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You show wisdom of the ages by simply asking the question. In a theoretical way, any item used can lead to losing a lawsuit for infringement, unless there exists written authorization from the copyright holder (written authorization could include following rules on the web, such as is used for things like "creative commons licenses" and their ilk).
You are right that a proclamation of free does not mean it is. And that means that each infringing copy could end up costing thousands of dollars in court-ordered damages for use.
Here are some ways to avoid:
(1) Use graphics from programs that the creator of the publication has licensed. Microsoft's Word and Publisher, for instance, have extensive "clipart" collections that come as part of the package when you buy the software.
(2) Use items at a "creative commons" -- where one registers and agrees to follow the attribution guidelines presented at the site. Unless the creative commons site is fraudulent (and essentially stealing content from others without authorization or payment), then following the procedures specified is pretty safe (although, as indicated, if the site itself is fraudulent, there could be liability -- rare, but possible).
(3) License a graphic cheaply. Some websites will sell licenses to use certain graphics at low prices. For a few dollars it is possible to find what is wanted, and get a written authorization to protect against possible infringement claims (which works, as with item 2, if the site itself is not fraudulent -- rare but possible!)
I wish you and the club every success!
thousands of dollars for each infringement - would anybody really go after a woman in her 70s for a little private newsletter? what if they did and she has no savings - would the put her in jail? for how long? seriously, how likely is it that anything like that could happen anyway?
I guess the fact that the clipart that comes with Word etc is both limited and uninspiring is not really to be considered part of the issue - the fact that I could use inferior clipart for no charge while other sources provide much nicer and more appropriate illustrations that I can easily access but am really not supposed to creates an ethical conflict for me.
what i suppose i could do is get the club to fund whatever membership or registration fee that a downloadable clipart site might charge and try to confine myself to that source.
so anyway thank you for responding - i guess i pretty much already knew what you were going to say, but it was my first foray into buying an answer on this site. so what next.
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