Before You Copy & Paste an Image, Think Copyright!

Last month, I commissioned a graphic artist to create a logo for my writing career and paid him for his talent and skill. To your left is the logo he created, for which I own the copyright. 

I don't think anybody would want to copy and paste this logo as my name is on it. If anyone was curious as to who owns the copyright, they could run a reverse image search via Google to see where the image pops up -- after matching the words on the logo (Colleen Collins Books) to the website name (colleencollinsbooks.com), they would likely assume that I own the copyright, but to verify they could contact me via this site to ask. This is one example of locating a copyright holder. There's a free ebook link at the bottom of this post, written by a business attorney, which explains other ways to research copyrights among other topics about legally using images.

The Point Being...

Don't copy and paste without first checking if there is a copyright.

Otherwise, you might be violating copyright laws. I know, lots of people copy and paste stuff off the Internet, but sometimes people get caught and end up paying lots of money to lawyers and the copyright holders. That happened to romance writer Roni Loren a few years ago, and she wrote a blog about it: Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued for Using Pics on Your Blog - My Story.

People Copying & Pasting A Copyrighted Image

A few years ago,I worked with another very talented graphic designer who had a background creating images for video games, comic books, TV and movies. Such a talented guy, and I was honored that he was willing to create a logo for me (a private eye sitting at a computer, an image I wanted to use for my book How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths)

He and I brainstormed the image and worked together on several revisions -- one of our brainstorming sessions is shown in his sketches on the yellow piece of paper to your left.

I paid him for his expertise, and I now own the copyright for the final black-and-white image, located below the yellow page of sketches.

Unfortunately, people started freely copying and pasting the image into blogs, articles, books, Facebook pages, as avatars on forums, and other online places. I didn't know this until one day I ran a reverse search on the image, and oh boy...it showed up in several dozen Internet sites! I didn't work with a professional illustrator, and pay him for his services, for it to be an Internet freebie!

 Copyright 2011 Colleen Collins - Do not copy or distribute without prior written permission.

Copyright 2011 Colleen Collins - Do not copy or distribute without prior written permission.

I Wrote a Cease and Desist Letter

My husband is a lawyer, so he helped me craft a cease and desist letter. I didn't want to play the heavy...I simply asked that the person credit the graphic. But if they did not wish to add a credit, then please remove it from their site.

Free Images in the Public Domain

There are numerous sources for professional images and illustrations that are free and within the public domain, and copying and pasting these images do not violate any copyright laws. Below are a few of these images. The two Japanese prints, the orange flowers and the man and goldfish, are via the Public Domain Review; all other images are courtesy of the Getty Museum Open Content Program:

Free eBook on How to Legally Use Images

The below ebook has more links to public domain images, plus it provides all kinds of useful information about types of copyrights, sources for researching copyright owners, even a sample permission-request letter to send to a copyright holder. Author is Helen Sedwick, a California business attorney and author:

HOW TO USE EYE-CATCHING IMAGES WITHOUT PAYING A FORTUNE OR A LAWYER (by Helen Sedwick and Jessica Brown)

Have a great week, Colleen