Cannabis, Cohen, and Copyright Infringement

A drum I keep banging on is about using caution when selecting images for articles, posts, and so on. Best disabuse your ownself of the notion that if a picture is on the web, anyone can use it. In fact, everything is copyrighted, whether registered or not. There are many sources of copyright-free images (several are listed here) to keep people out of trouble, but there are some things to keep in mind.

Marijuana cannabis law Cohen lawsuit
Assembled from graphics at Clker clipart.

Before I get to our lesson from Baron Cohen as Borat, there are a few other things that should be mentioned. Some graphics are borderline legal, such as “memes” and so forth. Many are so abundant that rightful owners have pretty much lost control, and may have trouble enforcing the copyright. Also, a low-resolution image is highly unlikely to cause the owner financial loss.

The Fair Use doctrine in these formerly United States is helpful, but it’s best to stay with the safe images as much as possible. (Also, the gray area of modifications to make derivatives can be difficult as well.) Legal challenges get expensive, even if the user is within his or her rights, so I recommend avoiding Fair Use unless standing on firm ground or it’s absolutely necessary. You can see how the Institute for Creation Research applied Fair Use in the fine print under this article.

Many free image sources do not require attribution, but I have a couple of reasons for doing it. One is to promote the photographer or artist and the site, and another is, I admit, for my own protection. If someone gets a burr under his or her saddle because I used a low-resolution image (usually under 100 kb), the attribution and link show that I acted in good faith. Public domain images are very helpful, but some caution is advised there as well if something is comparatively recent.

A fun fact that I learned from the occasionally-reliable Wikipedia: the word vetted and its derivatives came from horse racing.
“Has yon stallion been vetted?”
“Aye, we brought the vet(erinarian) to check him, M’lud”.

I brought that up to say that people can vet a photo image site.

Even with free image sources, we must be extremely careful to avoid giving the appearance that identifiable people in the pictures or brand names are used to imply the endorsement of something, or that they are presented in a bad light.

By the way, I try to avoid using pictures of children and minors. Miners, sure.

Now (at long last) to the huge illustration. Actually, it’s billboard-sized. Baron Cohen’s image was used by a cannabis company to promote their product, and he’s suing. It’s mighty surprising that someone was that stupid. The slightest bit of research would reveal that permission to use the likeness of a person or character must be obtained. Cohen said he doesn’t even smoke doobies, brother.

While that lawsuit is an extreme example, it should also be a reminder on how we use images in our work. Christians need to use extra care because we want to glorify God and do our best. Also, misotheists and others hate us, and look for any excuse to attack, or even bring legal action to waste our time and money.

By Cowboy Bob Sorensen

The most important thing is that Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life. I am a biblical ("young earth") creationists that upholds the truth, inerrancy, and authority of the Bible. Science is fascinating and fun, and theology is a growth process. I will not lay claim to Calvinist or Arminian, and have actually been hated for that.

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