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legality of using images from Google searches in productions

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Ruby Goldlegality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 7:33:58 pm

I'm a small time video producer and I've been using images found on Google searches in my video productions for some time and have always been paranoid about the legality of what I'm doing.

My productions are 'educational documentaries' and are used by various groups to help educate specific audiences about specific issues. For example, I made a series for ex-offenders designed to support their successful re-entry into the community and focused on employment, recovery and other issues. These are used in classes in jail and in post-release programs. I've also made educational documentaries for teachers/school staff about the issues involved in working with a student with a specific disability.

I've used images downloaded from Google as visual illustration of the content from the VO running underneath them. They are mostly of people interacting in the world. Needless to say, I'm sure some of the anonymous folks in these images wd not be pleased to know how their likenesses were being used. When I could find a contact, I've asked for permission, but obtaining permission from 95% of these "regular" folks is impossible.

I've thought about using stock, but, in addition to being prohibitively expensive, stock images look like stock images--they don't look like real people, and wd not be right for my productions.

Where I can, I shoot my own stuff in public domain space, because I know that can be used legally any way you want--correct? But when I need an image that will work with some specific content, I still have a need for a plethora of imagery of people to pick through.

Because these productions have a fairly limited target audience, I've been willing to take the calculated risk, however, I know these productions could never be broadcast, and, if they had a broader audience, it probably wd be too risky to keep doing this.

I'm about to move into making productions that will have a wider audience and I'm desperate to find a safer way of finding appropriate images. Can anyone give me any info on how risky this actually is, and what better alternatives might be?

Any help or links where I might find answers to these questions wd be much appreciated.
thanks-


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walter biscardiRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 7:35:51 pm

[Ruby Gold] "I've thought about using stock, but, in addition to being prohibitively expensive, stock images look like stock images--they don't look like real people, and wd not be right for my productions."

Prohibitively expensive? You can get shots for $1 each at iStockPhoto.com or $65/year at ClipArt.com

Unless you have written permission from the owners of the images you are using, you are NOT using the images legally.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
http://www.biscardicreative.com
HD Editorial & Animation for Food Network's "Good Eats"
HD Editorial for "Assignment Earth"

"I reject your reality and substitute my own!" - Adam Savage, Mythbusters


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Ron LindeboomRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 7:39:05 pm


Walter is right, your productions are not legal if you are grabbing images online and using them.

BigStockPhoto.com also has images for $1 or so.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom


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Ruby GoldRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 8:03:37 pm

Thanks Walter--guess I was looking at the wrong sites--they were insanely expensive, and, as I said, look like slick stock images. Thanks a lot for these sites--at least it addresses the expense problem. BTW--am I correct in my assumption that stuff shot in public domain space can be used legally any way you want--correct?

thanks for the help-


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walter biscardiRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 8:06:27 pm

[Ruby Gold] "Thanks Walter--guess I was looking at the wrong sites--they were insanely expensive, and, as I said, look like slick stock images."

You were probably looking at sites like Getty which are very expensive. iStockPhoto has been a sponsor of the Cow for quite some time now and I use their photos all the time.

[Ruby Gold] "am I correct in my assumption that stuff shot in public domain space can be used legally any way you want--correct?"

What do you mean "public domain space?" Never heard that term.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
http://www.biscardicreative.com
HD Editorial & Animation for Food Network's "Good Eats"
HD Editorial for "Assignment Earth"

"I reject your reality and substitute my own!" - Adam Savage, Mythbusters


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Tim WilsonRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 8:46:25 pm

[Ruby Gold] "am I correct in my assumption that stuff shot in public domain space can be used legally any way you want--correct?"

Alas, the answer is "almost certainly not." Just a handful of examples:

--Many buildings are trademarked: Empire State Building in NY, the Trimerica building in San Francisco among many others. I'm aware of many dozens of them, and I'm sure there are many, many more than that. You're not allowed to use images of them in any commercial work -- no ads, no stock photo/video collections, etc.

--Many of the pictures you might think are in the public domain (say, a photo of Michaelangelo's David that you saw in a junior high textbook in 1968) are simply not (dimes to donuts it's one of the ones that Getty owns).

--The public domain also shifts. "It's a Wonderful Life" is one of the best examples of a film that fell into the public domain....very, very briefly. Somebody owns it again. "The public domain" isn't a safe or sound principle.

There are differences between stepping on a copyright (oops, I tripped) and stepping on a trademark (oops, I've fallen into the bowels of hell and there's a demon drinking blood from my skull)...but the short version is that there's really not much at all that you're free to use any way you want.

That's why it's always best to buy images with very, very clear licenses. This isn't to annoy you, but to protect you.

As others have pointed out, doing the right thing -- the safe thing -- doesn't have to be expensive.



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Ruby GoldRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 8:54:33 pm

Love the 'oops I tripped' versus 'bowels of hell' comparison. ;-}

Yeah, I know that many buildings are trademarked and that the other kinds of things you mentioned are definitely NOT in public domain. As well, many works of art that land in public domain after however many years get snapped up the Gettys and Turners of the world. I understand that.

What I meant was shooting ordinary people walking by on the sidewalk, in the public arena (not through an office building window or dressing room), and using the shot/footage in a production. My understanding is that this is quite legal.


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Ron LindeboomRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 8:09:39 pm


[Ruby Gold] "I was looking at the wrong sites--they were insanely expensive, and, as I said, look like slick stock images. Thanks a lot for these sites--at least it addresses the expense problem."

Oh, most of these $1 a shot sites look *anything but* like slick stock images. In fact, you have to sort through a lot of filler to find quality stuff if you want it. If you are looking for the more uncontrived look, there's tons of that there on most of these sites.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom


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Ruby GoldRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 8:35:24 pm

Thanks Ron. I went to the two sites Walter suggested and the Big Stock site as well. They are far less expensive than the Getty Images and other like sites I was looking at, but after doing preliminary searches for the kind of things I need on iStockPhoto or BigStock, they seem to run anywhere from 2.50 to four bucks or so a shot after subscribing. The ClipArt.com subscription was $169/year, so I'm not sure what Walter meant about being $65.

Also, maybe I just need to look harder, but after this preliminary look, the photos definitely looked like posed, well-lit stock photos to me, not much of a verite look that I could find, which is what I need. But, maybe I just need to look harder.

Walter--in answer to your question--I used the wrong term, 'public domain.' I was referring to the right to take photos of anyone in public space such as a street, sidewalk, park, etc.

Again--thanks for both of your responses.
Ruby


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walter biscardiRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 8:53:39 pm



[Ruby Gold] "The ClipArt.com subscription was $169/year, so I'm not sure what Walter meant about being $65."

Must have gone up, be even still, that's a very low cost if you use a lot of images.

[Ruby Gold] "They are far less expensive than the Getty Images and other like sites I was looking at, but after doing preliminary searches for the kind of things I need on iStockPhoto or BigStock, they seem to run anywhere from 2.50 to four bucks or so a shot after subscribing"

That's incredibly cheap. Some shots are $1 per shot, which I use a lot of. I gladly spend $2.50 to $10 per image when doing projects. If these are too expensive for your projects, you need to raise your rates.

[Ruby Gold] "

Walter--in answer to your question--I used the wrong term, 'public domain.' I was referring to the right to take photos of anyone in public space such as a street, sidewalk, park, etc."


Sure you can do that all day long. Just in some places folks might get upset and require you to sign some paperwork or require a waiver. Some "public places" are in reality owned by someone and legally considered a "private location." So if you're shooting some video or stills and someone comes along and asks you to leave, be polite and move on. Works everytime.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
http://www.biscardicreative.com
HD Editorial & Animation for Food Network's "Good Eats"
HD Editorial for "Assignment Earth"

"I reject your reality and substitute my own!" - Adam Savage, Mythbusters


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John Davidson (fomerly JNeo25)Photographer's Rights PDF
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 8:59:42 pm

Hey guys,

I think everybody should check this out. It's a Photographer's Rights PDF that everyone with a camera should carry multiple copies of in your case, bag, or wallet. Very very informative. I was actually surprised about the things you could get away with....

http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm



John Davidson____ writer | producer | director____http://www.magicfeatherinc.com


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Ruby GoldRe: Photographer's Rights PDF
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 9:11:40 pm

Exactly. That's one of the documents I've read in coming to my beliefs that it's fair game to shoot folks in public space on the street and use the images in productions. Here's another older reference that's more "legal precedent" based, but pretty useful:
http://rcfp.org/photoguide/

Also, on a separate but related note, for anyone interested in the latest thinking on "fair use" of copyrighted materials (music, film clips, etc) for documentarians, this is an interesting document:
http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/resources/fair_use/


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Timothy J. AllenRe: Photographer's Rights PDF
by on Feb 8, 2007 at 3:27:59 am

Even if someone has a right to take a photograph of a person in a public place, they still don't have the right to portray that person in a way that would make people think that they endorse a particular product (or the right to defamation of character)without that person's knowledge and release of rights.

For example, you could tape a man walking down the street and use it in a story that says "the average man walks 6 miles every day". You can't play the same footage with a voice over that says "this man's own wife doesn't know that he's a psychotic killer". You will get sued, and unless the man you taped has been convicted of the charge, you will probably lose. (Even the truth can be a shaky defense, depending on how and when the person was portrayed in the bad light.)

Heck, you can't even say "This man loves to eat at Jim Bob's Barbecue"... unless either he does - or you have a a release from him giving you rights to use the footage for that purpose.

Now, on the other hand, a crowd of unidentifiable people can be used to support concepts about general "groups". (Such as "One in three men will develop colon cancer in their lifetime.)

Now, if you take a persons picture without their permission, that doesn't mean they can take your camera or even your tape. It just means you can't use their photo for other than private use, unless it's a "news" type event (like if you took video of the person mugging someone or getting mugged) If it's valid news, all bets are off as far as rights issues.


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Ruby GoldRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 7, 2007 at 9:02:52 pm

Yup. Being polite and respectful is always a good policy in my book.


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Mark SuszkoRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 8, 2007 at 3:58:36 pm

Trademarking buildings is a new one on me, I have to admit. Any pointers to articles on that specific issue? It's not like I'm going to photoshop-out the Sears Tower and John Hancock tower from my Chicago panorama establishing shots on just anybody's say-so.


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Mike_SRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 8, 2007 at 4:20:41 pm

The idea of tradmarking a building - rather than a specific image of a building used as a device, with or without verbal accompaniment, to identify specific goods or services as coming from a particular supplier - is moderately comical, and no doubt would raise a chuckle from legal practitioners in the area. This is from the US Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/tac/doc/basic/trade_defin.htm

What is a trademark or service mark?

* A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.

Some individuals and organisations may seek to claim such rights, though however fanciful their basis in law. The trustees of the The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund made their own, failed, attempt to create a new class of "image rights", preventing anyone else from using any image of Diana - an expensive lesson for them. For a time, a region of Italy flirted with the idea. And in London, a port of authority has made grand claims for its ability to prevent people from taking or using images of the River Thames - with success to date only in fleecing the unrepresented.





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Mike_SRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 8, 2007 at 4:22:07 pm

Correction - http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/tac/doc/basic/trade_defin.htm



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Marcel ValcarceRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 14, 2007 at 9:31:54 pm

A great resource for "real" looking photos is morguefile.com. Ordinary people post their snaps there, and the terms of use are quite clear about it being royalty and license free.



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Ruby GoldRe: legality of using images from Google searches in productions
by on Feb 14, 2007 at 11:54:13 pm

Thanks so much--this is a terrific link!
Ruby


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