Digital Images


A digital image is a visual article stored in binary code. It may be in bits or in bytes. Examples include bitmapped images (these are encoded as a sequence of bits and bytes with each symbolizing a particular pixel or a part of the image) and vector graphics (these are encoded as equations and/or algorithms symbolizing curves and lines).A digital image can be original, a reproduction or a published reproduction. The web is usually full of creative and practical resources which people can use to improve their projects. Photography is a perfect example. Finding stock digital images plus the existing implementation is usually cheaper, quicker and more convenient than producing one’s own. Whether these images are free or not, they come with a license to ensure fair use.

When a digital image is created, the creator which in this case is a certain website owns it’s copyright. The website controls anyone who uses this digital image in anyway it wishes. For example, the website can allow someone to print a digital image from their stock or use it in a piece of art. Without engaging verbal agreement, the website can distribute its digital images with a license that sets the guidelines for use.

A license is granted by a website to allow usage of its stock digital images. The website may choose to offer its digital images for free or charge a price. In either way, it can still provide a license to limit usage and it still maintains the copyright. If someone buys a digital image from a commercial website does not mean they possess full control to whatever they bought. Licenses determine the number of uses, the boundary within use and sometimes the length of time until the bought license expires.

Fair use

Fair use” is exclusion to the exclusive rights held by the copyright owner of the digital image which is the commercial website. It only exists in some countries like US and UK. Under fair use, using digital images without permission is sometimes possible. A usage defined as fair use does not need a license. Examples of fair use include:

  • Educational purposes, that is for teaching and student research;
  • Giving commentary and criticism in a news report or in a published work.

While only a court of law can authoritatively rule whether a particular use of digital image is fair use, the guidelines for fair use represent the endorser’s opinion of situations under which fair use should generally apply and maybe examples when permission is required.

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Fair use is a legal term and judgment is done case by case.

Public domain

Digital images falling under “public domain” are considered to have no copyright owner. These images can be used, modified and redistributed. If a commercial website forfeits its copyright, it can put its digital images in public domain.

Countries have their own interpretation of copyright law. However, there exists agreement between nations. Licenses are found under copyright law, which is not the same as contract

Law Licenses are sometimes limited to certain jurisdictions whereby a digital image may be free in one country while the website owning it reserves all rights other countries.

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