So — About That Picture You Downloaded from the Internet…

So — About That Picture You Downloaded from the Internet…

As my staff developed coverage both this year and last to capture the historic 2016 presidential campaign, they found themselves needing high-quality images of the candidates. One of my students said in February 2016, “Well, they’re public figures. Can’t we just download images from the internet, you know, if they’re high quality enough?”  

The answer, due to copyright laws, is of course, “No.”  

Most of the time.

In December 2002, an organization called the Creative Commons released six copyright licenses that allow content creators to find a way to license their work beyond the then-traditional “all rights reserved” copyright that most people are aware of. Now nearly a decade and a half old, the Commons’ licenses give creators the opportunity to share their work, and other creators to access works that might otherwise be unavailable to them.

In our case, our students needed a set of portraits of the Democratic and Republican primary contenders, and we didn’t have the means for a yearbook staff member to capture those images first-hand. Instead, we turned to Google, searching “creative commons candidate portraits,” and found that the first hit was from PetaPixel.com — an article about college student Gage Skidmore. Skidmore, an Arizona State University accounting major, shot and posted tens of thousands of CC-licensed images of the candidates in recent years, and has well over 30 million hits at his Flickr page, where users can download and make use of his images, provided they credit the work under a Creative Commons attribution share-alike, or “CC-BY-SA,” license. Skidmore’s photographs were used by President Trump’s own website, in addition being featured at NPR.org, the Washington Post and via the Associated Press.

Staffs and advisers interested in learning more about the Commons’ licenses can go here:

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

You can see our staff’s primaries and campaign page here:

So — About That Picture You Downloaded from the Internet…

The Creative Commons licenses can be applied to more than just photographs. Our video team at Tesserae has used CC-licensed songs as music beds for our advertisements and other content, sourcing music from the Free Music Archive, BenSound and SoundCloud, among others. Remember that the burden is on you, as the user, to do your homework with each album, song or other creative work to ensure that it is licensed to you under the Creative Commons, and that you do due diligence on crediting the creators with bylines and attribution in your videos, pages, spreads and books.

Mike Simons

Mike Simons

Yearbook Adviser
Corning-Painted Post (NY) HS

I am a father and husband, a lover of dark chocolate and high mountain peaks. There are few things that stir my soul more than fantastic yearbooks and exceptional marching bands, but a really good bowl of broccoli cheddar soup in a sourdough bread bowl might do it.
Mike Simons
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