There are many forms of content on the Internet: text, pictures, music, movies, games, etc. We are all accustomed to seeing these different pieces put together to form a whole. When we write a blog post, Ning makes it easy to add pictures. And when people view our blog posts, Ning displays the text and pictures all at the same time. What you might not know is that your pictures can be accessed independent of the blog post. When this happens, it can be harder to answer the question whose picture is this?

As discussed in Who owns my stuff?, you already know that you own your content. Other people might know somebody owns it, but have no idea who that person is. Or perhaps they'll assume it's public domain and they can use it any way they please. It's happened before.

The simplest answer to this problem is to add a notice of ownership in your pictures. Do this before you upload your images. Here's how to do it on different OSes:

Windows: Right click the image and select "Properties." A new window will appear with "General" and "Summary" tabs. Click on the Summary tab. You will see many blank fields: Title, Subject, Author, Comments, etc (For greater excitement, select the "Advanced" view and see what all your camera is telling people about you).

Linux/GNOME: Right click the image and select "Properties." A new window will pop up with even more tabs. Select the Notes tab. You can also use the gimp to add notes to modified pictures.

Mac: Beats me- if anybody can provide the details I'll add them here.

At this point, you just want to fill in some values. The goal is to:

1. State the image is copyrighted
2. State who owns that copyright
3. State how to get in touch with you

This might be as simple as:

Copyright 2009 Luke Skywalker - luke@jedi.net

More circumspect persons might leave off their full name, but still indicate how to get in touch (Perhaps an URL to your personal DCF page). More sophisticated persons might include a notice of what license the image is being made available under (Creative Commons is nice). By providing this simple information you will answer the "whose picture is this?" question and generally give others an opportunity to do the right thing with your content.

If you have any technical followup questions/comments please add them and I'll update this post as needed. For actual legal advice regarding Copyright, talk to an attorney. Happy blogging.

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For JPEG images, the data field where all this superfluous text is stored is called "EXIF". So if you see something like "Show EXIF data" that's the ticket. You may find it a useful google search phrase, too. Good luck- and if you have some success let us know!

This is SUCH a great and helpful post. The flip of it would be, "How do I know whether it's okay to use that photo?"  A Creative Commons image search is a great place to start (note the varying levels of permissions on the photos you turn up there). In general, images taken before 1923 and images owned by the Federal government are part of the public domain and usable. 

For more specifics on copyright terms, see this chart

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