When I first started blogging, I joined quite a few blog related groups so I could soak up as much information as humanly possible. There’s this one I question I see popping up over and over, it’s “Can I use this picture from ______?” Let that blank be a company, website, google images, social media, whatever. It’s the question. A good one at that, however, I saw answers that were often untrue. So, let’s chat about copyright for just a moment!
What is copyright & how does it work?
Copyright is the legal ownership to the original creator/owner of materials such as artwork, music, film, literature, etc. Including the images you find online.
Solely, they have the right to publish, alter, sell, use or otherwise the piece of work unless they give written permission to another user or sell off their copyright.
What’s the worst that can happen if I use it?
Many people live under the presumption they’ll only have to take it down and that’s anybody even notices. Which can be largely untrue, actually you can be sued and ordered to pay damages, usage fees, etc. which can easily add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars. All for a picture on google images.
So, how do I protect myself?
The single best fireproof way to protect yourself would be to use your own created images. However, I also understand that’s not always an option for everybody, so let’s go over a few things.
- Stock Images. There are many stock image and public domain sites both paid and free available. (Such as Pixabay, Adobe Stock )
- Use images with Creative Commons (CC) licenses. These images are free to use, however often come with attachments such as back-linking to the owner.
- Assume everything you come across is copyright until proven otherwise.
What about things like book/movie/music reviews?
This is where things get trickier, and I’m glad this question showed up before posting this article, because it’s an EXCELLENT and sketchy question.
In general, you would use a thumbnail for fair use of copyright property. For example movie posters, book covers, album covers, etc. Fair use is supposed to protect you from copyright infringement if the images are used for educational, news reporting, criticism or informative purposes.
For more information on fair use of images, check out these two articles:Copyright Tips for Review Sites & Copyright Fair Use & How it Works for Online Images, which covers the topic of fair use specifically.
NOTE: however, fair use images are still copyrighted, therefore you are not given permission to alter, distribute or change those images (this includes your logo, link to your blog or post title)
A few extra tips just in case:
- Google search images can actually be traps. For example, they can post a picture, it gets popular, you use it and when they reverse search it, find you and sue you. This is not a conspiracy theory, it is actually a thing. I’ve seen a few people who have written about how it happened to them before.
- If you REALLY, like really, really want that to use THAT specific picture, you can contact them. If that image is something you very much wish to include, reach out and contact the owner and express your interest. They may say okay, they may say no, they may say $5,492 one time fee. It’s ultimately up to them, but what’s the worst that happens, you still don’t get to use it?
- Altering or changing an image not only remains copyright infringement and is illegal, but does not cause the image to be a work of your own. Don’t be that guy.
NOTE: I am not and will never give legal advice. I am in no way a legal adviser nor do I desire, pretend or say I am or ever will be. Information is from my own personal experience, research and interpretation. For legal advice please seek a legal professional, adviser or lawyer.