Is your blog in violation of copyright laws?
Do you know for sure that the images you use in your blog posts are actually legal for you to use?
We all know that images make our blog posts more noticeable and attractive, not to mention Pinnable.
But where do you find the images that you’re using? Depending on where you’re downloading them from, you may be violating copyright laws even if you’re giving credit to the owner of the photograph.
Unfortunately, there seems to be an idea that if you find an image on Google, then you’re free to use it. Think about it, how many images have you seen on Pinterest that click back to a Google search?
Not only is that infuriating (I like to know what article the image originated from), it’s wrong and it’s illegal.
Is this familiar?
You’re writing a blog post about cupcakes and so you do a Google or Pinterest search for delicious cupcake photographs to include in your post. You find one, right-click it and choose “Save as,” then upload it to your post and credit the photo in the caption with a link back to the website where you found it.
Done deal right?
Not exactly. You see, how do you know that the site you got the photo from actually owns that photograph? They may have stolen it themselves or they may have bought it from a stock photography site (which means only they hold the license). Or maybe it’s their own photo, but that doesn’t mean that they want you using it on your blog.
“Oh so what?” you think. Maybe right now your blog is mostly personal or it’s still kinda small time so you might think “who will know, right?” Well, there’s always the possibility you may never get caught for stealing images, but besides it being unethical, with image search getting more and more sophisticated, why take the chance of being fined thousands of dollars?
Even if the owner of the image doesn’t sue you, you could be spending a lot of time communicating back and forth with the owner (or a lawyer) and/or extricating your image(s) from your blog and products.
And THAT doesn’t sound like fun!
Photography for Your Blog
Today marks the first post in a series on Photography for your Blog. Over the next several weeks on DYOB, you’ll learn how to select images to illustrate your business or brand, how to start taking better blog photos, how to create those cool quote images you see all over Pinterest and also THE Absolute Definitive Guide to Finding Free (and Legit!) Photography.
So stay tuned to DYOB and stay in the know by subscribing to the post feed and newsletter now.
Alright, so back to today’s post where we’re talking about possible copyright issues when selecting imagery for your blog…
Understanding the Different Types of Image Licensing
There are basically 4 different licensing models when it comes to stock photography: Rights Managed, Royalty Free, Creative Commons and Public Domain. Let’s start with the first.
Rights Managed basically means that you pay for an image based on how many times and how many places it’s being used and/or viewed. Calculations on rights managed image costs can get complicated. Some licenses cover an image only for a certain amount of time, and some depends on the size that the image will be used (i.e. quarter page, full spread, or billboard).
What this means for you as a blogger: Because of these restrictions and the high cost, it doesn’t make any sense to use rights managed images on a blog or website.
Royalty Free is Not Free
Sadly there are many people who think that Royalty Free images mean they are free to use, however they please. Not so fast. Royalty Free just means that you don’t pay a royalty for each instance that you use the image, like you might do with Rights Managed images.
Once you’ve purchased a royalty free license, you can use the image multiple times with no time limit. There are some restrictions however: you can’t use it in a template and resell it, for example.
What this means for you as a blogger: Royalty Free images can be inexpensive and are great for blog posts, web ads, videos, ebooks and digital products without attribution.*
Creative Commons is actually an organization that has released several copyright licenses for owners of creative works to communicate which rights they reserve and which they waive. This does not mean that these creative works do not have copyright, it just means that the licenses are based upon those copyrights.
There are 7 Creative Commons licenses, creatives can offer:
- Attribution means that the owner allows you to distribute, remix, tweak and build upon their work, even commercially as long as you credit them for the original work. These images are perfect for blogs because you can use them in posts and products with credit the owner.
- Attribution-NonCommercial same as above, but you can’t use their work commercially. In other words, you could use the photo in a blog post, but not in an ebook you’re selling.
- Attribution-NoDerivs is the same as Attribution, except you can’t make any changes to the original work. You can use the image in a blog post or product but you won’t be able to crop, rotate or change colors on a photograph with this license.
- Attribution-ShareAlike licenses let you remix, tweak and build upon the original work for commercial or non-commercial purposes as long as you credit it AND license your new creation under the same terms. This means that if you wish to share your new work, like say a free ebook, it must carry the same license.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. Same as the license above, you just can’t use it commercially.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs is the most restrictive CC license, meaning you can use the creative work with attribution, but you can’t use it commercially and you can’t alter it in any way.
- Zero is the least restrictive CC license. It means that the owner of the work has waived all rights and you are free to use the image as often and however you wish, however you like, with no attribution.
What this means for you as a blogger: Creative Commons images are great for bloggers because they are monetarily free and you can use most of them in blog posts, ebooks and products. Just be sure to give attribution each time you use one and be careful about where you use a non-commercial image. Of course you won’t need to attribute images with a CC Zero license.
The last type of licensing I want to talk about today is Public Domain. Images or works in the Public Domain mean that their intellectual property rights have actually expired, been forfeited or are inapplicable., according to the Wikipedia.
What this means for you as a blogger: Public Domain images are free to use whenever and wherever you’d like, no strings attached!
What About Social Media?
To be honest, this is still a grey area from what I understand. But if you’d like to know more about this, there’s an article by Cindy W. Morrison about image copyright in social media here.
How Do I Know if Images I’ve Already Used are in Violation?
If you decide to do an inventory of the images on your blog and come across an image you can’t recall where it came from, use a tool called Tineye to search for it. Tineye allows you to upload an image or enter the image URL (right-click the image and select “Copy Image URL”). A list of websites, including stock image sites using the image is returned.
It may seem like a pain to keep track of all this, but not only is it so important, it’s also fair to the original creator of that image. If in doubt about whether or not to use an image, err on the side of caution and assume that it’s copyrighted unless stated otherwise.
To Sum Up
All images and creative works were created by someone who most likely put a lot of thought and/or work into it, so it’s only fair that we treat those works with respect. If you are careless about the images you choose, it could cost you dearly in time and in many cases, money.
*Read the Terms, Read the Terms, Read the Terms!
So how do we get beautiful images to add to our site
without violating copyright laws and without having to spend money for stock photography?
Check out my series on blog photography, including a few lists of resources to find free Public Domain photos, free Creative Commons photos and free Feminine Styled Stock photos! Subscribe in the box below to keep up with the series!
Have you done an inventory of the images on your blog? Got any thoughts or questions on image copyrights? Please share them in the comments, I love to hear from you guys!
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