Everyone's been guilty of it from time to time. You find an image that you like online and you post it to your social media account, or maybe you add it to your blog for all your friends to read. Unfortunately if you didn’t track down the creator and get permission you probably stole it. So how are you supposed to know what's up for grabs on the Internet, and what's intellectual property?
When it comes to photographs, anything published before 1923 is in the public domain, which means you can use it however you wish. Anything published between 1922 and 1978 is protected for 95 years from the date of first publication. Anything created after 1978 is protected for the lifetime of the creator, plus 70 years. Copyright automatically attaches to any creative work upon creation, whether that work is published or unpublished, registered or unregistered. That means the owner of the creative work has the exclusive right to reproduce or display the work, change the work or base other work off it, and profit from any related effort.
If you want to use photography in particular that isn’t yours, your options include looking for public domain photos, looking for something with Creative Commons permissions, or obtaining permission from the original author.
Learn more about online image theft from this infographic.