The same copyright rules apply to Web-based images as printed images. Just because the image is only on the web doesn't make it okay to take it.
Creative Commons was created by a lawyer to give online producers a way to share their work freely on the net. It offers several levels of protection to producers.
See the details below.
Copyright is explained as “a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of ‘original works of authorship,’ including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works” by the United States Copyright Office. This protection is applied to both published and unpublished works.
It is up to all members of the SUA community to know and abide by the copyright laws. Individuals breaking the copyright laws risk exposing the university and themselves to large fines. Willful copyright infringement carries a fine of up to $150,000 in civil statutory damages per item in the academic environment where there is no commercial gain (17 U.S.C. § 504 (c)(2)). However, with the new CASE act, this dollar amount may be much higher depending on the case, the law broken, and the individuals and work involved.
Although all library staff and patrons are advised to make a good faith effort and exercise good judgment to comply with the law, the responsibility of obeying copyright laws rests with each individual. It is in the SUA community’s interest as authors and prospective authors to respect copyright restrictions. The copyright law guides library service policies and procedures. However, these policies do not have the force of law.
There is an alternative to federal copyright codes that can be used by producers of art and writing online.
The Creative Commons license was created by Lawrence Lessig, lawyer, to give online producers a way to share their work freely on the net. It offers several levels of protection to producers: Attribution, Attribution-NoDerivs, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, Attribution-ShareAlik , Attribution-NonCommercial, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs.
At http://creativecommons.org/ you can search in different online images databases that have images that have been given copyright permissions by their producers.
“Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to keep their copyright while allowing certain uses of their work — a “some rights reserved” approach to copyright — which makes their creative, educational, and scientific content instantly more compatible with the full potential of the internet. The combination of our tools and our users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law. We’ve worked with copyright experts around the world to make sure our licenses are legally solid, globally applicable, and responsive to our users’ needs.” From Creative Commons website