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Aletta de Wal
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Technology: How to Use Images-Music-Text from the Web - Legally

New Series! Tech Tools for Non-Geek Artists

Carole, an artist I work with, put together a wonderful slide show of her work to use for her workshop, and she asked us to convert it to a video for YouTube and her website.

When I viewed the video, I was awestruck at the great job she did. It had beautiful high resolution images, poignant text, and haunting background music.  

I asked her about the music. She said, "Oh, it's from the Forrest Gump movie."  Uh oh. Red flag. Turns out she just didn't realize that she couldn't use the music without permission. Other people on YouTube are using it, she figured it was OK.

I explained that, just like her artwork, no author, artist or photographer wants people to use their work without permission. She just didn't realize. She's not the exception, most people see or hear things on the Internet and assume it's OK to use them.  It's not, not without permission of the creator or copyright holder.

On the composer's website we found a link to his agency, and I contacted them about permission to use the music and was informed that Sony owns the copyright, not the composer. We decided not to pursue it, it's unlikely that Sony would give permission.

Solution: We found similar royalty-free music and got authorization (we paid a fee) to use it.

Just because it's on the Internet does NOT mean it's OK to use. Lots of people use images, music and text illegally. Not a good idea. It's illegal. Not ethical. If they come after you, there can be a world of pain and expense. Would you want people using images of your art on their websites and on their merchandise without your permission, and without compensating you?  Didn't think so. What to do?

  • When I need an image, the first place I go to check is the Microsoft Clipart Gallery. I own and use Microsoft products, so the images are free for me to use. Go to  The selection is sometimes limited, but it's worth a look since it's free.
  • Next, I will use a stock image website to purchase something to use legally. My favorite is I have an account and buy "credits" in bulk to save, and I use their discount coupons they send in the email. Images for web use are inexpensive (a few dollars). There are high resolution images that cost more. They also have audio and video you can purchase, all legal to use.
  • For music, same thing. Use a royalty-free website. Again, Microsoft offers free (short) sound bites. iStock also offers audio. For entire songs or background music, one of my favorites is    
  • For music/images/text you're not sure about, contact the owner. Check their website, contact them, get their permission in writing. You can also do a search at the U.S. Copyright Office to find out who owns the copyright.

Whatever you do, always read the fine print to make sure you are using it legally. Some uses are permitted, some not. You won't know until you check. There are different types of copyright, some allow you to use the music/image/text if you give credit, some don't without written permission. For example, something with a Creative Commons copyright may allow you to use the work under certain circumstances.  Again, always check to make sure.

All my best to you and yours,




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