How do websites get away with attaching rights to images that were/are in the public domain?
I've seen images on various websites that have "rights reserved" or "licensing required" and yet some are public domain images in WikimediaCommons. There are also images that I suspect are in the public domain but can't find them labeled as such (e.g. World War 1 images that were published during the war). Is it possible for public domain images-- or images that the copyright has expired-- to somehow be grabbed by a company or person and impose licensing fees. I see this situation quite frequently (Flickr, for example). Would physical possession of the public domain photo make any difference?
That rights reserved stuff is pretty much automatic it doesn't give them actual sole rights to the image. Though even if it is public domain you still may have to give source credit to the original poster even with wikimedia photos.
When I lost my job, I published a newsletter which consisted of the first two or three paragraphs of news stories from various newspapers, websites, magazines, etc, with the link or source. I would sometims include a picture.
I stated that the publication had a copyright that belonged to me. My copyright was for that particular collection of stories, the logo I had created and the format.
I was not claiming the copyrights to the news stories, but was using the fair practice of quoting only a small portion and then citing the source.
So if a website indicates a copyright, it is applying it to the layout and the original content. It may be using some material from the public domain, which would not fall under the website's copyright claim.
When I use a photo or illustration from Clipart.com, I write it out as: Deb Melian, CC BY-NC-ND, Clipart.com. I own the rights to the photo because of my subscription, but am not able to sell the clip art or any subscription, etc. But I can do so because I paid for that right. If someone takes a photo, and I have done this also, I notate it as follows: Deb Melian, Copyright 2012, All Rights Reserved. This is because I did the work, processed the picture, etc.
However, when one claims rights to a photo that they didn't purchase, subscribe, or even take, I can't see how they can claim rights to it, no matter if it is in public domain. The only way they can do so is if they have taken that photo, drawing, or illustration and modified it from its original format, then they can do so legally.
HubPages is very clear on giving credit where credit is due. There is even a HubPages LearningCenter Hub on: A Guide to Proper Image Use on HubPages http://hubpages.com/learningcenter/legal-image-use It is worthwhile for every Hubber to be acquainted with this, as our work does reach out across the World Wide Web.
So the long and short of your question is that, no, one should not claim rights to an image without giving credit to the site, person, organization, etc, as to where it came from, unless they themselves created it in the first place.
I guess I must be dense, but here's another example. I've quoted what an organization says about the images they have posted on Flicker:
"...[the organization] is unaware of any current copyright restrictions on these images either because the copyright is waived or the term of copyright has expired.
Commercial use of images is not permitted. Applications for commercial use or for higher quality reproductions should be made to [the organization]..."
So... how can the organization control who does what with the images when they themselves admit the images are not under copyright anymore? Are the images in the public domain if the copyright has expired? And if they are public domain, how can anyone control or gain control over the images?
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