School Newspaper

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  • The college newspaper where I work frequently uses images and marks them "Photo provided by Google images" or Yahoo. I've raised my concerns that it's not considered fair use, but some people argue that it's a school publication and there's no charge, so it's fine. I'd love to hear some feedback on this.
  • I think that your concerns are valid. Many people think that being in an academic setting gives them carte blanche. The law certainly does favor educational uses, but there are still restrictions.

    There are a lot of resources for public domain or Creative Commons licensed images that might work really well for your college paper, but I think that a complete Fair Use analysis would need to be done for other images. The analysis might vary somewhat from use to use, and I'm making some general assumptions which may or may not be valid, but here's what I come up with, using the Fair Use Checklist linked from our front page:

    Purpose: Educational, perhaps restricted access (to students, faculty). Probably for Fair Use.

    Nature: The images are published (online), and I assume the use would be considered educational. If they're factual in nature, I'd be a lot more comfortable than if they're cute cartoons or other images chosen more for visual impact than for illustrating a factual concept. Maybe for Fair Use, maybe not.

    Amount: It's hard to say. I would imagine that the images are usually complete, but they are published on the web. I would guess that this would likely vary from image to image, but I would tend to argue against Fair Use here unless the image was to illustrate something educational, and not just to break up the text. Probably not for Fair Use.

    Effect: Is the image available for licensing? Have they checked? They're making multiple copies, possibly for a public forum.

    For me, this last part is the kicker. If they're using stuff off the web without even checking if it is available for purchase or licensing, I would tend to think that their use would not be considered fair.

    As I mentioned, I've made some assumptions about your situation. An analysis should be done by someone familiar with the actual situation. Once the analysis is done, then someone at your institution should also think about how likely a copyright holder is to come up with a similar analysis, and how likely they are to do something about it if they don't. It might not be a bad idea if this person were the college's legal counsel, if that's feasible.
  • Google and Yahoo don't provide the vast majority of images; rather, they provide access to those images. The images themselves may or may not be in the public domain. Your use may or may not be a fair use. Since many college and university newspapers have all their content not just in print but freely available on their Web sites, and since even news images are likely to be considered highly creative, I do agree that meeting with your college's legal counsel is a wise idea. I also realize that may be more easily said than done.

    Does your college subscribe to any type of news service expressly for this purpose, such as AP Wire services?
  • Thanks for the responses. The school paper used to subscribe to a service that had articles and images, but it doesn't seem to be right now (if there is a subscription, nothing is being used from them - articles or images). The types of images being used are like if there's an article on cell phones, it looks as if someone did a Google images search and grabbed a picture of a cell phone, instead of taking their own. However, there were also cartoons, like Peanuts, in an issue with the same Google attribute. The Yahoo images are mainly of movie stills or CD covers for reviews. Our school newspaper is also print only - nothing online. I'll pass all of this on to the advisor of the paper, who will hopefully deal with it now.

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