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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Finding Cartoons to Use in Google Knol

Google’s new publishing platform Knol has an interesting feature to offer: authors are allowed to use one cartoon from The New Yorker magazine per article*. The New Yorker started in the mid-1920s and collectively there’s lots of cartoon content. I’m not sure where Google’s partnership with the magazine puts republications of articles using the Creative Commons license (as the republication would include the cartoon) or Google’s blanket permission to use screenshots of their sites (as screenshots may include a cartoon too).** Also, I wonder if some people will create a short wrapper Knol article whenever they want to freely republish a New Yorker cartoon.

Now how would you go about finding New Yorker cartoons for an article? There are different ways. For one thing, you can search Google images for new yorker cartoon. Note however that you still need to check each cartoon’s source, as sometimes these results may include non-New Yorker content. Also, the image quality varies.

Another way is to go to the official cartoon repository for The New Yorker located at In the search box on top, restrict the results to “Cartoon Prints Only” and enter any keyword... like internet. From the list of results you can zoom into a cartoon and if you like it, take a screenshot, crop to the image, and perhaps remove the watermark using a photo editor. (There are other ways to grab the image, but you can’t simply right-click the image area to save it.) Cartoon Bank does not include all past cartoons though, and the quality of the images is also not superb.

Also, there’s a rather huge book called The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker. I have a copy here and it’s an interesting look whether for Knol or not. In this book you can browse for a cartoon to scan it in high quality.

Alternatively, the Complete Cartoons book ships with two CDs. While not everything made it into the paper version, the electronic version promises that it includes indeed all past cartoons – 68,647, to be exact. If you put the disk in your computer you can ignore the autorun program and skip directly into the “pdf” folder, where you’ll find a file like “mainmenu.pdf” which you can open in Acrobat Reader. You can then search the PDF for captions, too, and if you like a result e.g. make a screenshot of the image.

In Knol articles you’re not just restricted to New Yorker cartoons, of course. You can also try find imagery from the public domain in general, or images with a Creative Commons notice. Flickr, for instance, has a Creative Commons filter option in their advanced search settings, and they additionally allow you to restrict results to illustration and art. As your Knol pages too can use a Creative Commons license, you’re even allowed to use licenses which demand “share alike” (update: please see comments, thanks Roger!)... and you may also be permitted to use licenses disallowing commercial sharing even when you’re using AdSense ads next to your articles.

Update: You can also use the image inclusion method in the Knol editor, which contains an option where you can provide an image ID from the New Yorker cartoon archive. The quality of the included image is very good, though there is a big watermark copyright notice in the image. [Thanks Roger!]

Once you do have the image, you can click the image icon on top while editing a Knol page to browse for a picture on your hard disk. If you don’t like the default way the pic will be added, you can edit the HTML source of the page – with some limitations – to create a wrapper like the following, which will float the image and include a copyright caption (note this code was included on a page which already uses a bigger font size than average thanks to another, styled <div> wrapper around the content):

<div style="float: right; margin-left: 20px; margin-top: 20px; margin-bottom: 10px;">
<img src="/k/-/-/5cuavxy8t4mh/xq5tw0/schmooze.png" alt="" /><br />
<em style="font-size: 80%">(New Yorker cartoon from 1993, used with permission.)</em> </div>

Additionally, sometimes using a cartoon even if it’s not from the New Yorker and not within the public domain or Creative Commons zone – or using more than just a single New Yorker cartoon per article – may be legal due to fair use laws in the US. This depends on the context, like the length of your article, the subject it discusses, the commercial orientation of the article and more. E.g. perhaps you’re writing a lengthy historical analysis of racism in past New Yorker cartoons, in which using sample cartoons for educational purposes may be valid.

*Google in their blog post on this says, “We are happy to announce an agreement with the New Yorker magazine which allows any author to add one cartoon per knol from the New Yorker’s extensive cartoon repository. Cartoons are an effective (and fun) way to make your point, even on the most serious topics.”

**Google’s permissions page explains that “The one instance when you don’t need to ask our permission is when you want to use a standard, unaltered Google screenshot in a print (book, magazine, journal, newspaper) or electronic (web page, DVD, CD) format for an instructive or illustrative purpose.”


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