Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thoughts on a Thursday ~ Scratching My Head


NO! I do not have critters. I do have a bad case of the WTF when it comes to some of the shit I have been seeing on Facebook. Of course, this is nothing new, it just seems to be growing and increasing and never ending. And in reality, most of it doesn't directly concern me, so you might wonder why I'm writing about it.

Here's the thing. There seems to be some confusion regarding copyright laws that cover Memes. Yes, I DID write about this once before when this was Aoibheal's Lair. Those posts are archived on the cloud now and for the life of me, I couldn't find the one I searched for most of Wednesday.

Most images that are being used to create a meme fall under the "fair use" doctrine:

The Copyright Act lists four factors to determine whether a use of a copyright work is fair, none of which is determinative:

Most times a meme is created for the purpose of spreading an idea. In general "a meme is an idea, a thought or an element of a culture (an image, quote, symbol, joke, etc.) that spreads throughout society from one person to another virally, i.e., in school, work or the media. Internet memes are typically “viral” videos or graphic images spread over the Web that includes humorous phrases or dialogue added by the creator of the meme" (N/A, 2013). So, when using an image found somewhere on the world wide web it is always common sense to leave the artist's name and watermark on the image. If an artist cannot be found the general consensus is to at the very least mark the image as unknown and then when you locate the artist, edit your image to include their name.

During the month of January, I searched high and low for images with the artists name intact on them because I wanted to create a series of memes using my personal journal entries that I've written over the years. The words on those memes are copyright protected to me, THE WORDS, not the images. As such, I added my watermark and logo to each one I created, all the while making sure that the name of the artist was highly visible to anyone who saw the image.

Of course, there are those who have appointed themselves the copyright police and make sure to raise all sorts of hell with anyone who would defend their memes by calling out another person who may have appropriated said meme and telling them the creation is copyright protected. YES, I KNOW, there are copyright infringements and there is also a bunch of leeway for the making and posting of memes. The biggest factor is that the memes are NOT being used for commercial purposes and there is no money being made off of another person's image.

If an image is trademarked, like something you know is from Disney Studios or Hello Kitty or Keyboard Kat, those cannot be used at all. They are protected by trademark law which is very different from copyright law and the fair use doctrine. This type of image will more than likely, at least cause a notice for take down and at worst a lawsuit.

The bottom line of all the articles I've read seem to say the same thing. Using an image for personal meme creation, one that is NOT for commercial use or monetary gain are less likely to be contacted and slapped with a lawsuit from the owner or agent of the images.

For those of us who write a blog, post a note on Facebook, or create our own memes using an image that falls under the fair use doctrine, the image is not and cannot be copyright protected by us. But, the words are protected. And I know for a fact and from experience that Facebook and Google will not hesitate to send out a DMCA for take down of anything that violates our personal copyright. Does this mean I'm going to stop creating memes and posting them to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and here on my blog? No. I'm going to make sure any image I use has the artist's name or watermark attached, and then and only then will I add my words, my personal watermark and my logo, which once again ONLY PROTECTS MY WORDS on the image. And I'm not going to post any of them for commercial use or monetary gain.

Stim, R. (2005-2015) Measuring Fair Use: The Four Factors, Stanford University Libraries

N/A (2013)  Copyright, Memes and the Perils of Viral Content, Plagiarism Today



  1. I usually use memes that are fair use. I do check to see if anything on the meme is trademarked and I've never had any trouble (knock wood). I use my search engines to find the original owner, which isn't so hard to do, and I always ask if I can use a picture like the one of the Witch drinking coffee, you've seen her on my blog. Many owners are quite happy to grant use of their stuff, just as long as you ask first and promise not to use it for monetary gain.

  2. Exactly! However, there are too many not so ethical people who are either lazy or just don't give a fuck, they take what they want with no regard to anyone else. Unfortunately, this is what the world is coming to. People just don't care anymore ... *sigh*