Copyright Law for Blog (And Facebook) Images

Find Images for Your Blog - Copyright

Think about blog posts you like to read. I’m sure they include at least one photo. Food bloggers often have many to guide you through the process. Tech blogs like to show you the sleek new item. DIY blogs often hold your hand along the way using photos. It makes sense to include at least one image; if not for your blog reader, then to generate a thumbnail and use a picture to generate more comments and interaction on Facebook or Pinterest.

But where to get these pictures and images for your blog or Facebook? Unless you need to document a process or a specific item you own, it’s not always easy to find the right photo to use. It may seem easy to head to your favorite browser and type in a few key words and click on an image search and see what it returns. Likely you’ll get thousands of photos from which to choose.

But wait! Who owns those photos? Do you have permission to use them? What could happen if you use a photo without permission?

Maybe those questions didn’t pop into your head, but they should. Unless a photo or image is in the public domain, you should assume it’s covered by copyright. And while there are instances where copyright Fair Use may allow you to use their image, chances are it doesn’t. And while Creative Commons licenses are great, you really need to understand what the licenses mean and realize if you monetize your blog then you’re a commercial use and may not be permitted to use the image you want.

The internet has made finding images much easier, but at the same time more risky. Thousands of the images you would find using a browser search often turn up stock photos. Many people shun stock photography thinking it is too expensive.  In fact, professional bloggers often use stock photography for its convenience and guarantee they won’t have to deal with problems related to image copyright. Copyright infringement can be very expensive in dollars, time, and the emotional costs.

5 Ways Bloggers Can Benefit From Using Stock Photography

  1. Guaranteed Legal using a reputable stock photo site like Dreamstime, you will never have to worry about getting an email notifying you that you’re using a copyrighted image without permission. Copyright infringement can cause your blog to be taken down, require you to pay for using the images, or both.
  2. Variety – often it’s not the cute photos of babies we need, it’s the professional graphics or more “cerebral” image that we know will give the post that added punch. For a small fee, stock photography gives bloggers access to hundreds of images that will make their post stand out.
  3. Professionalism – if you’re trying to set yourself apart from your competition, the best way to do that is to raise the bar with your work. Why settle for an image that isn’t really relevant or puts your blog at risk when a stock photo would add that professional punch.
  4. Time Savingslooking for just the right photo using a browser, vetting the ones you think will work, sending an email to get permission or hoping the copyright holder won’t find out you’re using their image all require time, something that is very precious these days. Rather than spending 30 minutes searching, with a few keystrokes the right professional photo with appropriate copyright permission is ready for download.
  5. Value – A free photo might be great, but is it worth the risk? Even photos covered by a creative commons license pose problems because there is absolutely no guarantee the copyright holder is the one offering the image for others to use. With the other 4 factors combined, for just a few dollars you can get a high quality image that was, more than likely, professionally created. By spending a little money to upgrade your blog images you may attract attention from advertisers, PR professionals, or brand reps wanting to work with you.

Just because you find an image online doesn’t mean it’s free for the taking. Adding a link back or giving credit do not relieve you from liability for copyright infringement. Your goals for your blog probably don’t include handling DMCA takedown notices, responding to demand letters, or damage control if you’re found to have used a copyrighted image on your blog without proper permission. The belief that stock photography is too expensive or only for big businesses is changing. Many bloggers are using stock photography as a way to make it easier to find images that not only work well on their blog but are more “share-worthy” on social networks.

What are your thoughts on using stock photographs on your blog? If you’ve used stock photos, what made you make that choice?

More Copyright Articles You May Be Interested In

Dreamstime contacted Melanie and asked her to write an article encouraging bloggers and other social media professionals to use copyrighted images. Because of Melanie’s schedule she invited Sara Hawkins to write the article. Melanie received 30 image downloads from Dreamstime in exchange for this article. 

30 Responses

  1. Kelly July 24, 2013 / 1:31 pm

    Thank you for providing this info. While I’m very careful it’s nice to have this as a resource when I share info with other bloggers and clients.

    • Melanie Nelson July 24, 2013 / 4:02 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Kelly! I’m indebted to Sara for writing this for me. It’s one of the most common issues I run into in blogging and social media.

    • Sara July 25, 2013 / 12:25 am

      Melanie, thank you for the opportunity to share the importance of copyright with regard to online images. I see more and more people facing take downs or receiving cease and desist letters. Not worth the time and stress when quality stock photos are available and very cost effective.

    • Sara July 25, 2013 / 12:30 am

      Thanks Kelly for finding my article to be a good resource to share. The right photo can really help a post, but the wrong one can cause big headaches.

  2. Sarah Pinnix July 24, 2013 / 4:46 pm

    I used to use Dreamstime for my blog photos all the time! They have great photos and are reasonably priced. I would much rather pay $3 for the perfect image than search around and worry. As someone who has had my headshot stolen and used on TWO websites, I hope everyone heeds these copyright warnings.

    • Sara July 25, 2013 / 12:28 am

      You’re so right that with the reasonable cost of stock photos now, it’s worth the few dollars for the peace of mind. I’ve had my headshot taken so I know what a pain it is. Thanks for taking time to comment, Sarah.

  3. Skye July 25, 2013 / 11:38 pm

    Well I can vouch how great photos or images can really mean something to boost your content marketing. But I’m just confused about what Matt Cutts reiterated in his Google Webmaster Help clip. He says it really doesn’t matter if you are using stock or free photos. What can you say ’bout this?

    • Sara July 25, 2013 / 11:54 pm

      Matt Cutt’s comment was only with regard to how a search engine views your website. Matt said that search engine ranking didn’t take into consider if your images were from stock photos or original.

      For many this was a concern because stock photos can be sold multiple times, as they are not often offered on a exclusive basis whereas original photography will likely not have other sites with the same image. This was a concern because duplicate written content DOES impact Google search engine rank.

      Hope this help.

  4. Arjun Mishra July 26, 2013 / 12:29 am

    Hey Sara, a nice post you’ve put in here ! But I think most blogger (more than 70%) just rely on Google Images for their Blog Post Images… Plus they won’t spend money for what they can get for free. Right?
    Anyways ! Stock Photos is the best choice for Pro-Bloggers !

    • Sara July 26, 2013 / 12:36 am

      Thank you, Arjun. Unfortunately, too many people rely on Google images for their blog and don’t realize that most of the images they find are subject to copyright. Not only that, Google images pull stock photos that are featured on websites w/o watermarks because the site owner paid. When those stock images are found and then reused w/o permission the blogger often finds themselves in a situation with the stock photo company demanding compensation or issuing a DMCA takedown, or both.

      Free is a very troubling word when it comes to bloggers using images found through a search engine keyword search.

  5. ABHISHEK BHATI July 28, 2013 / 12:17 am

    REALLY GREAT ARTICLE, SARA
    THANX , STOCK PHOTOS IS BEST CHOICE FOR ME

  6. Abhishek July 28, 2013 / 8:49 am

    I have never used other’s images on my blog. But, I will surely include a link back for copyright in future. Thanks for this post. Must check my blog, I have also some posts about copyright violation.

  7. ashvin Sandhani July 30, 2013 / 1:53 am

    Hi Sara … thank you so much for provide such a very useful about image . I ‘m blogger and many time when i need image i m search on Google and use on my blog .

    after read this now i think time to search royalty free image to avoid future problem

    Thank you 🙂 🙂

  8. Amazing July 30, 2013 / 6:32 am

    It’s an amazing article , and very useful , thank you for sharing

  9. Thomas Phelps July 30, 2013 / 10:06 am

    Thanks for another great post Sara, despite not using images usually on my blog in the future I will certainly be linking back!

  10. Christi July 30, 2013 / 3:05 pm

    I’m a big fan of using public domain images (lots of old Impressionist paintings are in the public domain, for example). I got this idea from blogger/agent/author Nathan Bransford, who usually many public domain images and many of his own photos on his writing and publishing blog. I suppose if I were to monetize my blog, I may need to pay more attention to specifically which images I should or shouldn’t be using (and possibly use more stock photos), but I feel pretty safe as things stand. Thanks for sharing these great tips about blog images!

  11. Sam Hewitt August 3, 2013 / 2:54 pm

    Sara has made some really good points made in this article. I once got fined £175 for using an image that was copyrighted. It was purely my fault and is an incident I will NOT replicate. There are some extremely cheap stock photo’s out there for every situation…it is just about doing your research.

  12. Yogesh August 4, 2013 / 2:29 am

    Normally I find them to be too cluttered and hard to follow; you created this one just for me – clean and easy to understand.and the awesome points you shared in this post. I agree well with on the point of long posts, Long posts really works…Long posts are my favorites and I can see from my own perspective that I share and tend to comment on multimedia + long posts. And the stats speak for themselves.
    Personally, I use blog communities for getting more Traffic!

  13. Peeyush Vashisth August 4, 2013 / 2:29 am

    It was really awesome post.. its very beneficial for all blogger users and website seo.
    But I want to include one more think in this.. all tha content of the post must be unique and new. if we are taking copy and past form other sits then they will not work for us. second think is we have to use unique keywords along with best keywords according to the website and they will describe your page and reflect your idea to google and many more search engines. i totally agree with u and i always try to search these kinds for articles that increase my seo knowledge.

  14. Rounak Baral August 6, 2013 / 12:10 pm

    From now I have to be careful before I use anything 😀

  15. Style from the Sticks August 6, 2013 / 11:23 pm

    My question is, what about fashion blogs? Where do you find images that you can use of celebrities wearing the latest looks without violating copyright laws? I see many fashion bloggers doing this but not sure where they find images that are free to use. Also, what about when you are promoting an item? For example, a pair of shoes you love, you’d like to use the image from a web site to promote it.
    Other question I have is, does I_Blog still exist?

    • Sara August 8, 2013 / 3:12 pm

      To use photos of celebs in the latest fashion you should consider a license to an image service. There are not many instances when there would be a Fair Use claim and the image services are vigilant about policing their work.

      Often manufacturers do not mind when bloggers use their product images, even if it is purely for commercial purposes. There are exceptions, but for the most part, few manufacturers will pursue a copyright infringement action.

  16. Himadri Subrah Saha August 9, 2013 / 1:31 pm

    When someone is blogging with a lot of hard work and some other people are using the fruit of the work it is really pathetic. For this reason it is very important to have the proper Copyright and legal authorization. As a blog owner i feel this all the time but did not take it that much seriously before reading your post. I also need to plan for something. Thanks for the nice article.

  17. Rupak August 14, 2013 / 9:43 pm

    Hi Sara! Copyright laws are really a big headache for all newbies because they don’t have much idea about these things and rely on search results images for their blogs. I’ve been using stock photos the day I knew that my blog can be banned over copyrighted materials since I was using some. I removed them immediately. I currently rely on freedigitalphotos.net for my needs that gives free and paid photos as well. Thanks for giving more info about the stock image repository and consequences of copyrighted contents. Happy weekend!!

  18. anis rehman August 30, 2013 / 10:58 pm

    Hello sara , i am blogging from a long time and in start i did not know any thing about SEO or marketing blogs. In my first website i just used to give HD wallpapers and automatically google used to send some page views to me but now i think google is not sending traffic to such sites. WHY ? has google changed it’s strategy about images and images searching websites.

  19. kelvin frank September 27, 2013 / 8:57 am

    personally, I use istock photos for must cases cause of their cheap price and satisfaction with the images.

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