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The answer may surprise you

It takes an awful lot to get The Legal Genealogist to like Microsoft but one of today’s questions from reader Lynda Peach, who’s launched a blog at idogenealogy.net, is going to come very close…

Here’s what she asks:

I’ve just gone live with my new blog(site), http://idogenealogy.net, and have a question about images. I’m very aware of copyright on images BUT given that I have affiliates listed on the site — is my site now COMMERCIAL? And second question, I own a legal copy of Office 2010. If I create an image from clipart that is part of the offerings from Microsoft to Word 2010, can I use my modified image on idogenealogy.net legally?

Microsoft clip art

These are both great questions.

Let’s take the easy question — the Microsoft question — first, today. We’ll tackle the harder question — commercial vs. non-commercial — next week.

Whenever you buy a software package like Microsoft Office, or a single program like Word, you’re bound by the license that comes with the software. Microsoft says so specifically on its website:

“You may only copy, modify, distribute, display, license, or sell the content if you are granted explicit permission within the End-User License Agreement (EULA) or License Terms that accompany the content or are provided in the following guidelines.”1

And, frankly, I was surprised to see that the license that comes with Microsoft Office 2010 and Word 2010 (it’s the same for both) is quite liberal in allowing most uses of the clip art and other goodies that come with the software:

Media Elements and Templates. You may have access to media images, clip art, animations, sounds, music, video clips, templates and other forms of content (“media elements”) provided with the software or as part of a service associated with the software. You may copy and use the media elements in projects and documents. You may not (i) sell, license or distribute copies of the media elements by themselves or as a product if the primary value of the product is the media elements; (ii) grant your customers rights to further license or distribute the media elements; (iii) license or distribute for commercial purposes media elements that include the representation of identifiable individuals, governments, logos, trademarks, or emblems or use these types of images in ways that could imply an endorsement or association with your product, entity or activity; or (iv) create obscene or scandalous works using the media elements.2

Under these terms, everybody who owns the software is allowed to “copy and use the media elements in projects and documents.” And those media elements include “images, clip art, animations, sounds, music, video clips, templates and other forms of content.” You can’t get much broader than that, and with no online-vs.-offline limits, a blog sure ought to be a project and a blog post a document.

And under these terms, there are only four things you can’t do:

• (1) You can’t resell an image or clip art or other media content itself. And that means you can’t create a product from that media content where the only real value of the product is from the media content. (A dish towel with photo, for example.)

• (2) You can’t give anybody else permission to use the content by itself. You can certainly give someone permission to reprint your blog post. You just can’t tell someone else it’s okay to use the clip art for their own purposes, by itself.

• (3) You can’t use anything that shows “identifiable individuals, governments, logos, trademarks, or emblems” in any way that might make it seem that they’re associated with you or endorsing you or what you’re doing or saying.

• (4) You can’t “create obscene or scandalous works using the media elements.” ‘Nuff said there.

Wow.

Those are about the broadest terms I’ve ever seen for this sort of content from a commercial source.

And it gets better. Because Microsoft has a lot of content online on its Office.com website with equally liberal terms of use3 — even if you don’t own the Microsoft Office software:

8.1. Office.com and Office Web App media elements and templates. If you use Microsoft Office.com or the Microsoft Office Web Apps, you may have access to media images, clip art, animations, sounds, music, video clips, templates, and other forms of content (“media elements”) provided with the software available on Office.com or as part of services associated with the software. You may copy and use the media elements in projects and documents. You may not (i) sell, license, or distribute copies of the media elements by themselves or as a product if the primary value of the product is the media elements; (ii) grant your customers rights to further license or distribute the media elements; (iii) license or distribute for commercial purposes media elements that include the representation of identifiable individuals, governments, logos, trademarks, or emblems or use these types of images in ways that could imply an endorsement or association with your product, entity or activity; or (iv) create obscene works using the media elements.4

Wow again.

There are all kinds of images, clip art, templates and more at Office.com and they’re all up for grabs as long as you don’t do one of those four things Microsoft says you can’t do.

Lynda, I may never like Internet Explorer. I may growl at Windows 8. But your question comes awfully close to making me smile at Microsoft. So yes, indeed, you can create an image from clip art in Word 2010 and use your modified image on idogenealogy.net.

Looking forward to seeing what you do with it! (And look for that commercial vs. non-commercial question next week.)


SOURCES

  1. Use of Microsoft Copyrighted Content,” Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com/ : accessed 24 Jan 2013).
  2. The End User License Terms for all Microsoft products are available through its drop-down system, “Find End User License Terms for Microsoft Software Licensed by Microsoft or the Computer Manufacturer.”
  3. Terms of use, remember, are “the limits somebody who owns something you want to see or copy or use puts on whether or not he’ll let you see or copy or use it.” Judy G. Russell, “A terms of use intro,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 27 Apr 2012 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 24 Jan 2013).
  4. Microsoft Services Agreement,” Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com/ : accessed 24 Jan 2013).
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