You can have a perfectly functional website without images. But if you compare your site with one that’s just as functional but also uses graphics, you’ll lose. Most people will go to the other site and leave yours gathering dust.
Getting Graphics – for free
Most of us are not artists, and even if I know an artist or three, most of them spend their time using paintbrushes and canvases. Many are not really comfortable with electronic media. So how do average people who want great graphics for their web sites get them? The good news is that excellent graphics are all over the place. In recent years, the World Wide Web has become increasingly graphical, and the quality of those graphics has improved immensely from the early days of the Internet.
Heeding copyrights and credits
Every web browser is a funnel for graphics. Any image that you can see in it, you can download and put on your site. However, you need to consider a few factors before you use graphics. Yes, you can grab every image file that you find. But you can not necessarily use them all without consequences.
When an artist creates an image, that artist owns the copyright to that image. Just like the word says, that gives the artist and the artist alone the right to make copies, electronic or otherwise. The artist can give other people permission to make copies of the image, or even sell the copyright to someone, but unless he or she does so, the artist remains in total control over the image.
Never take legal advice from anyone who spells copy right as copy write. One of the few ways in which someone can lose a copyright is if artists state that they’re placing a work in the public domain, which means that they’re surrendering their copyright and others can do anything that they want with the work. Many people do not understand what public domain means though, and you sometimes run across a statement on a website that says something incredible like, “I retain the copyright to all these images, but I’m placing them in the public domain, so feel free to use them. ” If you find one of the secontradictory disclaimers, and you really want to use the images, your best course is to contact the artist for confirmation on this matter. Typically, you may find five different situations with fine print on an artist’s website, as the following list describes:
The artist states that you can not use the images. Just walk away, you can find plenty of others out there.
The artist states that you can use the images without any conditions on their usage. Go ahead and download to your heart’s content.
The artist states that you can use the images if you do certain things, such as include a link back to the page they’re on or include a copyright notice under the image. Do what the artist asks and use the images.
The artist states that you can use the images freely if you run a non-commercial site but that commercial sites must pay. If you’re commercial and the work is good, pay up, it’s not going to break the bank.
After all, you’re not buying a Picasso original here.
The artist provides no information at all about usage. Either walk away or e-mail the artist to find out the policy first before using any images.
Creating your own images
The easiest way to avoid copyright problems is to make your own images. That way, you own the copyright unless you’re working under contract for someone such as a Web design firm, in which case that company probably owns the copyright.
Programs like Photoshop and Fireworks make it relatively easy for those of us who are not very graphically talented to come up with professional looking images.