From time to time I am asked about the necessity of clearing rights for copyrighted and trademarked materials used in presentations. A common misconception is that a talk using images and quotes always falls into the fair use category, which is outside the world where copyrights rule. Not so.
Two areas where fair use questions often arise are in the use of YouTube videos and still images found online.
Using YouTube Videos
If you plan to use a YouTube video, be aware that the simple act of placing the video on YouTube does not mean the copyright owner is giving everyone the rights to embed and use it. Click on the share button under the video and check to see if there are any restrictions or limitations on its use. If not, determine whether you feel confident that the original copyright holder actually was the person or entity who placed the video you wish to use on YouTube.
If you feel confident the copyright owner himself placed the video there with the intention of sharing it with the world, then check the video for other legal traps that may present themselves. Are there any trademarks in the video not belonging to the creator of the video? Are there people in the video? Are there children in the video? Ask yourself if those trademarks or the images of people within the video might present hurdles to your legal use. A video may misrepresent the company owning a trademark or the situation captured in the video might be construed as placing a person in a bad light for example. These scenarios may be problematic for you. If you have satisfied yourself that the level of risk involved in using the video is a low one, then you may wish to proceed with embedding it into your presentation. If you do, be sure to give credit to your source and to the copyright holder.
Using Images Found Online
Granted, there is a lot of copying and pasting of copyrighted images, especially with the rise of Pinterest as a social media tool. Remember, online publication falls under the same rules as print publication. A photo does not have to carry a copyright notice to be protected under copyright law. The technology that allows copying and pasting does not have the power to grant rights to copy and paste where others’ creativity is involved. The indiscriminate use of others’ photos can do harm to a professional career and place the copier at some level of legal risk.
There are fair use exceptions to copying for educational purposes, and many presenters and trainers mistakenly assume that these exceptions carry over to any type of presentation before any number of people, at events that require renumeration from its attendees, and for use over and over for any length of time. However, fair-use exceptions for educational purposes are most often applied to in-class use at a non-profit educational institution and have attached restrictions and limitations for even those uses.
There are some great resources for visual content that can be used in presentations. There is a plethora of stock photo sites that charge a minimal fee, and using them you often can locate a photo that perfectly conveys your message. Try Flickr for example. You can click a button under the photo to see any rights and restrictions. The image of the computer projector on this blog is a royalty free stock image purchased from our favorite place, Fotolia. The uses and restrictions, if any, are identified on the download page during the checkout process for Fotolia.
There also are millions of great photos on the Library of Congress site catalogued by theme. Check out http://www.loc.gov/pictures/. And there are sites like The Cartoonist Group at that gives you easy access to cartoons speaking to current issues.
It may take a few extra steps to made your presentation ethical and legal, but don’t you want to end up with a presentation that is risk free and harms no one? You will find often that you have one that is far more engaging than the you had originally planned.
Want More About Copyright Law?
Order your copy of Copyright Clearance for Creatives for a basic overview of copyright law and essential guidelines on when, how, and where to get permission to use copyright content in your works.