Copyright and Fair Use. Part one – images

Copyright and Fair Use. Part one – images

The internet has made things easy to find, and easy to take and use without permission.  As a matter of legal right, and Quakerly integrity, it’s important to think about copyright and fair use concerns when creating media for your own use.  This has become more complicated as everyone now seems to have an easy way to click on a picture or song, and download and use.

Here’s a good basic summary of how and why this applies.  When in doubt, assume the image you want to use (unless you took it yourself) does NOT belong to you, and you need a permission.  “I found it on the internet – it must be free for me to take and use” is NOT fair, or legal.  Also note some photos can be used without altering, others are free to edit and alter, some you may use with attribution, some do not need it.

30 great sites for free public domain photos 

Sources of Stock Photos

(I tend to use Pixabay and Unsplash for my Quaker work)

How do I do this at New England Meeting of Friends?  A number of ways.

I ask for photo permissions all the time!  I see candid snapshots taken by Friends at Quaker events, and we love to show them in NEYM newsletters and media.  “May I use this for NEYM print and online publications, with attribution?” is what I usually ask.  Pro tip: just ask for a general permission.  You may want to use a photo in two years, when you have a new media platform that didn’t exist when you asked for permission!  I then save the photo in google drive, named with the person who gave the permission.

Some Quaker photographers are happy to allow us to use their photos for free – and they watermark their own photos so each one has their name/website right on the photo.  For others, we make sure we assign an “image credit” – our NEYM website will not let you upload a photo without including a credit (safety measure).

Here’s a watermarked photo from Skip Schiel, at – I can’t just “use it” because it has his name on it (lower left corner) – I still need permission to repost (I have it for NEYM purposes).  He links on his website to a slideshow of mine – he reposted it, didn’t alter the work, and linked from the public posting (our NEYM youtube account) – that is also just fine!

Skip Schiel,

Here’s a different example.  In this case, Arnie Alpert, of AFSC New Hampshire, has given me permission to use the photos he posts online from various NH witness and events.  Note in this case I credit him in the image.  I also use the “NEYM” logo as part of the graphic (made with Canva) so when it is shared more widely, we (NEYM) is the creator of the work – and sharing is under our creative commons policy.  That is my work for the YM and our agreement – they “own” that work.  NEYM has given me their various logos and watermarks for this paid work.

A third example I often use is our very popular “quotation posts” – sometimes it’s easier and quicker (and more appropriate) to use a general photograph.  These are the photos I select from Unsplash and other sites for this purpose.  Be careful!  You may see that photo in other places, used in other ways.  They are not unique to you (that’s ok for me).

Our Current New England Yearly Meeting Photography Policy

On Facebook and other social media platforms, there is an even easier way to share photos and news.  On our NEYM Facebook page, I will often simply “reshare” the original public post from another page or person.  It is assumed that the person who made the original post has permissions.  If they are asked to delete it for any reason, (or Facebook deletes it due to copyright violation) it will automatically “disappear” from our NEYM Facebook page as well.

Videos about Copyright concerns for all ages

What questions have arisen for you around this important issue?  Share them in the comments!

4 Replies to “Copyright and Fair Use. Part one – images”

  1. Not so much a question, but one of my areas of expertise as a professionally-trained arts administrator is intellectual property rights. Worldwide, these are administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland, where I was once the delegate of the International Music Council (IMC-UNESCO).

    Please let me offer that I think your advice to your readers is too cautious. Property rights are judged relative to human needs. Quakers especially need to remember this. Just as it is legal to pick a piece of fruit off a neighbor’s tree if you’received hungry, it is normally legal to share someone else’s intellectual property (i.e. work of art) if you don’t intend to profit from it, don’t materially erode the market for it, or are using it to educate others or for charitable purposes. These acts usually fall under ‘Fair Use’ provisions of international copyright law.

    For Quakers, this is particularly relevant when we are making forceful advocacy (as peacekeepers) in issues of great social, political, and economic importance where human rights are at issue, or where human lives are at stake. Your thoughts in such cases don’t need to dwell much on legalities … normally your charitable intent in the use of the work carries you safely into the realm of ‘Fair Use’.

    When copyright owners actually sue to protect their work, it’s normally necessary to prove that the unauthorized use in question has substantially eroded the market for the original work.

    I’m available if Friends wish to ask me any questions about particulars.

    1. Friend John, I do not share your perspective on “fair use” and “intellectual property” and what that implies when it comes to images and copyright law. Attorneys have gotten rich and/or made their livelihoods within this very arena. In my view this article was not “over cautious” at all, but rather was good, basic information for us all. I do agree that recording/taking images of scenes at public events and publishing them in various ways is permissible but the trick is truly knowing what actually is public and what is not. For example, recording and posting a video at a peace rally in a public place is permissible, but recording and posting a video of, for example, a workshop of Quakers at Annual Sessions, is not okay without securing permission. That setting, being a conference, is not a public event at all. In the end, it’s safer and wiser to seek and secure permission. That way everyone sleeps easier at night!

    2. HI John

      Thanks for your thoughts. I disagree with your statement “property rights are judged in relation to human needs” – in terms of these issues. I do not think it is fair or with integrity to use the creations of others without permissions and credit – that is theft. I hear a bit of the “end justifies the means” in your comment – and I would argue that you, as the user, do not get to determine the use. The creator of the art does. As a former musician, I dealt with this a lot with folks using music without permissions (that will be my next post). “Fair use” does not in the legal sense support theft. Charitable intent still carries with it the dilemma of using the creation of another for free. I do see your comments as referring to a more general sense of sharing in activism, a live video of singing at a protest, etc – which might be somewhat different than my focus here.

      I’m curious as to your mention of music – it is my experience (as a music educator involved in national, public productions and sharing) that music copyright has a very specific definition of “fair use”. I have had my fair share of music educators say to me “but it’s ok, it’s for education!” – it is NOT ok. Even background music in a video needs permissions, in an educational setting. The purchase of sheet music for your ensemble entails performance rights – but broadcasting/recording that performance often has additional constraints and permissions

      My experience is that the current law is very clear – limited snippets of music in specific cases. Of course, you are welcome to challenge this if you are led as a Quaker spiritually to be “above” the law. I’m not sure how that would happen. We as Friends are always able to challenge the status quo if led – and we also agree to accept the consequences in the world.

      There’s another issue that has emerged in our new race to new technologies – the ability for many more people to “share” and have access. Fair use laws are grappling with these issues now. On a very practical level – youtube and Facebook will shut down your channel and broadcast capabilities (even during a live broadcast) if there is use of copyrighted music without permissions. Sometimes the algorithm will do this even with permissions. So, if you are posting a photo and calling it “fair use” – you may indeed have to go to court to prove it – and in the meantime, the message you were led to share is not conveyed. I’m not saying we should alter our faithful messages in the world based on control of media platforms by others, but I do recognize once those platforms are shut down, the message stops being shared in that way. A balance for sure!

  2. This is a very useful “evergreen” article! Thank you, Kathleen!
    As a longtime hobbyist photographer myself, and as a person who is the “named” photographer for some NEYM youth retreats, and other Quaker events, my images are sometimes used in NEYM publications. As a Friend myself, I am of course always happy to share my images in this way. But because many, if not most of my images feature children in some way, I always request that it be stated that my images are copyrighted when they are displayed. I also embed my name and a copyright statement in the metadata of each image that I take. I do this to not only claim ownership, but to protect the image and hopefully the persons who may be in the image itself, whether it’s this year or ten years from now.
    Like many other faith-based organizations, NEYM (not to mention monthly meetings) were initially slow in getting up to speed on best practices for publishing images and various media. NEYM’s own Junior High Yearly Meeting retreat program, led by young people themselves, was the first program to develop a media policy and stick with it. Thanks to the more recent leadership of Friends (including Kathleen) at the Yearly Meeting level, Quakers throughout New England can rest assured that proper practices are now in place to protect the privacy of all Friends when their image appears in photos and videos.
    One area still needing work )and education) is when the random Friend (oftentimes a parent!) pulls out their iPhone and starts recording a video and pans a scene with dozens of people in it, pops it on Facebook or YouTube, and then says, “It’s okay for me to do that, right?”

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