Today on Science & Sensibility, contributor Andrea Lythgoe, LCCE, birth doula and photographer shares information about using images and text in your work as a birth professional – for teaching, marketing or other purposes. Using images and other works responsibly is the right thing to do, but you may be confused on how to go about it. Today’s post will help and on Thursday I share information on how to locate materials that you are free to use. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager
When you are a childbirth educator or other birth professional, you may find yourself teaching a class, giving a presentation, designing a website or making attractive handouts and marketing materials. You take great pains to make sure that your work is visually pleasing and attractive.
You may be inclined to find images for your work by quickly searching online for exactly the right picture to get your message across. It’s easy, it’s quick and free.
Photographs, drawings, paintings, music, writing and all other artwork are protected by copyright laws, and you cannot use them without the permission of the artist. Ever. It does not need to say “copyright” in order to be copyrighted. It does not need to be watermarked. It does not need to say “All Rights Reserved.” The copyright exists the moment the work is created. There are serious consequences for taking others’ work without permission.
When you are producing something that will be used for educational purposes, you might wonder if the laws allow you to use copyrighted images under those circumstances. There is an exception to the copyright law called “Fair Use” where it might be acceptable to use them without permission or payment. But what exactly constitutes “fair use” can be very complicated and hazy. I’m not an attorney, but I do have some suggestions to keep you firmly in the realm of safe use.
Don’t use images without permission for commercial use
Don’t use images without permission for anything remotely commercial, unless they are images you acquired under a Creative Commons license. (See this Thursday’s post for more on Creative Commons.) If your web site, blog or social media site is promoting your childbirth classes, you’re advertising a commercial venture. If your handout is used during classes that you’re being paid to teach, that’s profit making and probably not OK. If you’re presenting at a conference and being paid to present – ask permission. Even if you are not being paid, check to see if the conference is going to be selling a recording of your presentation. At the most recent Lamaze International conference, a company recorded audio that was synced to the presenter’s Powerpoint, which was then made available for purchase. Any images in those presentations are therefore being resold for profit. This means you need permission for commercial use of those photos, diagrams, and graphics.
Don’t modify anything without permission
Modifying includes cropping, removing a watermark, turning it black and white, making it part of a collage, adding text to turn it into a meme, or anything else you might be tempted to change. As a birth photographer, I am very careful of my client’s privacy and want to make sure that their family’s personal moments are only used in the ways they are comfortable with. I may turn down a request to use a photo in a meme because the parents declined to allow me to give third parties a right to use it. I might not allow you to use it in a poster because the parents would prefer limited exposure. Imagine how upset the parents could be to come across it somewhere they did not expect it. Consider the difficult position that puts me in – it appears that I have violated their trust in allowing me to share their images at all.
When you are using images with permission, inquire from the photographer or artist how they would like to be credited. Most people will be happy with their name and website (linked if possible) near the picture, so people are aware of the source. Find out how to type the “©” symbol for your particular keyboard/computer/software and use it. Alternately, in your presentation, be sure that the owner of the image is credited on the slide where the image is placed. Printed marketing materials can include information close to the image or in a discreet location at the bottom if appropriate.
Share on social media appropriately
When you see something you want to share on social media, make sure you share rather than download and post as if it were your own. If sharing is blocked, there’s likely a reason! Don’t share from someone who has obviously uploaded other’s content as their own already, either. As a photographer, I’d love it if my images are seen by a wider audience, but I want that audience to be able to know who created the work. I often see beautiful paintings or photos shared without that connection to the artist maintained.
Do not copy and paste text
When it comes to text, don’t ever copy and paste. Writing your own content is crucial to having your own voice. Plagiarizing content is not a victimless offense. I will never forget an experience I had earlier this year when a woman I had been mentoring posted a link to her new web site asking for feedback on the template she used. The wording was mine. It was the wording I’d spent weeks working on to get just right. And just when I thought I had it perfect, I’d had friends and family read and give me feedback. This triggered another round of edits.
And with a simple copy and paste, this woman had stolen my hard work. I must be honest and tell you that it hurt.
Even if you plan to change a few words here and there, that is probably not enough to make it your own. If you’re using enough of someone else’s words that you need to copy and paste, it’s likely too much.
You can quote someone – no more than a paragraph or two – but it needs to be clearly attributed as a quote and should be in the context of your own writing. The OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Perdue University suggests:
“Use quotes that will have the most rhetorical, argumentative impact in your paper; too many direct quotes from sources may weaken your credibility, as though you have nothing to say yourself, and will certainly interfere with your style.”
As you create your web sites, presentations, class materials, marketing pieces and illustrate your own writing with visuals, please remember that artwork, including photographs, is still work, and that the artists have families to feed and clothe as well. They deserve the respect of honoring that work with a respect of their copyright and payment if they request it.
Please don’t look at copyright law as “Can I rationalize this as an acceptable use?” but instead think in terms of “How can I make sure I am using this appropriately?” – As an artist, my livelihood depends on it.
When in doubt, leave it out!
Check back on Science & Sensibility on Thursday, when Sharon Muza will share information and resources on how to find and access Creative Commons images and other works that you might be able to use freely or even modify if needed for your purpose. Let us know in the comments section what challenges you have faced in creating your own presentations and teaching materials, and any solutions you might have found.