Today, I read an article on a popular weblog. It had a graphic attached to it. Naturally the first comment was "nice article, you could have credited me with using my design". Attached was a similar design but not the same one. The graphic...was text in speech bubbles.
I've seen people getting in "troll fights" because of graphics. Once, a person was demanding a picture be taken down because it was hers and she created it. Um, she created it out of images that were copyrighted by someone else. The pictures were owned by a television studio. I'm sure she was careful to get the copyrights to use the photos.
Is using a graphic you found online bad? I don't think so. You put it on the internet so people can see it. If someone says, "hey this is great" and uses it...and GIVES YOU FULL CREDIT WITH A LINK. Why not? More exposure for your hard work. That's why you put it up in the first place, right?
Copyright gets bantered ALL OVER the place now days. Everyone is an armchair lawyer. Just because you manipulate a few things does not mean you own the elements of it. If you create a blue bubble with pink words in it that are left hand center and have a .02mm drop shadow..yes you own it. You do not own the blue bubble, the words nor the drop shadow.
If you create a knitting pattern, yes it's yours. However, what people knit from it...you do not own. For instance...you build the schematics for a television set. That's yours by law. Does that mean you own the tv that is made from it? No. The person that bought the tv owns it.
Has anyone watched the news with the copyright battles between Apple and Samsung? They are suing each other on everything from technical aspects to superficial things. The technical aspects are close but the superficial stuff has been laughed out. "Oh, they have a white phone?" Sorry, color is not copyright-able.
Intellectual property is a very specific area. Once you start trying to copyright an idea, you're already on the downhill slide. Take the pyramids. The Egyptians built then, the Mayans built them. According to current historical thinking..they had no contact with each other. So..they came up with the same ideas independent of each other. Who came up with it first? Who holds the copyright to the pyramids?
I believe that if you invent something, yes it's yours. In that configuration. But that's all. If you take a photo...it's yours. If you paint a picture, yes it's yours. If you invent fictional characters, yes they are yours. See the connections, here? If you create a logo from scratch, it's yours.
If you create a logo from common every day graphics, you own the configuration, not the elements. If you manipulate a photo, the manipulation is yours, not the elements. If you write a story with someone elses characters..the story is yours..but the characters..no.
See the differences?