Is this a sin?

Is it a sin to use a picture from Google images or something and use the picture as your profile picture online, etc?

I was wondering because I do not own the images and I did not pay for them, etc.

Probably not.

If you use an image from the Internet that you don’t own without permission in a profit-making venture, then yes, that would be problematic. But intellectual property law, at least in the United States, allows for something called ‘fair use.’

There are a lot of uses that would fall under ‘fair use’ – you could have a whole college course just on what is and isn’t ‘fair use’ – but for our purposes here, it’s safe to say that using an image you find online as your profile picture is a minor, incidental use that would be protected by law.

And since it’s a perfectly legal use of the image, and there are no moral teachings (that I’m aware of) in the Church deviating from the civil law in this area, I’m pretty sure there’s no sin involved.

So rest easy :-).

God bless!

My son used to make youtube videos (no profit) he would use images off google to songs. We got 2 dmca violation notices and almost lost our internet service

That was most likely because of the song, not the pictures. Youtube is really strict about letting people post songs.

It was actually Nintendo. My son used an image of Mario and Nintendo filed a complaint

I’m sorry to hear that. DMCA is a whole mess of a law and it is abused like this all the time. If you haven’t done so already, I would ask you to contact your congressmen (House & Senate), tell them what happened, and ask for DMCA reform that better protects fair use.

Technically fair use is still protected – a protection for it was specifically added to the law when it was working its way through Congress – but copyright holders can go around claiming violations without having to address the fair use issues, and the burden of proof is (improperly in my opinion) placed on the one defending against the DMCA take-down. The claimant should have to show that a) the material is owned by them, and b) the use doesn’t fall under fair use. Only then should a take-down request go forward, and even then there should be clear avenues for appeal. But that’s not how it works.

I would bet that, had this actually gone to court, you would have won…but who wants to go to court over a little online video that they’re not making any money from, right! Some of these big companies are taking advantage of the fact that us ‘little guys’ are never going to fight back in the legal system.

My sister’s boyfriend had an even crazier DMCA claim happen…he made a completely original video (as an ad when he was running for school board). The ad got some attention online, and got picked up (without permission) by a TV show, which played a clip of his ad. Well, my sister’s boyfriend was THRILLED that his little local ad made it to a national TV show, so he put up a clip of the show, showing his own clip, on YouTube and talked about how awesome it was.

Well, the TV show people filed a DMCA claim against him. Even though THEY had used HIS clip without permission first (under fair use), they told him that he couldn’t do the same exact thing with their clip.

This doesn’t change the fact that what your son did was perfectly legal and perfectly moral. You were a victim of a law that places the burden of proof in the wrong place and allows businesses and other copyright holders to create hassle for people who have done absolutely nothing wrong.

God bless!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.