Copyright Information for Photos Directly from the Copyright Office
I just got off the phone with the Copyright office here in the U.S. I figured it was better to go straight to the source than for us to all keep guessing at what the laws were about copying/downloading photos without permission.
According to the Copyright office, it IS ILLEGAL to download/copy a photograph you find on the Internet, even for personal use, without asking permission. The lady on the phone said it was infringing on the rights of the photographer and is against the law.
I also asked if you had to use a different form of copyright that was tech based, like an electronic copyright or something, because someone here keeps telling me just putting my name on the photos isn't enough. According to the Copyright office, IT IS ENOUGH to just put your name on the photo. It is YOUR photo as soon as you make it. You don't have to do any special Internet stuff to make it copyrighted.
So, it is NOT right or legal to just download or copy a photograph you find online that you like. You are supposed to ask permission first. Even if you are only using it for personal use, you are still infringing on the rights of the photographer.
I'm glad we got that cleared up.