Can I use CC0 images on the internet?

If you are worried about infringement or your work has been copied and you want to take action.
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Halie0201
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Can I use CC0 images on the internet?

Post by Halie0201 » Wed Jun 15, 2016 1:21 am

There are a lot of CC0 resources on the internet, such as https://pixabay.com/. On such website, it says that all the images are under CC0 licenses. However, there is one thing: the website cannot guarantee the uploader for CC0 images are the copyright holder. In this case, do I need to confirm every image with the author? If by any chance, the copyright owner is not the uploader, can they sue me for using his pictures? How can I avoid the trouble without contacting the uploader to confirm one by one? Is there any such case happened before?

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Wed Jun 15, 2016 7:01 pm

Hi Halie,

The unfortunate thing is that anyone can find an image they like and upload to any site along with a CC licence and although they may have infringed copyright by copying the image, there is no additional penalty for claiming ownership and applying a CC licence.

Therefore you do have to be careful not to just assume every CC licence is genuine. If you can easily find the original author, then it would certainly be prudent to check with them if they appear to be a different person to the uploader. However it is not always that easy to find the original photographer or artist and so there is a an element of chance involved. The non-attributive nature of the CC0 licence can make it even harder to identify the real owner

Always keep a note of where you got an image from and the licence which was claimed (a screenshot of the page is a good idea), Then if at some later stage you are challenged you can demonstrate the reason you thought it was OK to use the image, although regrettably it is not a defence as such. The good news is that 9 times out of 10, most owners just want an infringing image removed and can't be bothered with going to court as it's expensive and time consuming.

There have certainly been cases involving CC licences (and here) which went to court although I can't think of any in the British courts. The nearest British cases of this type tend to involve defendants who assumed that they had permission to use something without checking or were duped into believing they were doing so legally. In the latter type of case, if the actual uploader can be brought before the court and charged with authorising an infringement, then the 'innocent' defendant may escape having to pay damages. Section 97(1) provides no real help in this situation. Firstly because the defendeant has convince the court that he had "no reason to believe that copyright subsisted" and this is rightly, a high hurdle to surmount. And secondly you can't argue on one hand that you thought you were licensed to use copyright work, and at the same time claim that thing wasn't subject to copyright
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

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