You see a photo, you right click it and save it to your desktop. It’s pretty and you upload it to the blog post you are writing. You add the link to the source of the image and maybe even the photographers name. You publish the post and Bob’s yer Uncle.
Stop! You can’t do that. You cannot take somebody else’s image from the internet and post it to your own blog or website just as and when you please.
I’ve known bloggers that have been contacted by photographers and/or owners of an image. I’ve known bloggers that have been asked for compensation for using the image. This isn’t as ridiculous and uncommon as it sounds. You may think that things like this don’t happen to small blogs, or blogs your size, but that doesn’t stop bloggers being asked to pay out large amounts of cash. It can actually get quite serious and stressful if lawyers have to get involved.
Most bloggers, of course, don’t even realise they’ve done something wrong. Unfortunately, being ignorant to something will not be seen as a valid argument in court.
Knowledge is power and all that, so let’s get knowledgable about legally using images on websites and blogs.
Facts about legally using images on your blog.
There are some things that people believe to be correct about using images on blogs, let’s go through some of them to make sure we’e all on the same page:
You cannot take pictures from Google images and put them on your blog. Google Images is a way of searching for images that are on the internet, they are listed based on their file name, alt tag, caption around the image etc. Google Images is not database of Images free to use, but images pulled from real websites, like yours or mine.
Linking back to the source:
Linking back to the source of the image does not make it okay to post an image that does not belong to you, unless clearly stated by the copyright owner.
Adding a disclaimer to your site:
You may have seen some blogs add a disclaimer at the bottom of the post, blog or somewhere on their website saying something like:
I do not claim to own all images shown on this blog, all images are assumed to be in the public domain. If there is an image on this blog belonging to you, please e-mail me and it will be removed immediately.
This does not waive you of any violation of copyright law you break.
If you embed a picture from another site on your blog, rather than upload it to your own server, it doesn’t release your of liability. Just because you haven’t made a copy or uploaded it to your server, doesn’t make it right. This is known as hot-linking. Not only that, but you’re technically stealing bandwidth too.
If the owner of the site where the image originally was cottons on to what you’ve done, they could even replace the image to something else. Pornography, an text image ‘outing’ you’ or anything else they may wish to do.
Removing the photo on request, not claiming to own the photo, not making any money from the photo, giving the photographers name or not realise you’ve done something wrong will not prevent you from being sued and having to pay out a hefty sum.
How do I make sure I’m not using images illegally?
The best way of insuring you’re using images legally is to use your own images only.
If you do not want to use your own photo, then you need to assume that every photo is under copyright unless it’s clearly stated it’s free to use, or you are given written permission to use it. Most people and online stores will agree for an image to be used with a link, as it is publicity.
There may be some reasons why a person may not allow you to use an image. For example, if a photographer makes a living from selling photographs, they may not want you to use their images without paying.
You can always use images that are in the public domain, there are millions of them and they’re not all tiny and low quality. There are plenty of public domain and creative commons sites you can use. A good place to start is Flickr Creative Commons page, be sure to understand the creative commons licences before you do though.
There are websites and software out there that allow you to ‘reverse image search’ images, by uploading a file it will search the internet for similar pictures. Although it is rare that the owner will find the image and ask for compensation in cash, it’s not unheard of. Don’t make yourself vulnerable by taking an image that doesn’t belong to you, when there are many other alternate ways of getting great images to your blog.