After I posted the previous entry, I began looking around on Google and found some articles regarding the copyright protection of memes. Most often a meme is created using a random picture found while doing a google search and then adding a verse or saying or even a joke to said picture. While many people will scream yes, using a picture without permission, adding written words to it and then adding a watermark is indeed copyright infringement, it really isn’t.
A very broad definition of a meme is “An idea, behavior, style or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture. Internet memes are a subset of that behavior that takes place online, where people spread a cultural touchstone from person to person, often referred to as going “viral””(Merriam-Webster). And most memes do not raise significant copyright issues at all. Yes, a picture taken by someone else is being used to convey a different personal message. However, most pictures fall under the Fair Use act of the U.S. Copyright Law. Meaning, if the image you are using falls somewhere within the Four Factor test set up by the Copyright office, you more than likely are not violating anyone’s copyright.
One of the best recommendations for using an image that can be considered Fair Use is to use pictures that are of public places, the beach (LOL), a city street, the mountains, but be careful of using a picture of any building designed after 1990. Those buildings are copyrighted. Once you determine how you want to create your meme, be mindful that you own the copyright for your original expression but you do not own copyright over the parts of the picture that are not original to you. So, can you watermark your meme? There are differing opinions on this. Most feel it is safe to use a watermark on an image IF you also add the name of the artist. Others believe that no matter the circumstances, a watermark only protects the image if it completely your original work. Who is right? Both, simply by a matter of circumstances.
So, for me, when I create a meme, I will be giving attribution to the artist/photographer or the person whose words I am using (if they are not my own words) and there won’t be a watermark. If I use a picture that isn’t mine it will either be marked with the artist’s name if I know it or labeled artist unknown, then add my own words or verse or saying, my watermark will be added to protect my words as my intellectual property.
And if you don’t want to be challenged on any of the things you post on Facebook, don’t call someone out for *stealing* your memes simply because you believe they have removed your logo. Unless they really have a good deal of time to spend practically recreating your image, it isn’t simple to remove a watermark or logo. Yes, it can be done. But I’ll bet the images you are screaming about can be found somewhere on the internet with the words you claim and without your logo.