Guidelines on Copyright Standards in SteemSTEM

in steemstem •  7 months ago


NO attribution required!

It's come to our attention that more information is needed when it comes to the complex system of copyright law in the SteemSTEM community and Steem on the whole.

If you've used images in your posts, the chances are you've broken copyright law in some way without even knowing; you'd need to be a professional to truly get it right. It's very complicated.

Furthermore, different countries around the world have different stances on the matter, from 'Copywhat?' in China, to 'I'll sue you for everything you've got' in the USA. With that in mind, it's far better for us to just play it safe and spend a few minutes understanding our position in the legal framework of blogging.

Why bother?

For most people, the idea of getting away with it is a tempting one, and the reality is, you probably will - until you don't.

As Steemit grows more into the public eye, legal issues will become an increasingly dominant issue, with lawyers actively seeking out such breaches of law for their clients, and artists expressing increasing frustration for a website that has already earnt the reputation of a lawless community.

The idea here is twofold:

  • To stop the habit of copyright infringement before its roots take hold and you suddenly find yourself in trouble a few months from now

  • To prevent potential liability of others in the community's unwitting felonious acts.

Given that we all have a different level of understanding of what copyright actually is, I'll start from the bottom and work my way up:

What is copyright?

Copyright is a legal right. When an image has copyright, the creator has a limited period where they have exclusive rights to said image, if they wish.

What many people don't know is that copyright is established as soon as the image is created. As soon as you throw a tub of paint onto the canvas, that has copyright law attached. Because it is a right, there is no need to go to some public office to get your paperwork approved legally or anything like that. It just is.

It is up to the original owner to decide how their work is to be treated, distributed or manipulated and this is something you should look out for when taking images from the internet. So here's a guide to keep in mind in the future:

Public Domain

This is hopefully where most us Steemians will be spending our time, but we need to distinguish between images that are copyrighted, and ones that are public domain - material exempt from copyright law such as names, idioms, memes (for all intents and purposes), government work and so on.

With Google, you can quite easily find the advanced usage rights options in image search which often (but not always) provide Public Domain imagery

Simply go to Images --> Tools --> Usage rights --> Labeled for reuse, and this will likely lead you to images from sites such as Pixabay, Flickr and Wiki Commons:

But even these websites abide by the following system:

Creative Commons

Creative commons licensing is not simply applying the right to do whatever you want with an image and make sweet, sweet STEEM from it. It is simply a non-profit Organization in the USA designed to expand legal use of creative material.

Their licenses are found everywhere - including Wikipedia - and come in numerous forms you should be sure to check:

  • CC0 is equivalent to public domain.

  • Attribution (BY) allows the same rights as public domain including for commercial use - as long as you give credit to the original author

  • ShareAlike (SA) allows you to do the same, but any variation or manipulation thereof must abide by the same open terms as the original.

  • Noncommercial (NC) is pretty much what it sounds like. You can share it as much as you want - without making money from it.

  • NoDerivatives (ND) limits usage to purely the original state. Modification is not allowed unless permission is otherwise granted.

You may see combinations of these states of copyright, for example you might find BY-ND, which allows you to share only the original work, but permits commercial usage. Or you might see BY-NC-ND which means you have to credit the author, you cannot manipulate the image, and you cannot make money from it.


You can find the info on the bottom right of images in wikicommons. This image can be used however you please, but cannot have extra rights added to it and the author - Аркадий Зарубин (Arkady Zarubin? My Russian is rusty) - must be credited

Fair Use

This is kind of the exceptions to the rule of copyright, and it's where a lot of grey area kind of sits awkwardly, waiting for somebody to slip up. Mistakes here can be found all over the Internet from YouTube to, well, Steemit.

Fair Use allows limited, commercial use of images and words for the purpose of research, education or even simply to benefit the public as a whole.

When it comes to commercial use, this really boils down to a case-by-case basis, and if you're using specific images you can't otherwise find on Google, it's a good idea to check the website's FAQ section or contact the owners themselves. Each website and company will likely allow varying degrees of usage, so it's important to check if you're not sure.

In the case of sciencex.com:

Students, teachers and professors are free to use, reproduce articles and copy Science X content for academic purposes without obtaining prior written approval. The only request is users shall provide a credit and source URL link of the original Science X article.

Users may copy, transfer or reproduce up to 200 words of an article or story and then insert a hyperlink back to the original Science X content. By following these steps, no prior written or oral permission is required.Source

In the case of the comic XKCD:

you're free to copy and share these comics (but not to sell them).Source

And in the case of YouTube, well, there is no specified duration of using a video clip in a manner of fair use, but its usage should be sensible, basically.

Open Access Journals

If you are looking for more specific information on STEM-related subjects, it can be an incredibly expensive and annoying process, especially for bloggers who may want to find sources from numerous databases.

That being said, there are tens of thousands of Open Access journals offering hundreds of thousands of articles with no legal boundaries to be limited by.

There are many notable journals to be considered but for the sake of this post you can simply visit The Directory of Open Access Journals, browse the Wikipedia list of Open Access Journals , or search for what you need on Google Scholar and check for copyright details in any given document, usually at the top or bottom of the paper.

It's all too complicated!

Yeah, that's one of the main drivers of copyright theft. Ignorance is bliss right?

But it't not as hard as you think.

Pixabay; right where you can see it
  • Look out for CC0 or public domain images.
  • Use the advanced search tool on Google and briefly check the image rights - for the most part, the results will be acceptable and plentiful.
  • Check the information readily available on the websites you take your images from
  • Contact individuals whose unique images you want to use

And really, you should make sure to credit the image source no matter what. It's just easier this way. But this doesn't protect you from infringement if you don't abide by the above rules. It just helps your case.

DO NOT Simply provide a link to the wikipedia homepage or the fullscreen image of a google result. The goal here is to credit the author/creator. By providing a link to the image on Google, that doesn't provide any clue to who created the image, and so it's a waste of your time. It only takes 5 more seconds to provide the correct link.

In fact, this whole process should really only add a few extra minutes to the work you put in and results in your contribution to the health of Steemit, SteemSTEM's contribution to the academic community and a good, honest day's work.

If when writing a SteemSTEM post you still need help searching for research information that is public domain, or are generally confused about one of the many grey areas, there are plenty of well-informed veterans and willing helpers to guide you in the right direction on our SteemSTEM discord server, which you should have joined by now already, anyway!

Good luck!

-- @mobbs

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