Steal This: Images, Copyright, and Hotlinking

The concept of copyright can fill books, and therefore my coverage here will be both light and high level. It must also, based on my personal experience, be focused on copyright in the United States.

You don't have to do anything special to obtain copyright on one of your images: it's yours as soon as you make it. However, anything on the Web is vulnerable, which means that just because you have the copyright on an image doesn't mean others can't take it for their own purposes.

If you find an image has been copied to another web site and you're unhappy about its use, there's not much you can do other than ask the person to stop using it. If he or she refuses, you can then check to see whether the company providing the server space for the pages containing the image has a term of use that prohibits using copyrighted material without permission. If it does, you can file a complaint with the company hosting the site. Be forewarned that people online can be pretty nasty about others who deny them their use of your image.

If the image takedown request fails, about all you can do at this point is get a lawyer and sue the individual. Even then, chances are that unless you can prove the person's use of your image has harmed your ability to make money from it, their use could fit under what is known as fair use.

Fair use states that copyrighted material can be used for criticism, commentary, reporting, teaching, and research, depending on whether ...

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