Steve's open to replacing the default planet images, I'm just waiting until I have them all properly attributed so theres no potential legal issues. Nasa are good but my current pack does steal from other questionable sources.
I believe I understand your concerns and your reasoning.
However, I would point out that some of the graphics in Steve's official
downloads come from 'questionable sources.' Of course, the biggest culprit is the Race
folder. It is possible that permissions were obtained, I suppose. But I doubt it. I'd guess that 99% of that folder is suspect. Also, most of the .GIFs in the Ships
folder are too obvious or at least strangely familiar. In both, I see some stuff from franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek.
The rest of the official graphics might be more or less kosher. Though, I do wonder where all those national flags came from.
Anyway, there are two factors which I would point out: 1) Aurora is a free game project. No money is involved. 2) With the exception of certain large
planet images, the images are very small versions of the originals. (Or tiny, rather vague representations, in the case of the ship .GIFs.) As such, they would fit the definition of "thumbnails."
The fair use of thumbnails was mostly just common sense for a number of years. But
, in landmark cases in 2007, the courts
have upheld this view:Using Thumbnails of Copyrighted Images is Fair Use