So what is the correct etiquette with blogs and images anyway? It seems like alot of blogs just copy images from other sites when they’re posting... Technically, isn’t using someone else image on your blog copyright infringement? Or does blogging fall under a sort of “understood fair use”?
It's a great question, & I thought I'd use it to explain what Creative Commons licensing is & how it helps with this problem.
First, a little about the fair use provision. Fair use covers things like whether the use is commercial or educational, how much is used, and whether it's part of a review. So if you're using a photo of the artist's work along with a blog post reviewing their work (think Polymer Clay Daily), then there's a pretty fair chance it falls under fair use. Other uses (like maybe a photo collage of Flickr artists' Thanksgiving-themed polymer clay works) would be in a more gray area. Even the U.S. Copyright Office admits that the fair use rules are pretty unclear and cautions that it's safest to get permission first. So the best thing for a blogger to do, as Christy later concluded, is to go ahead & get in touch with the artist & make sure they're okay with your use.
But as an artist, what if you are okay with people using your work? Let's say you're always happy to have people write about your work on their blogs or include your photos in photo collages, without needing to contact you first for permission?
Well, that's where Creative Commons licenses come in handy. Creative Commons gives you an easy way, as the creator, to communicate to others what uses you're okay with.
Licensing your work with Creative Commons doesn't affect your copyright. (And on a separate note, your copyright/license for the photo itself is separate from your rights to the item or artwork you're photographing — but I won't get into that now.) Here's a bit from the Creative Commons site:
"Offering your work under a Creative Commons license does not mean giving up your copyright. It means offering some of your rights to any member of the public but only on certain conditions."
Essentially it's a shortcut — a way to publicly announce (without someone having to contact you first for permission) what types of use you're okay with. There's a wide selection of licenses: you can choose to only let people use your work non-commercially and only if they give you attribution (I typically use one of these, BTW). Alternatively, you could choose to make your photos available for anyone to use for any purpose, even commercial. Or there's a variety of options in between.
So the reason I use Creative Commons on my Flickr photos? It's an easy way for me as an artist to say I'm happy for you to use my photos on your blog, as long as you give me attribution. And as a blogger, I try to be careful to only use others' photos that also have a Creative Commons license — because if they've already spelled out what they're okay with, I don't have to either contact them or make possibly-incorrect assumptions.
Convinced you should change the licensing on your Flickr photos? On an individual photo's page, look under the "Additional Information" section in the sidebar. It'll probably say "All rights reserved (edit)." Use the edit link to choose a new license. You can also change a whole batch using the organizer tool, and/or set your defaults to affect all future photo uploads.
Feel differently about using Creative Commons? I'd love to hear your thoughts...
Standard Disclaimer: While I believe the above information is correct, I'm not a lawyer — so please don't construe this post as legal advice. Consider contacting an attorney if you have a specific intellectual property question or concern.