Ethics of the Internet: Authenticity, Ownership, and Commercialism of Digital Images

These are notes for a lecture on Ethics, Images, and the Internet by Howard Besser. They are provided to supplement the lecture, and should not be read outside of that context.

Please do not assume that the sites listed here represent breeches of ethics. Many of these sites were chosen to help understand what kind of principles are involved in evaluating whether an ethical question is even raised. The What is Ethics? section raises questions as to what principles may play a role in evaluating the "ethicalness" of an act, and many of the sites help to illustrate whether ethics is mistakenly viewed as an issue.

What is Ethics?

  • Ethics has little to do with law
  • Ethics is based in cultures or subcultures
  • Ethics is different from good taste
  • Ethics may or may not be related to intent
  • Ethics is related to context

    Sites with Images that raise Ethical Issues


  • The Long Tradition of Doctoring Photos from Ethics in photojournalism by Ken Kobré
  • Beating up Rush Limbaugh
  • Deformed or disfigured people
  • Curt Cobain's body
  • X-Rays of human bodies with objects inserted
  • Dead Iraqi soldiers with accompanying captions
  • electronic fanzines (below)


  • Does ethics involve knowledge and intent?
  • Religious site posing as lesbian site
  • False reconstruction of a manuscript image from Image Enhancement Using Adobe Photoshop by Karen Holmes
  • Christis Rex is an anti-Soviet group not associated with the Vatican

    Possible Copyright or Permissions Infringements

    Howard's Copyright WWW page
  • SILS Face and Finger Gateway Permission was never asked to put pictures up - Is this legitimate?
  • Images of Anne Rice novel covers
  • Calvin and Hobbes cartoons
  • Images of Dr. Seuss's Grinch
  • Star Trek Poster on personal homepage
  • Small Philosophy poem by Maria Bonn on background image. Image was drawn by child killed in Auschwitz but the digital image was created from a copyrighted book.
  • The Wonder Years on personal homepage
  • Vaguely identifiable nude thumbnails with obscene content.
  • The Simpsons
  • Mickey Mouse Fan Club
    return to Image DB class
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