Do I Need Permission for Screenshots of Computer Applications?

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buckaroo

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Hello,

I'm writing a computer tip book. I plan to self-publish on Amazon.

I'd like to have screenshots from popular applications such as Microsoft Office, Windows and Google Chrome.

Does anyone know if I need to have permission in order to include screenshots from those applications in my book?
 
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Old Hack

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We can't give legal advice. But in general, you need permission from the copyright holder. So, the person who created the shot.

Make sure you obtain permission to use the works in a commercial setting, which means knowing how the work will be published and where before you seek permission. If you're hoping to get a trade deal then you don't get the screenshots yourself, you speak to your publisher once you have the deal.

Lots of screenshots I've seen are not good enough to use in a book, as they won't print or display properly. Find someone who knows what they're doing to work with you on this.
 

cornflake

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Do they include any logos or proprietary, trademarked or copyrighted images, layout, wording, etc.? Then yes.
 

buckaroo

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Old Hack,

Thanks for the reply!

I can manage the quality of the screenshots myself.
 

buckaroo

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Thanks, Cornflake!

- - - Updated - - -

Jimmymc, thanks for the link!
 

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We can't give legal advice. But in general, you need permission from the copyright holder. So, the person who created the shot.

Make sure you obtain permission to use the works in a commercial setting, which means knowing how the work will be published and where before you seek permission. If you're hoping to get a trade deal then you don't get the screenshots yourself, you speak to your publisher once you have the deal.

Lots of screenshots I've seen are not good enough to use in a book, as they won't print or display properly. Find someone who knows what they're doing to work with you on this.

Generally speaking these days you do take the screen shots yourself, even if you're working for a trade publisher.

Different publishers will have different requirements with regard to call-outs and cropping and figure labeling; this is usually handled by the publisher.

Every book I've written, every article, for publishers in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada, as well as Microsoft, Apple and IBM, have had me take the screen shots.

And you need to use the specific language required by each developer/corporation for a disclaimer regarding trademarks etc. There's generally a page about this on the sites themselves, in the area for press. See an example in a recently published book.
 

cornflake

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I have no idea why the use you're describing would fall under fair use; doesn't seem like it to me. However, fair use is about copyright, not trademark, for one, and if you're talking about recognizable images, you're probably talking about trademark (possibly in addition to copyright), and for two, fair use is to be determined only by the court after a case is brought.
 

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Screen shots appear to fall under this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use But as always, check with your lawyer.

They don't fall under Fair Use. This is really stupid advice. First because as cornflake notes it's a potential trade mark issue. Then:

1. Fair use only applies when a judge and jury says it applies. It's not a right. You can get your ass sued by corporations that have multiple lawyers on retainer. Even if you win your court case, you lose $$$$.

2. I've been a technical editor and writer for more than 20 years. This is how I make my living. Look any consumer technical book from Wiley or Microsoft or Apple or IDG or or or . . . there's a permissions page in the front matter.
 

R.Barrows

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Dammit, Jim, I'm a writer not a lawyer.

http://lifehacker.com/193343/ask-the-law-geek--is-publishing-screenshots-fair-use

I take my own screenshots all the time and I've never had a problem with it, although I don't publish the material myself - it's published by the company I work for. Our software requires a certain amount of server configuration. Those servers typically run MS operating systems, and therefore there are instructions for configuring those operating systems to work with our software. I've never been informed that this is a concern by any legal department (although they have supplied me with EULAs and copyright pages).

I suppose this is different than what AW Admin is talking about and what you want to do. You won't find my manuals online or in a bookstore. They are only ever delivered with the product or when requested by a customer.

There are times when I end up with a special entry regarding ownership of certain materials. These typically involve licensing agreements for the use of specific Codecs or protocols and occasionally hardware. Sometimes I am informed to leave certain material out of the docs altogether. And sometimes I have to edit screenshots to remove features that are only available to specific users who have purchased specific licenses.

Over the eighteen years I've worked in technical communication, none of the companies I've worked for have ever been concerned with my taking screenshots of 3rd party software interfaces required to explain how to configure or operate our deliverables. It should be noted, though, that I am required to state the name of the company owning or producing the software on first instance. For example, the first time I mention a Windows server I have to state "Microsoft Windows Server 2012" and thereafter I can refer to it as 'the server' or 'Windows Server 2012' without mentioning the name. This is a pretty standard rule. "Microsoft SharePoint" first, then 'SharePoint.' Etc.. I would certainly abide by this rule and I would probably advise placing a disclaimer somewhere on your site identifying the owners of the different screenshots. Some docs keep a list of figures that identify them. This always seemed overkill to me (since users never view it) but maybe it exists for legal reasons.
 
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Get hold of the publisher of the software you're taking screenshots, look for the Press Relations department. Tell them what you're doing and ask for permission.

Most of my paid (though sometimes less than profitable) writing career has been software manuals and books and I have never run into a software publisher who did not grant permission. Though I have had to sign non-disclosure agreements on as yet unreleased software and agreed to publication dates based on the release date of the software.

Jeff
 

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Get hold of the publisher of the software you're taking screenshots, look for the Press Relations department. Tell them what you're doing and ask for permission.

Most of my paid (though sometimes less than profitable) writing career has been software manuals and books and I have never run into a software publisher who did not grant permission. Though I have had to sign non-disclosure agreements on as yet unreleased software and agreed to publication dates based on the release date of the software.

Jeff

Yeah, this is my experience too.

What's more, it's really good public relations; you're being courteous and professional and people like that.
 

Al Stevens

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I've written dozens of computer programming and usage books many of which are heavy with screen shots, all of which I captured myself. These books were published under imprints owned by Prentice Hall, Wiley, Macmillan, and so on. The publishers always included a section in the front matter about trademarks.

Each of the publishing contracts, however, stated that I was responsible for any infringements or libel and would hold the publisher harmless if such a boner slipped in. I was careful with that and made sure any products I named or showed in the galleys were included in the front matter list.
 

Al Stevens

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Though I have had to sign non-disclosure agreements on as yet unreleased software and agreed to publication dates based on the release date of the software.
I was senior contributing editor for a computer programmer's trade publication for a long time. If a vendor submitted a review copy, it was fair game. On the very few occasions when an NDA was mentioned, I just declined to review the product.
 

Tsu Dho Nimh

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Hello,
I'd like to have screenshots from popular applications such as Microsoft Office, Windows and Google Chrome.

Does anyone know if I need to have permission in order to include screenshots from those applications in my book?

No, you do not need permission to take the screen shots and use them ... it's part of "fair use" because you are discussing their design, how to use the software, troubleshooting, etc.

Just don't steal other people's screenshots! And don't copy their how-to wording. The steps may be the same, will probably have to be the same, but write your own explanations. User manuals are explaining the process of making something happen, and because you can't get too creative and still have the process work, there is a lot of near-identical wording in them.

And remember to use the proper names for their products with the "TM" and the "C" the way they want it.

Background: I wrote lots of user manuals for large companies, and large corporation lawyers assured us that you do not need permissions to photograph equipment, take screen shots, or any of the usual stuff you need in order to write a user manual or a review or an ad for the stuff.
 

Jason

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Get hold of the publisher of the software you're taking screenshots, look for the Press Relations department. Tell them what you're doing and ask for permission.

Most of my paid (though sometimes less than profitable) writing career has been software manuals and books and I have never run into a software publisher who did not grant permission. Though I have had to sign non-disclosure agreements on as yet unreleased software and agreed to publication dates based on the release date of the software.

Jeff

Yeah, this is my experience too.

What's more, it's really good public relations; you're being courteous and professional and people like that.

Both of the above. The lions' share of my work to date has been technical in nature, and when capturing images of software in action, it's in your best interests to get permission from the publisher. Now when Adobe gave me beta testing access to their Creative Suite for CS2 - CS5, I had to sign an NDA saying I would not publish, release or distribute any of the program interface settings prior to the release date.

Of course, once the release date had passed, I had several blog posts already scheduled to go live.
 

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