0&f=S&l=50&TERM1=crispr&FIELD1=&co1=AND&TERM2=&FIELD2=&d=PTXT

March 6, 2014. Doudna Patent, Methods and compositions for rna-directed target dna modification and for rna-directed modulation of transcription (US 20140068797 A1). http://www.google.com/patents/US20140068797

Apr 15, 2014: Zhang Patent, CRISPR-Cas systems and methods for altering expression of gene products (US 8697359 B1) http://www.google.com/patents/US8697359 | http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=8,697,359.PN.&OS=PN/8,697,359&RS=PN/8,697,359

July 11, 2015: CRISPR – Will This Be the Last Great US Patent Interference? http://blog.patentology.com.au/2015/07/crispr-will-this-be-last-great-us.html

November 9, 2015: The Crispr Quandary:  A new gene-editing tool might create an ethical morass — or it might make revising nature seem natural. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/magazine/the-crispr-quandary.html?_r=0

December 29, 2015: The CRISPR Patent Interference Showdown Is On: How Did We Get Here and What Comes Next? https://law.stanford.edu/2015/12/29/the-crispr-patent-interference-showdown-is-on-how-did-we-get-here-and-what-comes-next/

January 8, 2016: DuPont in CRISPR-Cas patent land grab http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v34/n1/full/nbt0116-13.html

January 12, 2016: For journalists: Statement and background on the CRISPR patent interference process https://www.broadinstitute.org/what-broad/areas-focus/project-spotlight/journalists-background-patent-process

January 12, 2016: USPTO Declares Interference Proceeding to Adjudicate CRISPR Patent Spat https://www.genomeweb.com/business-news/uspto-declares-interference-proceeding-adjudicate-crispr-patent-spat

January 12, 2016: Bitter fight over CRISPR patent heats up http://www.nature.com/news/bitter-fight-over-crispr-patent-heats-up-1.17961

January 13, 2016: USPTO ignites CRISPR/Cas9 patent battle http://www.lifesciencesipreview.com/news/uspto-ignites-crispr-cas9-patent-battle-1280

January 13, 2016: Control of CRISPR, biotech’s most promising breakthrough, is in dispute https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/13/control-of-crispr-biotechs-most-promising-breakthrough-is-up-for-grabs/

January 15, 2016: CRISPR Patent War: Billions at Stake for UC Berkeley http://ww2.kqed.org/futureofyou/2016/01/15/crispr-patent-war-billions-at-stake-for-uc-berkeley/

January 16, 2016: A Brief History Of The Gene-Editing Tool That Is Changing Science, Scientists have now actually watched the DNA-editing tool in action http://www.vocativ.com/news/263157/crispr-cas9/

January 19, 2016: Controversial CRISPR history sets off an online firestorm http://www.statnews.com/2016/01/19/crispr-history-firestorm/

January 20, 2016: A social media war just erupted over the biotech innovation of the century https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/20/is-a-history-of-biotechs-hottest-breakthrough-propaganda/

Fair Use & Figures: When Is It OK? (Part Two: Fair Use)

Fair Use?

Point 2: Is it fair use?

In part one of this post on using research tables and figures in social media, the focus was on, “Let’s find something that isn’t copyrighted, and just use that, because we know that will be safe” (sort of). But sometimes what you want is new, not old, and from a copyrighted publication, not something open access. When that happens, what do you do? Can you still use it?

It started with Andrew’s question, but he sure isn’t the only person asking!

The answer is (again) it depends. And, to be honest about it, the “it depends” is a whole lot messier. The idea of “fair use” makes the idea of “copyright” look like child’s play. As usual, I am not a lawyer (IANAL), so take the information here at your own peril, and don’t go quoting me to your own lawyers. That said, I’ll be giving references to a lot of information that IS from lawyers, so refer people to the original sources whenever possible!

This is a question that comes up a lot. Even more often, I suspect, it doesn’t come up at all when it ought to, because someone assumed it was alright and didn’t think about it more deeply. I may have even done that myself (and I’m afraid to go back and look too closely at my blogposts).

WHY ARE FIGURES DIFFERENT?

The shortest version I’ve found explaining why “fair use” for research figures from articles are DIFFERENT from other images is this snippet from Scholarly Publishing @ MIT Libraries:

“Note: an image or figure would commonly be considered a work in and of itself, weighing against fair use; or could summarize the key point of an article, also weighing against fair use.” Reuse of figures, images, and other content in theses http://libraries.mit.edu/scholarly/publishing/copyright-publishing-guide-for-students/reuse-of-figures-images-and-other-content-in-theses/

That’s the gist of it. Applying “fair use” to reusing content from a larger work depends on four factors:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
US Copyright Office: Copyright: Fair Use: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

The point from MIT regards the 3rd factor, “amount and substantiality.” If the image is considered a work independent of the article, then copying it is copying a complete work instead of a percentage, and that is not OK. If the figure is considered a fair distillation of the complete article, then that could be considered equivalent to copying the whole article. To be allowed to use something under “Fair Use” claims, it is recommended to meet all FOUR of the four factors: no money, factual or data-focused content, a tiny bit of it (insignificant amount), and little to no impact on sales of the original. If any of those are iffy, you’ve got a problem.

In a recently published article in the research journal CIRCULATION, the editors of the journal attempted a randomized controlled trial to test the success or failure of social media in promoting readership of articles. How did they do this? Well, they posted randomly selected articles to Facebook and Twitter, but a bit part of how they posted included (you guessed it!) FIGURES. For exactly the same reasons we are NOT supposed to use them, technically speaking.

“However, our social media postings were comprehensive in that they focused on the main message of the article and included a key figure from the article. Thus, it is possible that social media users did not find it necessary to access the full article and therefore experienced increased awareness of the article but not online access of the primary source. This raises the possible concern that social media could reduce the potential reach of original published research as demonstrated by altmetrics.” Fox CS, Bonaca MA, Ryan JJ, Massaro JM, Barry K, Loscalzo J. A Randomized Trial of Social Media From Circulation. Circulation 2015; 131: 28-33. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/131/1/28.full

In that test, it was the editors of the journal posting the figures, and even then, they questioned the utility and benefit. A big part of the question, which they highlight in that snippet, was whether it is better to have awareness of the article and its findings, or actual readers. This assumes that people who click through to the article actually read it, which is itself questionable.

So, that’s the short view. Just to round it out, here are a few more pieces relating to this topic.

WHAT IF I DRAW MY OWN FIGURE?

A common recommendation is to redraw the figure. Annoying, time-consuming, but supposedly legal, most of the time, as long as the content is primarily data (since data can’t be copyrighted). Indeed, this is recommended by many experts as THE solution to this problem.

Q: I want to use a figure from another thesis or dissertation from my group. Do I need to ask permission?
A: “Usually. The student who wrote the thesis or dissertation owns the copyright and must be asked for permission. Figures are generally considered works in and of themselves and do not usually constitute a small portion of the work. See “How to Use Copyrighted Materials” for more information. If, however, the figure is a simple representation of data, you may not need permission. Data cannot be copyrighted, so non-creative ways of representing the data are generally considered fair use.” Copyright Frequently Asked Questions | Michigan Tech Graduate School http://www.mtu.edu/gradschool/administration/academics/thesis-dissertation/copyright/faq/

It depends on who you ask, though. I don’t know the court law on this, but I’ve found recommendations on both sides. Overwhelmingly, what I’ve found it people recommending to redraw the figure. And then I found this, from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

“Redrawing a figure does not change the Fair Use analysis; the figure cannot be used without permission just because it is redrawn.” ACM Guidance for Authors on Fair Use http://www.acm.org/publications/guidance-for-authors-on-fair-use

WHAT IF I JUST GO AHEAD AND USE IT? NO ONE WILL CARE, RIGHT?

Another common approach (probably the one I am most guilty of myself) is to assume that you aren’t important enough to bother with, or that no one will notice you did it, or that if they do notice all that will happen is they ask you to take it out. I haven’t even attempted to figure out how often this happens. The gist of the idea is that, while it may not be strictly legal, it IS fairly common practice, and can be a win-win for each side (as long as you are saying nice things, anyway).

The “Win-Win” Argument:

“Most authors will probably be happy that their results are disseminated, and reuse is likely to lead to more people reading the full paper and citing the work.”
Martin Fenner. Why can’t I reuse these tables and figures? Gobbledygook (PLoS Blogs) 2010.
http://blogs.plos.org/mfenner/2010/09/30/why-cant-i-reuse-these-tables-and-figures/

The “Standard Practice” Argument:

“Posting figures from papers “was something we all did, all the science blogs, and I had been doing it since I started the blog. I always thought I was doing a public service, I wasn’t plagiarizing or claiming it was my own data.”” Andrea Gawrylewski. For blogger: A threat, then an apology. The Scientist May 2, 2007. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/25066/title/For-blogger–A-threat–then-an-apology/

So, it’s fine, right? Uh, not so much. If you are doing this on a work related blog or for your organization, it is awfully risky, since they can be held liable, which is a real can of worms. If you are only doing this on your personal blog, and it is made clear that these are your words and actions and not to reflect on your employer, … it’s your decision.

WHAT IF THEY PULL OUT THE BIG GUNS?

There are publishers who have (or will) pull out the big guns. Yes, usually, even if they notice, they’ll just ask you to take it down, to “cease and desist,” but there is no guarantee. The best known case in science blogging of use of a figure gone wrong actually centered around a PhD student here at the University of Michigan, Shelley Batts, back in 2007.

“When Shelley Batts wrote up a report on an article about antioxidants in fruits, she never expected to get contacted by the copyright police, but that’s exactly what happened.” Munger, Dave. Is reprinting a figure fair use? http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2007/04/26/is-reprinting-a-figure-fair-us/

In Shelley’s words:

“In short, I was threatened with legal action if I didn’t take it down immediately. I used a panel a figure, and a chart, from over 10+ figures in the paper. I cited and reported everything straight forwardly. I would think they’d be happy to get the press. But alas, no.” Batts, Shelley. When Fair Use Isn’t Fair. http://scienceblogs.com/retrospectacle/2007/04/25/when-fair-use-isnt-fair-1/

The blogosphere went WILD. Some of the issues brought up included that this was government funded research paid for by taxes; the “amount used” argument (since it was such a small fraction, not even a complete image); the stifling impact on science discourse; the chilling of public awareness and policy discussions; and heavily, the critical distinction between “fair use” and being granted permission.

“First, the blogger Batts did not go through the usual process to request permissions to use published material in advance. It is not clear that had this been done that she would have been refused and indeed permission may eventually be extended. … Of course, once the appropriately senior person at Wiley was involved, the situation was resolved. This is not a “win”. This is a “loss” …” DrugMonkey. “This figure is reproduced with permission of the publisher.” https://drugmonkey.wordpress.com/2007/04/26/this-figure-is-reproduced-with-permission-of-the-publisher/

It is easy to find posts about this, but the one that seems to have really tipped the balance was when BoingBoing stepped in.

“This is, of course, bullshit. Reproducing part of a figure in a critical, scholarly essay is so obviously fair use that it hardly bears discussion. Wiley’s lawyers know this. You and I know it too.” Doctorow, Cory. Wiley threatens scientists with copyright law – UPDATED. http://boingboing.net/2007/04/26/wiley-threatens-scie.html

Eventually, it all calmed down, when Shelley was “granted permission” to use the image by the publisher. Many expressed concern that this ended up muddying the waters, that this was and should have been respected as fair use, that the publisher should have acknowledged this was fair use, and that granting permission implies that permission was theirs to grant (permission that is irrelevant in the case of fair use). Shelley was happy – she wasn’t getting sued, and her original blogpost was able to stay (although I can’t find it now, and I don’t know why).

“I was so surprised that anyone would think I was doing science a disservice. Science blogs bring pedantic ‘ivory tower’ knowledge to a completely new audience that would probably never hear about it otherwise. But in the end, I’m glad it happened — and that the entire blogosphere howled.”
Moments in Medicine at Michigan, Summer 2007. http://medicineatmichigan.org/magazine/2007/summer/moments

But the University of Michigan lawyers stated that she had done nothing wrong to begin with. So. Clear as mud, eh?

“Maybe if we weren’t so worried about copyright, we’d be able to report on more research.” Dave Munger, op cit.

Open Access or Not? Thoughts on Selecting Online Resources for MOOCs

Birthday: Saline Train Depot: Office - Upside Down Open

I had a very interesting pair of questions come up this week. So interesting and such excellent illustrations of issues in selecting open content for MOOCs that I wanted to share it, but will “change the names” for several reasons. That this is Open Access Week just makes this even more timely. Take this as an example, a case study or sorts, nothing more. However, I do hope that those of you with more experience in intellectual property law will please chime in to clarify any thoughts or misunderstandings I might insert inadvertently.

For background, I’ve been taking a variety of MOOCs in recent years, few of which I complete, and most of which I register for with three reasons in mind. Reason One: The content interests me, and I wish I had time to learn more about it. Reason Two: I’m curious what the bibliography and resources will contain, and hope to add those to my collection, even if I don’t have time for the class. Reason Three: I’m interested in different MOOC platforms and methodologies, and learn about these best by actually trying them out hands on. As a librarian, I have a special interest in the bibliographies, the links, the readings, and where those come from. Part of my interest is personal and part of it comes from our own institution being engaged with MOOCs through the Coursera platform, and wanting to see best practices for how to identify and select content for these types of classes.

EXAMPLE ONE: OLDER PUBLICATION, RECENT COLLECTION

One of the MOOCs I took included in the recommended readings a link to classic content from the 1800s, but which is included in several anthologies, both new and old. A particular anthology was recommended, and a link provided. The link was to a PDF of the entire book hosted in a site for a Slovenian high school English teacher. Meanwhile, given the importance of the work, copies are also available in several well known and highly regarded collections of open access content. These included Project Gutenberg, EServer (hosted by Iowa State University), the American Studies Project (hosted by the University of Virginia), the Internet Archive, Electronic Classics Site (hosted by Pennsylvania State University), and others, such as societies honoring the author and other academic organizations or collections.

I was alarmed to see a link to a suspect source (Slovenian high school?) provided in preference to authoritative sources which track provenance and verify rights to content posted. I dug around in the downloaded PDF and the pages linking to it, hunting for any indication that the teacher had received permission to repost the full book for his students. All I could find was a copyright statement in the PDF that the work was under copyright and that electronic conversion was not allowed, with a statement explicitly asking readers to not encourage electronic piracy. I wanted to bring this up, but did not want to cause any problems for the professor in charge of the MOOC nor for the school hosting the content. For this reason, I did not bring it up in the class forums, but instead hunted for the faculty member’s email address to send a message about the concern and alternate locations to access equivalent content, even if it is not the same anthology.

I received a note from the faculty member explaining the selection, with an interesting perspective. Briefly the logic follows this progression.

1. The contents of the anthology are all out of copyright, and in the public domain.
2. The anthology as a whole and the editorial comments would indeed fall under copyright protection, however, these were not included in the required readings for the class.
3. The professor had asked the students to read selected pages in the work, not the complete anthology nor the introductory content by the editor. The content on those specific pages is not copyrighted.
4. The professor did not himself create the PDF, nor reproduce the pages, but merely linked to them.

As the professor put it, “the assertion of copyright is not the same as having copyright.”

I find this a very intriguing justification, but incomplete and perhaps a bit of nitpicking. I suspect that if push came to shove, if the publisher of the book chose to contest the availability of the PDF online, the professor MIGHT find that his logic stands in a court of law. I suspect that the publisher (widely international, but the work scanned was from an American imprint) might find it easier to establish a suit against American use of the work than trying to take the case to Slovenia. Copyright itself is not the only concern. Additional concerns are placing at risk the institution that provides the MOOC online, the school for which the faculty member works, as potential collaborators in linking to the suspect content. If the school and organization were aware of this and chose to support the use of this link, that would be one thing, but I am not sure that they were or are aware.

Lastly, but not least, I am concerned about the example being set for the students. In my eyes, the faculty have a duty to model information use and resources following methods recommended for their students. Here at the University of Michigan there have been times when the University has elected intentionally to push the boundaries of Fair Use in order to prevent the erosion of the rights, and knowing that they might find themselves the subject of a lawsuit. The Google Book Project is a notable example of this. Google Books is a definite example of the concept the professor noted, that “the assertion of copyright is not the same as having copyright.” If the use of this Slovenian full text link was intended to explicitly test that legal provision, that would be lovely, and I would applaud the bravery and purpose of both the professor and the institutions supporting the content. If so, I would have personally appreciated having that made clear to the students. If not made clear there is the more subtle risk that students will interpret the Slovenian link to a possibly pirated work as having the approval of the professor, especially when so many other clearly open access copies of the work are available and the link is provided in preference to those open and legal copies. That is what baffles me most.

EXAMPLE TWO: RECENT PUBLICATION, OPEN COLLECTION

This example is almost the complete opposite of the first one! This is what makes these two such an exciting pair of examples for me to explore. In this MOOC which I took, the professor had as required readings almost entirely works which were free to the students. There were just a couple notable exceptions, for which you either had to find a print copy in a library or buy a copy. I was lucky, in that I already owned a copy, but when I accidentally stumbled on a free electronic copy online, I thought the professor would appreciate knowing about it, and that it would make life even easier for the students of that course. The professor, quite rightly, was reluctant to pursue making that link available because the author is still alive and the book still in print, making it pretty clear that the copyright is still in force. So, the question became, when is it alright to share an online copy of a copyrighted work? Ever?

The first important concept to understand is that an author may retain the right to share their work, and still keep it under copyright. Even a Creative Commons license does NOT mean that the author has given up their intellectual property rights, only that they’ve simplified the process of requesting certain types of rights. Which rights are simplified depends on which CC license was chosen. So, it is possible that an author could make the choice to permit use of their work in a specific circumstance.

The second important idea is the question of whether the author or the publisher actually owned the copyright in the selected work. Just because an author wrote a book does not mean that they have the RIGHT to make the decision about whether or not it is alright to put up a free copy online. Frankly, based on what I’ve observed, authors are more likely to choose to make a work Creative Commons than publishers. There are publishers that have chosen to make ebook versions of their backfile free when the original is out of print, but that is still more the exception than the rule. For this example, the copyright is owned by the author, se we really don’t have a clue (unless we ask them).

In this example, again, there was a complete PDF of the book, but in addition to the PDF there were also multiple file formats for different e-reader devices, including accessible formats for persons with disabilities and raw text (ASCII). The PDF was not in some distant country or on the web site for a particular local school, but was instead part of a major online collection of full text works. My first step was to look at the credibility of the provider, which is pretty similar to what I did with the first example.

While I’m not listing the specific title, I will list the collection in which it appeared: The Basic e-Learning Library (BeLL) of the Open Learning Exchange, but not the version housed at their main site, rather the BeLL collection housed in the Internet Archive. I tried first to look at the actual work as posted to see if there was any statement about the rights. I couldn’t find anything. Next I tried looking for some sort of statement on the OLE site. I couldn’t find one there either. I wanted to find out more about the OLE, what they do, and how reputable they are. Well, WOW! They are an international initiative focused on providing high quality education resources to 3rd world countries. And do they have powerful partners: UN High Council for Refugees; US Agency of International Development; US State Department; Oxfam …. And those are only a few. My gut reaction was, “They are partners with the US State Department? Well, they MUST be legitimate and responsible!”

I came very close to stopping there, placing my trust in the State Department and the United Nations to properly vet their partners. The group is doing such a good thing, and I really WANT deeply to believe in them and support this wonderful thing they are trying to do, helping low income countries. But then I tried to reverse verify this, and again ran into problems. I tried to find anything on the UN or UNHCR sites to show that they have a partnership with OLE. Hunh. I couldn’t find them listed on the UN site, but there were a couple links on the State Department site. Not anything saying they are partners, but at least people connected with the organization are presenting at State Department events. Normally, I would really not be working this hard. Normally, I would have called this credible and dropped it, which is what I had done when I made the recommendation to the faculty member. But it was starting to really bug me that I had spent so much time on their OLE site and could NOT find anything explicitly about their licensing of copyrighted content, efforts to negotiate in good faith with living authors or their representatives, or anything else. Most of the links that turned up in my searches were broken. Here is what I did find.

“Part 2: Quality Open-Source Content”
“Did we mention that all of these resources are freely available to members under the Creative Commons License?”
http://ole.org/open-educational-resources/

Now this just reads wrong. Open source applies to hardware and code, not to, well, books. Open ACCESS is the correct phrase for books, literature, articles, and other written works. And, well, if the works actually are open source, or open access, or creative commons licensed, then they are available to EVERYONE, not just members. It sounds wrong, at least to me, to even imply that the content is limited to members-only.

I kept digging. I found their Learning Toolkit page, which stated:

“The Open BeLL – Coming Soon!
Our virtual interactive library will now be available for public preview”

Preview? That again makes it sound as it, well, the content isn’t actually open. And I thought their “virtual interactive library” was already available through the Internet Archive? By this point I am so baffled, I don’t know what to think. I start asking my colleagues, one of whom actually finds the official OLE Copyright Statement. The reason I couldn’t find it was because I was looking on their web site. Now, why on earth would I expect to find their legal statements on their own web site? [sarcasm] It was instead on the Internet Archive site.

Open Resource Library - Copyright Statement
OLE Copyright Statement: https://archive.org/stream/OLECopyrightStatement/OLE_Copyright%20Statement#page/n0/mode/2up

Briefly, what this says to me is that they are putting up full text of commercially available copyrighted works under a Creative Commons license with the assumption that this falls under Fair Use. Let’s take a second and look at fair use a bit more.

“Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.
1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work”
US Copyright Office, Fair Use. http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

I’m no expert on Fair Use. You can find more information on this from Stanford, Texas, and our own University of Michigan Copyright Office.

One of my favorite resources from these groups is the UM “Fair Use Myths.

Fair Use Myths: http://guides.lib.umich.edu/content.php?pid=396670&sid=3248179

The first myth states approximately that just because what you are doing is educational is not sufficient in and of itself to make it fair use. OLE says that they are putting up copyrighted content under a Fair Use claim. They don’t anywhere say that they ask permission, but instead assume it will be ok, because they are good folk. (I’m paraphrasing.) The author might have agreed with them, but there is no way for us to know. But the final of the four factors to be considered is the economic impact. If OLE did not have permission, then making a PDF and text of a complete book available for free does seem like something that might possibly have an impact on sales. For me, it seems like this would fail the “four factors” test.

As I said, I’m not a lawyer, and certainly no expert, but I am a librarian, and I tried really really hard to find any evidence to show that OLE did the right work to protect themselves and their partners. I began this post believing in them, and I ended it with an opposite view. During the days I was working on this post, the work in question, the one that sparked this inquiry, has disappeared from the Internet Archive and now gives a statement of not being available due to an enquiry into a metadata error. I am wondering if someone told the author or their publisher.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Just because you should doesn’t mean you can.

Who says so?

But what will the neighbors (students) think?

Infographic of the Week: Using Social Media as a Crisis Management Tool

Bizarre infographic story

At first I chose this infographic because I loved what it said. I’m a big fan of “SMEM,” a.k.a. “social media emergency management,” so I hoped that putting an infographic about this on my door might get a few folk to read part of it as they went by. Then I did more digging and found it makes a very interesting story.

Last winter, the folks at Emergency Management Degree released an infographic which they had (evidently) hired another company to make. The original infographic is available here:

http://www.emergency-management-degree.org/crisis/

Unfortunately, while it says who came up with the content, does a lovely job of citing original sources, and names the designers, they neglected to include either a copyright statement, a Creative Commons license, or the date it was made. To verify when it was released, it was necessary to look at blogposts that cited it. This was the earliest one I could find.

Infographic: Using Social Media as a Crisis Management Tool, February 11, 2014 http://blog.missionmode.com/blog/infographic-using-social-media-as-a-crisis-management-tool.html

The one I found and printed for my door was, however, not the same one. The original infographic was taken by a firm in India, and remade or “jazzed up.” They preserved all the original content in the same sequence (except for the names of the designers), kept a similar color scheme, and made it look different. Frankly, the original one is better designed and the remade one uses a lot of clip art. I don’t know if they were asked to do this for the blog on which I found the redesigned one or if it was their own idea and the blog simply stumbled on it. In any case, everyone links back to the folk who came up with the original content, so it is only the design that changed. Well, and the company from India that remade it added a few typos, probably because English is a second language for them? Here is where I found the redesign a couple weeks ago.

Social Media Makes a Powerful Crisis Management Tool: Infographic shows just how vital a firm grasp of social media is for crisis management / By Jonathan & Erik Bernstein on May 9, 2014 http://managementhelp.org/blogs/crisis-management/2014/05/09/social-media-makes-a-powerful-crisis-management-tool/

And that explains why I have an infographic with typos on my door. You probably want the original, so here it is!

Using Social Media as a Crisis Management Tool
Image source: www.emergency-management-degree.org

Finding & Using Images, Lessons Learned (the Hard Way)

I can talk for a very long time about finding Creative Commons and Public Domain images, and the tricks and troubles associated with doing so. This is going to be an image-heavy words-light post about some of what I’ve learned over the past several years. For the short short version, go right to the bottom for my favorite places to find images to use.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons: New License Chooser

Many people say “Creative Commons” as a one-size-fits-all term for I-can-use-this-picture-without-paying-money-and-not-get-in-legal-trouble. That isn’t what it means. Some people still believe that they can take and use any image on any website. This is not remotely true! I myself use a lot of screenshots, and had some earnest worried talks with University Counsel before starting to do so. Strictly speaking, the screenshots may be a questionable practice from a legal point of view, but it has become common practice and rarely causes a problem as long as the site is open to the public. The caveat? If someone complains, be prepared to take the image down, and apologize.

Most of the images people are thinking of that fall into the safe-to-use category are actually public domain. Creative Commons usually applies when someone made a new image that could be copyrighted and has chosen to give advance permissions for some types of use, but not all. This means you can re-use the images in some ways, but can still get into trouble if you don’t do something they asked (like keep their name with the image) or do something they asked people NOT to do (like rework the image).

The Creative Commons organization has a tool to help people decide what license to choose for their own images. I find that tool very helpful in understanding how the creator of the image was thinking about their own work, and thus allowing me to be more respectful of their stated requirements.

Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/

Choose a License: http://creativecommons.org/choose/

University of Michigan Libraries Research Guides: Creative Commons: http://guides.lib.umich.edu/content.php?pid=483716

What is Public Domain?

Public domain basically means when an image or text is not copyrightable. This can be because of who created it, what type of information it includes, or that it used to be copyrighted and is now too old. The best simple overview of this is from Lolly Gasaway.

Lolly Gasaway: When US Works Pass Into the Public Domain: http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm

If you want a lot more information about public domain, check out the manifesto, which discusses many of the issues of public domain in the contemporary online environment.

The Public Domain Manifesto: http://www.publicdomainmanifesto.org/node/8

I Can Use This Because It’s Old … Maybe

Historic images are often considered to be public domain, but … not always. If the photograph of the original image is copyrighted, then it doesn’t matter how old the original was. If I went to a museum, they probably won’t allow me to take pictures. If they do, and I take a picture of a painting there (like this picture of St. Apollonia from the University of Michigan Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry), there are issues with (a) did I have permission to take the image, (b) did I have permission to share the image, (c) did I give permission to use or share the image, and so forth.

Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry: St. Apollonia

OR (and this is important), I could follow the assumptions of the Wikimedia Commons team:

The official position taken by the Wikimedia Foundation is that “faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works of art are public domain, and that claims to the contrary represent an assault on the very concept of a public domain”. For details, see Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag. This photographic reproduction is therefore also considered to be in the public domain.

In that case, a straight-on shot of the complete work is usually considered safe to use. That is also the case for this next image.

This next image is of a Japanese calligraphy created in 1923. In USA law, that would be in the public domain. I found it in Wikimedia Commons, my favorite place to find public domain and creative commons images. Why I like them best is because they give the full provenance (or history) of the image, why they think it is legally ok to use, where they got it, and what license or credit should be given with the image when used.

Example public domain image

From Wikimedia Commons


File:Zen painting and calligraphy on silk signed Hachijûgo (85 year old) Nantembô Tôjû, 1923.jpg: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zen_painting_and_calligraphy_on_silk_signed_Hachij%C3%BBgo_(85_year_old)_Nantemb%C3%B4_T%C3%B4j%C3%BB,_1923.jpg

Because this is considered public domain, there is no license statement provided with it, but if I dig into the information in the image summary, I can find more about where it come from to provide a proper source and attribution. Notice that the image is actually from a book or journal, still in print, and available for purchase. I am sure glad that Wikimedia made the judgment call on this one, because I would not feel safe using it if they had not already established precedent.

Description
English: Zen painting and calligraphy on silk by Nakahara Nantenbo signed “Hachijūgo (85 year old) Nantembō Tōjū”, 1923
Date: 1923
Source: Andon, No. 85, p. 59
Author: Nakahara Nantenbo

Because it is considered public domain, I can do pretty much ANYTHING with it. I can use it in writings or slides, change its format, reprint it as a poster or tshirt and sell it, recolor it, make it 3D, make a parody of it, convert it into music, move it into a virtual world, and so forth. In the image below, I moved it into Second Life, where I made a poster of it for the wall of a memorial for the victims of the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

Pic of the day - Sad Face

I Can Use This Because I Made It Different … Sometimes

Here’s a similar example, with important differences.

From Wikimedia Commons

Low-resolution image of Escher’s Relativity print


Escher’s Relativity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Escher%27s_Relativity.jpg

Now this one is from 1953, and is not out of copyright anywhere in the world. Even more confusing, the image is taken directly from Escher’s own official website. How can they get away with this?

“This image is of a drawing, painting, print, or other two-dimensional work of art, and the copyright for it is most likely owned by either the artist who produced the image, the person who commissioned the work, or the heirs thereof. It is believed that the use of low-resolution images of works of art for critical commentary on
* the work in question,
* the artistic genre or technique of the work of art or
* the school to which the artist belongs
on the English-language Wikipedia, hosted on servers in the United States by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.”

People love this print, and it has been re-used in many different ways. Here is an example of a couple of avatars wandering around in a 3d replica of the space.

Cool Toys Pic of the day - Primtings Museum

Here is a link to a copyrighted image of a reconstruction of the print as a real world 3d object, made with … LEGOs.

Escher’s “Relativity” in LEGO®: http://www.andrewlipson.com/escher/relativity.html

What makes these ok? They aren’t exactly low-rez images, but what they are is substantially innovative reworkings of the original concept. That can be a tricky point in intellectual property law, so don’t trust on it as a get-out-of-jail-free-card.

I Can Use This Because the Government Made It … Maybe

There is a perception that it is OK to take and use any image on any website that has a government web address (“.gov”). Often that’s pretty close, but again, it is not always true, only sometimes. Sometimes the government uses images made by other people who are not government employees. Rights for those images belong to the person who made them, or to the company they work for. You need to know which, and you usually need to ask first just to be sure. Read the fine print.

“Some of these photos are in the public domain or U.S. government works and may be used without permission or fee. However, some images may be protected by license or copyright. You should read the disclaimers on each site before using these images.” U.S. Government Photos and Images: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Graphics.shtml

So, I’m a bit of an astro fan, and just love astronomy images. Here is one from the Hubble telescope, credited to NASA, the European Space Agency, and Hubble themselves.

Cat's Eye Nebula
Cat’s Eye Nebula: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/pr2004027a/
Credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Acknowledgment: R. Corradi (Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, Spain) and Z. Tsvetanov (NASA)

If you look at the image on the Hubble site, they give information for how to credit the image, and it isn’t entirely clear on the image page if it is legal to use or not. They do have another page for all their images stating they use Creative Commons licensing requiring attribution.

Hubble: Usage of images, videos and web texts: http://www.spacetelescope.org/copyright/

They actually had a big contest for folk who used or spotted uses of their images in Popular Culture. I won 3rd place for “Weird” with this dress and avatar design, in which the image above (the Cat’s Eye Nebula) became the eyes of the avatar. And this is all perfectly fine and hunky-dory, and I even won copies of some images and videos from them.

Hubble Gown

SEARCHING

There are a TON of places that say they offer a search for images that are creative commons, public domain, or royalty free. Most of them are not actually very safe to use. I’m going to show you several here, with brief comments along the lines of yes, no, maybe so.

CompFight
Creative Commons Search, Yea or Nay
CompFight: http://compfight.com/

MAYBE.
They use the Flickr API to provide an alternate Flickr search experience, powered by ads. Why not just go to Flickr? PS – There are so many other search engines that say they are Creative Commons search engines that are really just using the Flickr API. I am not going to list them all.

Creative Commons
Creative Commons
Creative Commons: Search: http://search.creativecommons.org/

MAYBE.
“Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license. You should always verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link.”

Flickr
Creative Commons Search, Yea or Nay
Flickr: The Commons: http://www.flickr.com/commons

Creative Commons Search, Yea or Nay
Flickr: Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/

CAREFUL! YES &/OR MAYBE
When people search creative commons images in Flickr, they often aren’t aware that there are TWO completely different “Commons” in Flickr. When you search or browse “The Commons” you are getting images from schools, libraries, museums, and other famous and authoritative sources. When you search Flickr’s “Creative Commons” search you are trusting whoever put the image there. Not everyone is equally savvy and responsible.

I once had posted a slidedeck that used images from Flickr’s Creative Commons search. I listed the sources of all the images, with link, and then went back to each Flickr page and posted a thank you for making their image CC-licensed, giving the link to where I used it. One of the posters then commented on my comment, saying, “Don’t thank me! I took the image from [insert here name of most famous newspaper you can think of].” Oh. Uh oh. Oh, no.

Google: Image Search
Creative Commons
Google: Advanced Image Search: https://www.google.com/advanced_image_search?hl=en&biw=953&bih=787&q=commons&tbm=isch

Close up:
Creative Commons

SOMETIMES, (BUT MOSTLY NO).
Google Image Search is a case of Good News, Bad News. The Good News is, “Wow, look! They have a way to let you search by license or image rights!” The Bad News is that, of necessity, they trust the information provided on the source page about licensing, and sometimes people steal images, often without realizing they are doing so, and repost them with more freedom than was provided under the original license. That means many, if not most, of the images listed as Creative Commons in Google’s Image Search, well, AREN’T!!

Imagestamper
Cool Toys Pic of the Day - ImageStamper
Imagestamper: http://www.imagestamper.com/

MAYBE. MAYBE NOT.
Not an image search site, but a license management site. Imagestamper offers to manage licensing for you, and keep a record of the license you negotiated at a particularly point in time. The logic is that some images appear to be Creative Commons at one point in time, and then later the owner changes their mind. This really does happen. Ouch. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s still alive.

In their words: “The service is in early beta. Currently the service works with images hosted on Flickr, but we will soon add support for images hosted on deviantART and a number of other image-sharing websites. © 2008-2011 ImageStamper.com”

Morgue File
Creative Commons Search, Yea or Nay
Morgue File: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/

NO.
They use a their own home-grown variant of Creative Commons licensing that hasn’t been tested in the courts, and is thus not reliable. Basically, who really knows if these images are safe to use, and how to properly provide attribution?

Noun Project
Cool Toys Pic of the day - Noun Project
Noun Project: http://thenounproject.com/

YES, SOMETIMES
Absolutely fabulous site, but only for images of icons created for and submitted to the site. More info.

Ookaboo
Cool Toys Pic of the day - ookaboo
Ookaboo: http://ookaboo.com/o/pictures/

MAYBE.
Mostly mines Wikimedia Commons for content, under a different interface. Personally, I prefer the original. More info.

SpinXPress
Cool Toys pics of the day: SpinXPress
SpinXPress: http://www.spinxpress.com/getmedia

SOMETIMES.
This is basically a different interface to searching from the Creative Commons portal, with many of the same caveats, and some new ones, too. More Info

Wikimedia Commons
Cool Toys Pic of the Day - Wikimedia Commons (Open Free Pics, Photos and Media)
Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/

YES.
But always:
1) click on the image to go to the page for the image information, and
2) scroll to the bottom of the page for each image to check licensing information and use their recommended credit or attribution statement.

Wylio
Cool Toys Pic of the day - WylioCreative Commons Search, Yea or Nay
Cool Toys Pic of the day - WylioCool Toys Pic of the day - Wylio
Wylio: http://www.wylio.com/

MAYBE. MAYBE NOT.
They used to say they’d manage licensing for you, now that’s not clear. They used to just let you search, and now they require you to log in with a Google account. They want you to pay them for the full service, but these are images that are supposed to be free. And on the bottom of the results pages, they feed you to sites that sell images for money. I dunno. Hmmm.

ASSUMPTIONS THAT WORK SOMETIMES, BUT NOT ALWAYS

I can use this because:
– it’s old
– it’s different from the original
– the government made it

BEST PRACTICES

Read the fine print.
Ask for permission if you aren’t sure.
Don’t assume.

MY FAVORITE PLACES FOR FREE IMAGES

1. Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org

2. Flickr Commons (NOT Flickr Creative Commons): http://www.flickr.com/commons

3. For University of Michigan people, here is more information, LOTS more information!

Research Guides: Images: http://guides.lib.umich.edu/content.php?pid=32604