Posted on Sun, Oct. 30, 2005
tech.life@school | Get free images legally via copyleft
By Joyce Kasman Valenza
For The Inquirer
Most students are aware that they can find a huge number of images using Google's remarkable Image Search.
But the fact that an image is available to us on the Web doesn't really give us the right to copy it and use it indiscriminately. Most Web images are copyrighted and licensed.
New copyright-friendly archives are recognizing and responding to these educational needs while they remove many of the legal and ethical thorns.
Printing or using an image for educational projects is generally not a problem, especially when the student or teacher cites the original source. But republication or broadcast of that image on the Web, on a network, on cable television, or in a virtual learning environment - like online courses transmitted over such courseware platforms as Blackboard or Moodle - generally requires the permission of the creator or owner.
The rule is, when in doubt, ask. But it is not always easy to ask, contact, or even identify the creator or owner of an image.
It's possible to avoid these hassles. Enter the new concept of copyleft, a license that allows creators to maintain a copyright while allowing users the right to reuse, reproduce and change software or files.
In the spirit of the open-source movement, a growing number of new sites encourage the sharing of photographs, clip art and other illustrations.
I discussed this trend with Mark Thomson, founder of Yotophoto.com (http://yotophoto.com), an example of this new breed of image archives. The site began as an experiment, as a way for Wikipedia contributors, bloggers and students to find Wikipedia images more easily.
Thomson said the images found within Wikipedia, especially the historical images, "are usually of considerable value and don't usually share the same problems associated with the Wikipedia text entries - reliability, impartiality, etc. They deserve to be easily located."
Yotophoto now has moved beyond Wikipedia, indexing more than 100,000 free images from a variety of other copyleft archives.
"The spirit of Yotophoto and other copyleft image sites," says Thomson, "is the same spirit that drives the open-source software movement, Wikipedia, and the Creative Commons movement. People like to feel that they are contributing something to a community. ... It makes sense, really: If you've got an excellent picture of a local historical landmark, why not share it with others?"
He also said that recent advances in digital photography make sharing photos much easier for the average person than writing open-source software code or editing a Wikipedia article.
Among the other archives for copyleft or copyright-friendly images:
OpenPhoto, http://openphoto.net/, is an example of a "photo community" offering a collection of "hundreds of stock photos licensed for free commercial and noncommercial use."
Pics4Learning, http://pics.tech4learning.com/, is a copyright-friendly image library designed for use in educational settings. Its thousands of images were donated by students, teachers and amateur photographers.
The Open Clip Art Library: Drawing Together, www.openclipart.org/cgi-bin/navigate, is an archive of "user contributed clip art that can be freely used."
Images of American Political History, http://teachpol.tcnj.edu/amer_pol_hist/, collects 500 images, obtained from government holdings and from published works with expired copyrights, to support teaching.
Government agencies are among the best sources of copyright-free images. The U.S. Government Graphics and Photos (www.firstgov.gov/Topics/Graphics.shtml), a slightly different type of image archives, functions as a portal to government sites offering images, with most items in the collection in the public domain.
For more leads to copyright-friendly image sources, visit http://mciu.org/~spjvweb/cfimages.html.
Remember, copyright is complicated; students and teachers should always read the small print and any special restrictions attached to an individual image.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]