Flow Chart Tries to Educate the Public on the Rules of Using a Photo They Found Online


When people are browsing around online for photographs to use, be them for an article, a project or something else, it’s vital to know whether or not they’re allowed to use the image. Even if they’re allowed to use the image, it’s important to know what all can be done with it.

Here to help those with any image in question is this handy little infographic, created by Curtis Newbold, The Visual Communications Guy.

The infographic explains copyright, fair use, creative commons and public domain, all of which are often mistaken or confused for one another. Created in a flowchart-style manner, the infographic is easy to read and should answer any questions that might arrive should someone come across an image they’re wanting to use.

To view, share and/or download the full infographic, you can head on over to Visually.

(via Lifehacker)

  • Future is Now

    Well this should certainly help to clear things up and dissuade people from copying photos without proper permissions, eh?

  • Samantha Decker

    This is a really great concept, but I’m interested in what other people have to say after reading it. It looks like some of the facts are off. The flow chart gives the impression that you can legally use almost any photo find online for personal use without the creator’s permission, especially if you found it on social media. While this is certainly common practice among internet users, it’s not actually legal. Unless an image is in the public domain or the author licensed it through Creative Commons, you can’t legally take an image and use it on your own terms without the author’s permission. This flow chart may be doing more harm than good.

  • Adam Sorber

    I agree–the creator of the graphic seems to be confused about “Fair Use”. Fair Use absolutely does NOT authorize a user to take a copyrighted image, print it, and hang it on their wall…

  • Eric Lefebvre

    Interesting but flawed.

    It says it’s ok to use images if you can;t find the original author! Last I heard, there were currently no “Orphaned Works” exemptions to copyright law. You can;t find the original author and use his image and he finds your use he can (and should) sue.

    He also covers “Original Idea”. Copyright does not protect “IDEAS” it only protects the execution of those ideas.

    Also, the first “NO” node branches into 2 different directions for no reason.

    Next, he says the laws about re-distributing images on social media are “fuzzy” … no they are not.

    ps.: I’m not a lawyer, I just play one on the Internet.

  • Toby Hawkins

    Almost! A lot of it is country specific, but also; no mention of model releases or working under contract?

  • Matthew “fotomatt” Lit

    INCORRECT INFORMATION. Period. Maybe Petapixel should run this by ASMP or a copyright attorney first. Stop posting incorrect information please.

  • NickGHK

    But – it’s on the Internet! It must be right! Right? Sheesh …

  • Scott Coleman

    Agreed. Nice idea, but the information isn’t correct (at least according to current U.S. laws). Especially the part that says “It is generally considered acceptable to redistribute an image that was originally intended to be publicly viewed by the creator.”

    Just because I post and share one of my images doesn’t automatically give someone else the right to redistribute it. Period. Just because something is “generally considered acceptable” doesn’t make it legal.

  • Matthew “fotomatt” Lit

    BTW…I did send this to ASMP National. Sorry, but the information is wrong and the distribution of it will only lead to more copyright confusion.

  • NickGHK

    Hey, PetaPixel – will you pay my legal fees when I get sued for following these guidelines? This is a dangerous mix of fact and opinion. The concept of ‘Fair Use’ is being twisted by yet another modern proponent of the ‘sharing’ paradigm that has absolutely no basis in existing intellectual property laws.

    Here’s a tip: the author calls himself ‘The Visual Communications Guy’. His info graphic is illegible, unless you follow the link in the article, and then Right/Control click on the image of the graphic to open it in a new tab/window, then make that window big enough for it to be legible (if your screen is big enough), then try to understand the content in spite of the spelling mistakes and the fact that it’s been saved as a jpg, so the type is soft. Add that to the content, and I give him 0/10 for credibility.

    But hey, it’s on the Internet, so it must be right!

  • Eric Lefebvre

    That blows me away … so I post the image on my blog ” originally intended to be publicly viewed” where I get add revenue for the vue but you take it and post it … wherever … and I no longer get ad revenue or even control over where and how my image is used!

  • PhotoGuy

    it would be great if it was higher quality so I could zoom in and actually read it…

  • NickGHK

    Oh, and Gannon – “be them for an article”??

  • Theo Lubbe

    The chart ought to indicate that using images on an ad-revenue generating blog still constitutes for-profit, as many blogs are created for exclusively that purpose. Using others’ content as padding for your blog which also hosts a storefront of some sort helps to drive traffic to said blog by motivating users to return to it for pictures, video or sound (music, interviews or otherwise).

    The same applies to wallpaper sites, especially ones which will charge a membership fee for ‘premium’ access granting downloads of higher resolution versions of images or ‘premium-only’ images – though this may be a more obvious for-profit use.

    There’s also no fuzziness about images shared on social media sites. Think about it. If simply posting an image as publicly-viewable on a social media site means it’s A-OK to use it ’cause hey, it’s openly accessibly by all of the public (except China), then surely any other site on which the author hosts it -including their own- is also ripe for the picking?

    How about a news site of some sort, like PetaPixel? Publicly accessible, so if someone’s image is used in an article on the site and it’s deliberately being redistributed to the public, it’s now fair game, right?

    So again, there’s no fuzziness. If you didn’t get explicit permission, you don’t have permission. If you don’t have permission, you’d better make damn-sure you’re otherwise allowed to use it (such as creative commons/public domain) before you use it.

    Else you’re a doodie-head.

  • Theo Lubbe

    That will vary from country to country. In some countries, like South Africa, if you’re simply hanging it on your bedroom wall it may be okay.

    On the other hand, if you’re hanging it on your office wall as a key component to decorating your work environment for the sake of impressing potential clients or business partners, you’re directly using that person’s work in order to facilitate your own gains.

  • Theo Lubbe

    Very good point – without a copy of the model release(s) any and all photos involving identifiable people are automatically out of the question for anything but reportage.

  • Adam

    Perfect timing! I just found one of my pictures on someone else’s site. Although they did give me credit, they did not have my permission.

  • Jack Reznicki

    Wow! Is this bad. I’m going to use this is one of my classes as an example of what incredibly bad information is out there.

    It is so wrong or misleading on so many levels it’s just amazing to me.
    infringement is not dependent on if you make a profit or benefit from
    it. That might affect the damages awarded, but not infringement. If you
    infringe, you infringe.

    Orphan works – wrong
    Finding stuff on social media – wrong.
    an idea- Wrong (Ideas can not be copyrighted, just the specific
    expression of that idea. There is a scène à faire exception, you can
    copy something that can only be shot that way, like a specific scene of
    someplace, or in one well known case, babies on white, but it’s a fairly
    specific exception.)
    Anyways, this chart just goes on and on with
    bad and misleading stuff. You can do a bigger chart on just what’s wrong
    with this one.

    I usually like people trying to pass on
    Copyright info, but this is so flawed it will cause a lot of heartache
    for anyone paying attention to this chart.

    Just wow.

  • edwardcgreenberg

    This chart is so wrong on so many levels, in so many ways I don’t know where best to start. Suffice for now that if we were to draw up an intentionally incorrect chart to employ in our lectures we couldn’t do better.

    As attorney who regularly and daily litigates, testifies and writes on these issues I can tell you that in no event should any creator pay any attention to the utterly horrendous flow chart. Danger Will Robinson!

  • edwardcgreenberg

    Unlike the author of the chart you have a fundamental understanding of the concept of copyright. Your post is correct, the chart if followed, is a schematic for disaster.

  • edwardcgreenberg

    You are wise, grasshopper.

  • edwardcgreenberg

    You ought ignore it in all respects. It is misleading, inaccurate and/or false in nearly all key respects. You would not take medical advice from a layperson. Same goes here. The author of the chart could not be more hopelessly wrong on nearly every point and the posting of this mess does more harm than good..

  • edwardcgreenberg

    Note: “Was the picture you created an original idea”? Grammatically the sentence is gibberish. One does not photograph an idea.

    To secure a legitimate registration, the image must put into tangible form some minimum level of creativity. The author of the chart is apparently unfamiliar with the term “copyrightable elements”. Ideas of themselves are not protectable. On the other hand a concept or idea turned into or articulated into a tangible photo, screenplay, book, sculpture or painting is entitled to copyright registration.

    As you accurately state, the social media section reflects the author’s apparent “beliefs” and not the state of the law – specifically USC Title 17, The Copyright Act. Reliance on such baseless beliefs can get you sued.

    I don’t give medical advice because I am not a doctor. The mere ownership of a keyboard does not make its user an authority on the law. Free legal advice from someone who has been doing this work for 35 years – ignore the chart.

  • Eric Lefebvre

    Did Gannon Burgett even READ the chart before posting?

  • Maryelle St. Clare

    But … if this person is trying to educate others on photo usage, he needs to be RIGHT and correct in his facts. And he isn’t. That whole right sidebar is, especially, sickeningly wrong. It is disappointing that PetaPIxel – a photography site – would just post this as though it’s a good, valid, and factually accurate resource.

  • Cameron Prescott

    Im pretty sure I retain all the rights to a photo that was inspired or similar to another photo.

  • BuckCash

    Great to see you weigh in sir! Your book and videos educated me, so I knew immediately that this chart was nothing but BS, through and through!!!

    PetaPixel should be ashamed for NOT knowing, and therefor posting it!!!

    Get educated on the FACTS of copyright, PetaPixel!!!!!

  • NickGHK

    I doubt it.

  • Tzctplus -

    Question #1: are you in the US?
    Yes: then follow this not quite correct graph.
    No: Uhm, you are on your own buddy.

    As for ideas, that is dumb (even under US copyright) you can copy any idea that you want (photographing twins like Diane Arbus lets say), what you can’t do is taking a picture that reproduces exactly a scene (although some enterprising judges in some localities are interpreting look and feel as something copyrightable….).

  • Alison Hoy

    Good intentions I’m sure but posting incorrect info does not help. The reference to purchasing an image from a stock library is wrong because it gives the impression you can do anything you want with the image, when in fact you don’t buy the image but rather obtain a license which is limited by the license terms…

  • AliNoorani

    guys you don’t take into account that many social media state in their terms that by uploading pictures on their website you agree to give them royalty-free rights on your Intellectual Properties like photos!
    Facebook terms:
    For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to yourprivacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

  • edwardcgreenberg

    Mr. Reznicki and I work very hard on keeping the creative community up to date and aware of their rights through our articles and seminars. It is very disheartening to know that some people will read this chart and rely on its incredibly awful “advice”. We will no doubt need spend valuable time to address some of this awful info in our next seminar. Sheesh! Thanks for the compliment…we try.

  • edwardcgreenberg

    To paraphrase a well worn cliche’ – “The road to litigation is paved with good intentions”.

  • disqus_yuG7c27UWh

    you really should read the last line of the post

  • Serge Timacheff

    only caveat I would give to this chart is that it does not provide for a
    section that answers “yes I took the photo and it was original” but “no
    I do not own the rights to the image,” which is the case for many
    photographers shooting for agencies, sports federations/organizations
    and news companies, etc. Then your ability to use (distribute, sell,
    etc.) photos you concepted and took is limited by your agreement with
    the organization.
    Just now · Like

  • Lisa Shaftel

    Wow. There is so much information that is incorrect in this chart I don’t know where to begin. I doubt an intellectual property attorney worked on this. For starters, the term of copyright protection in the US is life of the author/creator + 70 years. An image (a work) does not become public domain when the author/creator dies. And no, any and all educational use does not qualify as fair use. No, it is not permissible to use an orphan work.

  • BuckCash

    Where does it say that we give every Tom, Dick and Jane who visits those pages the RIGHTS to copy, print or in any way use our work? Here’s a clue: It doesn’t.

    Giving FB rights to a posted image, mostly granting them the ability to copy it to servers all over the planet in order to feed the screens of those who will view it, is not the same as granting the whole world a royalty free license to copy, print or otherwise use our work just because they saw it on social media.

    This common misconception / urban legend / excuse by those who infringe on copyrighted works does not hold up to actual copyright law.

  • andressbidle

    my roomate’s sister-in-law makes 62 an hour on the internet . She has been without a job for nine months but this month her payment was 18467 just working a few hours.

    go to this website ……….. Jobspug.C­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­o­­­­­­­­­­­­m


  • Peter Barnes

    I did not get to read the chart – a mini page came up over the top asking me to sign up to a ‘free e-book” and there was no way to dismiss it. I assume it would only go away if I signed up. Not cool.

  • AliNoorani

    well that was what came to my mind.
    I’m not a lawyer. Are you an expert on such matters or is this your personal understanding?

  • AliNoorani

    thanks. great info

  • BuckCash

    I see that PetaPixel did not approve the reply I left yesterday, probably because I included a link THAT I GOT FROM PETAPIXEL. Geez…

    I got the info from reading several books on copyright law, including the very informative “Photographer’s Survival Manual”, written by Jack Reznicki and Edward C. Greenberg. Ed is a lawyer who specializes in copyright law and litigates them regularly, and has replied in this thread a few times.

    They have a web site that PetaPixel has featured in the past, but which I guess I can’t include it here or they won’t allow the comment to stand, so you’ll just have to find it on your own. It’s well worth it as there’s a ton of information on the subject there.

    They also have several of their seminars on the subject as videos floating around on the web, at least one of which has also been featured on PetaPixel, but I won’t include any links to any of them, in the hopes that you’ll see this message this time. One of them is at a little vendor that uses the letters “B” and “H”.

    With luck, this message will be approved.

  • BuckCash

    No, not “anyone”. It grants Facebook the right to use them. That doesn’t extend the right to every Tom, Dick and Sarah that sees them.

  • AliNoorani

    I did read your unmoderated comment BuckCash. Thanks
    B&H? small vendor? lol

  • bob cooley

    Ed, Thanks for weighing in on this – this is indeed a horrible chart, and terribly misleading to those starting out in the business.