I’ve been trying to track down images in the public domain for use on my websites, and I’m totally confused.
First, there appear to be a lot of websites that have scanned images from ancient books and journals and are now selling it online, claiming (or insinuating) that they own the copyright to those images.
Is that legal, or is it a scam? Or are they simply claiming copyright ownership of their particular “scan”? In other words, if I get a copy of the same ancient book and scan the pictures myself, would it then be legal?
I’ve discovered at least one instance of Wikipedia using such images - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koehler’s_Medicinal_Plants
The pages in the book have yellowed with age, but the individual who scanned the images replaced the yellow with white. So the original images (in the book) are in the public domain, but does he own the scanned, whitened versions? Wikipedia put HIS versions online. I recall finding a Wikipedia page somewhere where they commented on the original pages being yellow.
I’m also confused by Wikipedia’s images, many of which are cited as Wikimedia Commons or Gnu. I’ve asked a few Wikipedia contributors for guidance on using these images on my sites, but I get confusing and conflicting information.
I’ve seen images that just include a blanket statement on their home page: “All images on this site are either in the public domain or are from Wikimedia Commons.”
My perception is that it’s OK to use an image from Wikimedia Commons under either of the following conditions:
- You include the text “Wikimedia Commons” in association with the image.
- You link the image to a page where you note the source (Wikimedia Commons).
I think I’ve seen other websites that use a little icon - a black bar with the word Commons in white, or something like that.
Gnu images are more confusing. One contributor told me I have to post their huge, monstrous logo and boilerplate on every page where I use one of their images.
Would it be legal for me to simply follow Wikipedia’s format - just link every image to a page that says “Public Domain,” “Wikimedia Commons” or “Gnu”?
I’m a little paranoid, because I’m wondering if some of the “free clip art” floating around might be pirated - and if I could then get in legal trouble for using it. I just read that the guy who created Obama’s campaign poster got nailed for using an AP image; he was sentenced to six months in prison!
Thanks for any tips.