Get your copyright on!
August 31, 2010 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Can I republish repurposed PowerPoint images as political cartoons?

So I put together what I thought was a pithy commentary on a current political issue and was considering sending it off to my alma mater's student paper. The image is a piece of powerpoint clip art ( from the MS Office /Powerpoint website that allows you to directly download art for Powerpoint) with what I hope is reasonably snappy speech coming from the figures in the illustration.

May I submit this to the newspaper as my own cartoon? Is the work copyrighted? Am I plagarizing it? What are the legal and ethical issues with this kind of pastiche? If I can publish it, should I credit Powerpoint?

I thought it may be like Get Your War On, and thus printable, but it's only a single image rather than a clever juxtaposition of images. (I tried making a collage, but the single image works much better.) Thoughts?
posted by abirae to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
All of this information is probably in the licence under which you downloaded the clip art from the website. Where did you get it from, exactly?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:12 PM on August 31, 2010

Thanks Hooks! The website is here but the legal information I found is about using MS Office in general rather than about using the clip art. I think I need a nap.
posted by abirae at 4:30 PM on August 31, 2010

Traditionally, Microsoft is known for not looking kindly on people and entities which infringe upon its copyrights.
posted by ErikaB at 5:00 PM on August 31, 2010

"Clip Art and Sample Art

The End-User License Terms that accompany your software describe the permitted commercial uses of images, clip art, animations, sounds, music, shapes, video clips, and templates that accompanied the product. Find End-User License Terms for Microsoft products.

The Clip Art and Media gallery provides a compilation of artwork. See the use terms for the description of permitted uses. If those terms do not meet your needs, our Clip Art partners at Office Online provide a variety of images you can license directly.

In the absence of language to the contrary in the License Agreement, Sample Art (which includes images customarily found in the "sample" folders within Microsoft operating systems) may be used for personal use only. You may not sell, lease, or distribute Sample Art, or any materials you create that use Sample images, for any commercial purposes."

Although you're not using their clip art for profit (would the school paper pay you?), I think that your use might not be protected. There's plenty of public domain clip art around--how hard would it be to replace the images?
posted by Ideefixe at 5:17 PM on August 31, 2010

But on the other hand, clip art is distributed with Office so that you'll use it in your documents that you presumably show to people other than yourself. If someone downloaded an image from *your* web page and redistributed it, that would be infringement. If someone downloaded an image from a web page that distributes image for the sole purpose of people using them in their own work, then it is no longer infringement.

But read the fine print.
posted by jrockway at 5:19 PM on August 31, 2010

Ideefixe, I actually had a hard time finding legitimately copyright free clip art. There are plenty of websites, but I don't know of any verifiable royalty free sources. Any suggestions?
posted by abirae at 6:00 PM on August 31, 2010

Oooh, ideefixe, you were so right on about the License Terms:


b. Media Elements and Templates. You may copy and use images, clip art,
animations, sounds, music, shapes, video clips and templates provided with the
software and identified for such use in documents and projects that you create.
You may distribute those documents and projects non-commercially. If you wish
to use these media elements or templates for any other purpose, go to to learn whether that use is allowed.

posted by abirae at 6:11 PM on August 31, 2010

PD clip art

Is a student paper a non-commercial entity? Do they sell ads? Do any of their staff get paid or receive stipends?

The possibility of Microsoft hunting you down and sending a cease and desist letter isn't great. If the paper accepts your work, they'll be liable, unless you care to indemnify them.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:12 PM on August 31, 2010

I found this site on the Creative Commons blog. In the past I have also noticed quite a bit of genuinely PD or CC clip art at Wikimedia Commons.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:54 AM on September 1, 2010

Thanks again Ideefixe - the PD Clip are even better than what I was working with - I can easily swap out the PP image for one of these. Thanks.
posted by abirae at 7:58 AM on September 1, 2010

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