Skip to main content

Legal Use of Software or Website Screenshots

Since I have started writing this blog and publishing to the "public" internet, questions that I never really thought of before and took for granted have started to enter my mind. One of the questions I had was concerning the legal use of software screenshots in a blog or other public publication. I am not a lawyer and I do not really have the means to hire my own copyright lawyer so I headed off to Google to do some research into the use of  screenshots.

Generally screenshots of software or websites are covered by copyright, however in the U.S. there is a rule called "Fair Use" which allows for the criticism, review, news reporting, teaching and research of a copyrighted work without getting permission from the copyright holder. Wikipedia has an excellent entry about "Fair Use", and there is also a mention of copyright issues in regards to screenshots on the Wikipedia entry for screenshots.

Now copyright law is full of shades of grey and one persons interpretation of a law could be completely different from another, so if you want to play it really safe, just ask the copyright owner for permission to use their screenshots.  If you are using the screenshots as part of a "how to" tutorial then most of the time they would be thrilled for the free publicity, just be sure to be honest in how you will be using their screenshots.

If you do some searching on the internet then you may not necessarily have to go through the hassle of contacting the copyright owners for permission (especially larger software/internet companies). A lot of wise companies do not want to waste time on answering copyright requests and have posted guidelines for the acceptable use of screenshots on their websites. Below I have posted some summaries of Google's, Microsofts, Yahoo's and Abobe's screenshot policy.

Google Screenshot Policy:

Google takes a liberal common sense approach to use of their screenshots. Basically you can use them for illustrative or instructional purposes. From their website examples it appears that some minor alterations are acceptable (eg: you want to circle an area of a Google screenshot to highlight a feature).  You can not use them in a way that implies that Google endorses yourself or your products.  This is common sense. Their policy is fair for everyone and is another reason why I believe Google is a well run company.

Microsoft Screenshot Policy:

The guys from Redmond have a slightly more restrictive policy than Google. You are allowed to use their screenshots except if the use is obscene or pornographic and you can not use Microsoft screenshots for comparative advertising.  This is fair enough, but as you drill down further into their screenshot policy you find some more restrictions. You are not allowed to use screenshots of beta software. You can not use portions of a screenshot (this seems to be a common policy - why not?), you must include an attribution statement, stating Microsoft gave you permission to use your screenshots and you can not use screenshots that contain an image of an identifiable person (that's a good policy I think). Their are other restrictions as well and you can click the link above to read Microsoft's full policy.

Yahoo Screenshot Policy:

In a nutshell is very restrictive. You can not use screenshots of Yahoo products without first filling out their permission request form, and asking for their permission. Boo on Yahoo.

Adobe's Screenshot Policy:

Adobe's policy is very similar to Microsofts (maybe they hired the same law firm). According to Adobe's guidelines you can't use portions of a screenshot (again - why not?) without Adobe's permission. You can not use screenshots that contain third party images. The obvious no pornographic or obscene use.  You must attribute the image to Adobe, and you can not imply that Adobe sponsors you or supports you. Again their are others restrictions and you can click the link above for their full policy.

Now remember that corporate policy is not the same as legal law. Meaning that just because a company does not want you to do something does not mean that you can not legally do it.

I am definitely not a lawyer but I believe that most uses of screenshots on a blog that are used for instructional, illustrative or review purposes would fall under the "Fair Use" guidelines and requesting copyright permission is not required. This is just my laymen's interpretation. You should use your own judgement

Basically trust your gut and your morals. If your gut tells you are stealing someone else's work than save yourself the anxiety and don't publish it or ask the company for permission.

Hope this information was helpful.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Add Speed Dial Button to Opera Toolbar

One of the best features of Opera is the speed dial page.  Unfortunately you can not set the speed dial page as your homepage, but you can set the speed dial to open when you start up the Opera browser or when you open a new tab. However, sometimes you may want to open the speed dial page from an existing tab without having to open a new one. You can easily accomplish this by adding a custom button to Opera's toolbar. To add a custom speed dial to Opera's toolbar, do the following: 1.) Navigate your browser to the Drag'n'drop buttons for Opera webpage. 2.) Scroll down to the example section of the webpage where you will see two choices for a speed dial button. Either button will work, so the choice is yours. 3.) Click and drag one of the speed dial buttons to the Opera toolbar, click "ok" and you're done. Sources: Customizing Opera

How to Setup Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound in VLC

Here's how to setup VLC media player for Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound output through your computer's coaxial or optical digital audio output: 1) Launch VLC and click on the "Tools" menu and select "Preferences". 2) Once on the "Preferences" page select the "Audio" tab on the left hand side of the page. 3) Place a check mark next to "Enable audio" and "Use S/PDIF when available".  For the "Force detection of Dolby Surround" setting choose Auto and under the "Output" section, choose "Win32 waveOut extension output" as output type. The rest of the settings are optional.                                                                                                       4) Restart VLC and your done.

Prevent Windows 8 Upgrade from Asking for Activation after Installation

Recently I finished upgrading a PC from Windows 7 to Windows 8 Pro. I had downloaded an upgrade of Windows 8 Pro using Microsoft's Windows 8 upgrade offer that gives current Windows users the ability to purchase an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99 until January 31st 2012. I had also bought a new SSD hard drive for the same computer and I thought I could just do a clean install of Windows 8 Pro on to the new SSD using the upgrade disc. I installed the new SSD drive and put in the Windows 8 Pro Upgrade disc. The upgrade instructions asked for a product key which I entered, after which Windows 8 installed and I was able to boot into Windows 8 Pro. All was well until shortly afterwards when Windows 8 Pro  said to enter a product key again in order to be able to personalize Windows. I tried entering the same product key that I had entered when I installed Windows 8 Pro but Windows 8 Pro said the product key was not valid. After several tries making sure their was not any typos I