What Pictures Am I Legally Allowed To Put On YouTube?
January 22, 2010 12:02 PM   Subscribe

What guidelines should I use re: copyrights and privacy when putting pictures on YouTube to "illustrate" my songs? I don't want to be sued or go to prison.

I am starting to "illustrate" my songs so that my YouTube videos will be actual videos and not just audios. I understand I can't just copy pictures "off" the Web (or from any other source) that are copyrighted.

But what pictures CAN I use? Today I was reading about some "appropriation artist" who "re-photographed" old pictures of animals (from copyrighted books) and these were cut up in sort of collages and framed and they are being shown (and, presumably, are for sale) at an art gallery in NYC. How come they can do that? How come some artists can paint pictures of Mickey Mouse and that's just fine?

What about taking pictures of strangers at random in the street? Could I put them on YouTube? How come we see photographs of random people in newspapers all the time (in crowd scenes), but sometimes on TV (e.g. on reality shows*) you see that passersby have been blurred so you can't see their faces? (also license plates)?

What can I do, and what can't I do? For example, I have this song where I'd like to get some illustrations depicting evolution. But these are all copyrighted, so I can't use them, right? (I'm certainly not going to write to anybody to get permission. That's completely impractical when we're talking about publishers. I am just an amateur.)

P.S. I wish I could draw, but I can't.

Any discussion of this would be very helpful! thank you


*I know some of us do; we shall certainly remain nameless
posted by DMelanogaster to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
 
Go to flickr and do an Advanced Search in Everyone's Uploads using the Creative Commons filter. It will bring back only photos that can be reused in various ways, For Profit, Not For Profit, Can Be Manipulated, Can't Be Manipulated, etc.

Hope this helps!
posted by willmize at 12:09 PM on January 22, 2010


This thread should help you find photos you can use.
posted by fings at 12:31 PM on January 22, 2010


Creative Commons searches are probably the cheapest route you're going to get, although most of them require attribution so you need to keep that in mind.

As for other photos you can buy stock photography that come with subject releases (where people in photos have ok'ed the distribution of the image for whatever purpose). There are some stock photography websites that have really cheap photos but they say in their disclaimer that they don't guarantee those releases. I work on a web team and we have found that sites that do guarantee those releases tend to be much more expensive (Like Getty Images) than the ones that don't. As a professional organization, we pay the extra money. You will have to assess the risk for a personal project.

If I were you, I would probably stay away from published and copyrighted materials. However, if you see something you really like from someone's website, you have nothing to lose by emailing them and asking. We post photos and other images that we produce and we often give people permission to use them as long as they credit us somewhere.
posted by Kimberly at 12:33 PM on January 22, 2010


Today I was reading about some "appropriation artist" who "re-photographed" old pictures of animals (from copyrighted books) and these were cut up in sort of collages and framed and they are being shown (and, presumably, are for sale) at an art gallery in NYC. How come they can do that?

Three possibilities come to mind:
1. They got permission
2. The copyright owner doesn't know about it
3. The copyright owner knows about it, and doesn't care

I'm certainly not going to write to anybody to get permission. That's completely impractical when we're talking about publishers.

Sending off a quick email is "completely impractical?" I would think it would be more like "mildly inconvenient," but if you want to avoid even "mildly inconvenient," then I second willmize's advice to check out the Creative Commons searches on Flickr.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:34 PM on January 22, 2010


I don't want to be sued or go to prison.
Neither will happen. At most, you'll get a takedown notice (or, more likely, Youtube will, and they'll take it down). You cannot go to prison for this.

Today I was reading about some "appropriation artist" who "re-photographed" old pictures of animals (from copyrighted books) and these were cut up in sort of collages and framed and they are being shown (and, presumably, are for sale) at an art gallery in NYC. How come they can do that? How come some artists can paint pictures of Mickey Mouse and that's just fine?


Art is often considered transformative or parody under copyright law, but this won't apply to your Youtube video (unless you go to court and fight to make it apply). You can show Mickey fucking Uncle Sam in the ass, because of the 1st amendment. But you can't just paint Mickey and sell it unless you're Warhol (yes, "transformative" is in the eye of the beholder, and the courts).

What about taking pictures of strangers at random in the street? Could I put them on YouTube?

Yes. Half of Youtube includes video of random people on the street.

How come we see photographs of random people in newspapers all the time (in crowd scenes), but sometimes on TV (e.g. on reality shows*) you see that passersby have been blurred so you can't see their faces? (also license plates)?

Previously, here and here.

What can I do, and what can't I do?

Start here. This might also be helpful.

It's a very sticky subject, without a lot of answers. A number of factors must be weighed in order to determine Fair Use, and the courts have the final say. Willmize has the right idea -- try to just find images that are out-of-copyright or licensed for non-commercial use (assuming your use is non-commercial).

You might also find good stuff pre-1923, in which case it would definitely be in the public domain.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:38 PM on January 22, 2010


Thank you, these are ALL great answers! You are all my favorites!

No, actually my favorite sentence was "You cannot go to prison for this."
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:25 PM on January 22, 2010


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