UK image copyright law is probably more strict than you think!
“Art is it plagiarism or revolution”
Firstly we wanted to stress that there is no copyright on ideas, and the quotation above by David Bowie demonstrates that without taking an idea and moving on in order to develop it into your own, there would be no progress. But we all need to be careful how we develop ideas!
Images on Google are not there just for you!
When you search for an image on Google, you will come across hundreds and thousands of images, if you decide you would like to use one it would be a good idea to check the small print first!
At the bottom of image searches is an important notice, it says “images may be subject to copyright”, but it has only been introduced in the last few years and you may not even notice it’s there. Google have been a little behind the curve on putting this into image search results, and even now, it is not very noticeable.
See the small grey text at the bottom of the screenshot below.
Where to source images legally
There are sites where you can source free images, but you will need to check the licence agreements on each site. What is OK on one site, may not be on another. But beware of choosing some images on the free sites as they may be ones that link to a paid for source. Each country has different rules and laws for Image Copyright, so it is best not to assume that what works in USA will also work in the UK. So for the purposes of this article, we are referring to UK licencing.
What you can do
So what can you do, if you download a free image, or purchase one?
You can use the image on the project you have purchased it for. If you use the same image for a different client, it is good practise to purchase the image again for the new client.
You are then able to manipulate it how you wish, you can change its colour, overlay text and other purchased images.
Downloaded Images: What you can’t do
But you can’t do that with images you have not purchased,by manipulating an image, it doesn’t make it yours! Whether images are from Google searches or downloaded from image stock libraries you must not try to erase watermarks. Neither should you distort the image or overlay text or other images to try and make it your own.
So remember: if you think it might be wrong, it probably is.
Case Study 1
A new client wanted a logo with a phoenix, fortunately he was educated enough to realise that I should not use the version he found on Google, and I said I would create my own in a shape and form that was unique. So I researched phoenixes, just to get the idea of how they could look. A phoenix is a mythical bird that is a bit like an eagle, but with exaggerated feet and claws and is supposed to be created from fire. So giving the wings a flame look would suit the logo. There were many styles of phoenix in my research, so producing a version that didn’t resemble any of the others may have proved tricky.
So as a quick guide, this is what I do when I need to create a logo or illustration if I do not have my own photos to refer to.
1. Exploration and Reference results; examples of different phoenixes:
2. Sketching, thinking and imagining, creation of new Phoenix:
So I closed the browser down and did some sketching. Below you will see the original image presented by the client, my sketch and my finished digitised phoenix:
Note how the tail in the sketch is more like feathers, I corrected this later at digitisation stage.
Case Study 2
Monkey Selfie Photos
Just a couple of weeks before we give the presentation, there was a case in the news about a monkey who had taken his own Selfie Photo.
Who owned the photo?
Please read the full story in The Guardian here >
Copyright: British nature photographer David Slater
Q. When will an image become ‘Out Of Copyright’?
A. 70 years after the creator has died.
What if you get caught
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