You know that notice I have on my site? The one that says “All free printables are for personal, educational use only. I use a variety of resources often pulled straight from the web and I do not own most of the graphics or photographic content.” Well, I’m rethinking this disclaimer.
I had always thought that under the Fair Use Act, educational use for copyright items like graphics, pictures, and images was pretty permissive. Before I started posting free printable projects on this blog I did some research into copyright law. What I found confirmed what I thought. Initially.
The problem is, I didn’t do enough research and I didn’t find any guidelines or requirements that spelled out what is or isn’t acceptable.
After reading this blog post by a well-known author (link fixed, sorry about that) about her bad experience with a copyright violation, I looked back into the copyright law and tried to dig deeper. All that did was confuse me more because there isn’t a set of hard and fast rules to follow for educational use. Only nebulous suggestions, or specific guidelines for things that aren’t truly applicable for my use.
I’m no lawyer. I don’t know copyright law well enough to say one way or the other. Even so, there are a few points to the Fair Use guidelines I did find that are concerning. Concerning enough that I’m wondering if I should stop posting projects.
I do these projects to help my kids learn. I would love to share them with other people, but not at the price of a lawsuit. I don’t make any money off of sharing this stuff and I attribute whenever possible, but that may not be enough in a judge’s opinion.
This dilemma is especially ironic given that I’ve personally had my work used without permission. Images, and entire blog posts have been lifted by college professors (ironic, no?) and used to teach photography courses. And that’s only the ones that I’ve caught because they were stupid enough to ping back to my blog.
It’s infuriating when someone uses your work without permission. Worse, they claim your work as their own. As much as I hate see it happen to me, I certainly wouldn’t want to actually do this to someone else.
So I’m at a crossroads. I’m not sure what to do from here – how to proceed ethically and morally. The law makes it very difficult to understand what is allowed and what crosses the line into theft.
My gut says to be safe, to avoid any question of illegality. And that makes me sad, because that means I may have to stop posting projects.
Note: this is my image. I know enough to protect my images with a watermark but I also realize anyone with decent editing software can remove it.
Edit: after much research and soul searching, I took down all the posts containing projects with images pulled from the web. Moving forward, any free printable I post will be 100% mine, or use images from Creative Commons or Pixabay.