After three weeks of blogging, it looks like it’s time to learn a little more about using pictures from the internet in your posts. You may only use a copyrighted image (and assume ALL images are) if your reason for using the photo is legally considered fair use. Read below and post a comment by Monday, Nov. 26 so that I know you have read this post. Include in your comment your plan for getting pictures in the future.
#1: Do you understand the term fair use? Just because you provide attribution and/or a link back to the original doesn’t mean you’re free and clear. Fair use has nothing to do with attribution. That’s an issue related to plagiarism, which is different from copyright.
Fair use basically means you’re allowed to infringe on someone’s copyright and they can’t do anything about it. If your use is covered by fair use, you don’t have to provide attribution anyway (although it would be nice).
#2: Why are you using the image? If it is “…for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research…” you’re on the right track.
If you’re just using the image to pretty up a post, then think twice; or better yet, get permission or take your own photo.
#3: Have you transformed the image? If the new work which incorporates the copyrighted image is a “transformative work”—what you created no longer resembles the original—there is a greater likelihood of finding an exception to copyright infringement.
Are you taking an image and incorporating it into an infographic? Is the image now part of a video used for one of the reasons set forth in the Copyright Act?
#4: How much of the image are you using? If you’re using a thumbnail and linking to the original location, there is greater likelihood of finding fair use than if you just post the original image. If you’re doing a post about facial features and are just using a portion of the face from an image, you stand a better chance of arguing fair use than if you used the entire image.
#5: Are you willing to risk your site being taken down, getting a cease and desist/bill/DMCA or being sued? The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides very powerful options for a copyright owner to protect his or her works in the digital space. By hitting “publish,” you may be opening a can of worms.
Summary: There are many resources for free images, whether public domain, licensed creative commons or inexpensive stock images, so you really shouldn’t need to use copyright-protected works for beautifying your site, creating that cool presentation or making a video. But if you really have to have that image, ask first. You’d be surprised at how many people would gladly grant permission for use of their images.
Can I Use Photos or Images from the Internet? NO! Well, maybe. Possibly. As a general rule, just assume that if you find an image on the internet that it is covered by copyright. Do not just ‘right click/save’ and put it on your website or blog or other social media platform or even use it on print materials. If you can find the source of the image you can then determine if they grant a license, such as creative commons, or offer it in the public domain. If they do offer a license, either free or for a fee, comply with the license and follow their rules and you’re good to go. Just know what you must do.
Can I Give a Link Back and Use the Photo? Uh, NO! Often referred to as the ‘hat tip’ or ‘shout out’, many feel that if they give the photographer credit of some form then they’re good to go. WRONG! Of course you need to give credit if that is what the license requires, but then you actually have permission. Just telling people who took the photo will not protect you if the author did not give you permission to use the image.
There is a big misconception that people want you to share their photos with your friends, family, readers, etc. Not always true. And while the majority of photographers really won’t mind, there are many who do and many who will not hesitate to take down your site for using their images.
But the Photo Did Not have a Copyright Notice On It! Then, if you want to use the photo, that should alert you to do some extra work to find out who owns the image. Copyright laws do not require the author to include a copyright notice. Yes, having one makes it easier to find out to whom you need to go for licensing. However, the lack of a copyright notice does not mean it is in the public domain or yours for the taking.
Where Can I Find Quality Images I Can Legally Use? There are a number of stock photo sources that offer free or low cost options. The following is not a comprehensive list, just the ones I like to use. Read over the rules so you know exactly what type of attribution is required.
Conclusion Before taking any photo off the internet, get permission! Whether it be via a free license such as creative commons, paying for the license through a stock photo site, or using images known to be in the public domain get permission to use the image. It doesn’t take a lot of time to find a quality image. It surely takes much less time than what you’d have to spend if you get a cease and desist or DMCA take down notice.