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Can I Use that Picture?

The internet grants us access to lots of images. But how do we know if we have legal or ethical use of the photo? Check out the Can I Use this Picture? flowchart from Curtis Newbold, The Visual Communication Guy before you make your next powerpoint slideshow.

Need to use an image but not sure if you have the legal and ethical right to do so? Understanding the laws for using images can be a bit tricky, especially because there is wiggle room within the laws. And, with the mass distribution of images on the internet, it’s no wonder we’re all asking the the same question over and over again: can I use that picture?

Whether for your business presentation, your school project, or your organization’s brochure, you’ve likely placed in images to make your designs more visually appealing. But did you use the images according to legal and ethical standards?

I created the guide below to help sift through the complexity of it all. The reality is, though, as long as you become familiar with four terms–copyright, fair use, creative commons, and public domain–you’ll have a pretty good idea what you can and can’t do with images. If it’s all new to you, spend most of your time learning the fair use clauses. That’s where the ambiguity in copyright laws exist. As with most laws, the ambiguity is for our benefit, but it sure can make copyright laws fuzzy at times.

My rule above all else? Ask permission to use all images. If in doubt, don’t use the image!

Don’t steal images for use in your designs with Google image search! Make sure you have the appropriate rights to use the images.

If your school or organization is interested, you can buy a printed poster or a high-resolution digital version.

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