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The Doula’s Guide to Copyright

So you’re working on your web site, and the finishing touch would be some lovely images of pregnant bellies and newborns. Maybe a vertical one there, and a horizontal one at the top.

Google Image Search to the rescue!!! Just right click and save!!! Right?

Wrong!

Photographs, drawings, paintings, music and all other artwork is protected by copyright laws, and you cannot use them without the permission of the artist. Ever. It does not need to say “copyright” in order to be copyrighted. It does not need to be watermarked. It does not need to say “All Rights Reserved.” The copyright exists the moment the work is created. There are serious consequences for taking others work without permission.

So here’s what you can do to get beautiful images on your site:

1. Purchase stock photos. There are many stock photo sites such as iStockphoto, Fotolia, and Getty Images where you can inexpensively buy photos for your site. This is what I did when I put together my first doula web site, and the first several versions of the UDA site.

2. Search for images that the artist has given a “creative commons” license. A good place to search for these is at CreativeCommons.org. You can do a search limited to works that the artist has said up front that they are willing to allow people to use. Some are licensed for any use, some only for web use, and some are OK for “derivative works” – which means you can change the image, cropping it, adding text over it, etc. If the artist’s creative commons license requires you to credit the artist and/or link to them, please follow those guidelines. If the work is licensed for non-commercial use only, you cannot use it on your site, because your site is marketing your business, and that’s commercial use. Double check your results to ensure the image or graphic is still licensed. (This option is what I did for this post. Notice the photo credit at the bottom, just as the artist required.)

3. Contact the artist and ask. Just don’t expect that it will always be free. Remember that artwork is still work, and that the artists have families to feed and clothe as well. They deserve to be paid for their work. They will sometimes ask for payment, especially if you are planning to use their work commercially. I had a doula living out back east ask once for rights to use 10 of my images in a video she would be selling, and she became irate when I asked her for $25 for the rights to use them. I have occasionally let friends – and the UDA – use some of my images for free with specific permission, and with a link back to my site.

4. If you want to share a photo on Facebook, use the “Share” option underneath the image. This keeps the photo connected to the original artist. Don’t download and share as if it was your photo, that’s bad form.

(And as a side note, the same is true for the written word. Taking any text from another page and using it on your own site is also a copyright issue. And I’ve had it happen to me, it’s not fun. Please don’t plagiarize, write your own content!)

It’s really not too difficult to comply with copyright law, and the artists who put much effort into learning and applying their talent deserve the respect of proper use.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/