Many people are using pictures on their websites and do not realize that they are stealing images. A great blog post always has an image or two associated with it. That is what helps draw people to your site and to read your post.
The “good news” is that the internet has LOTS of great images out there. A quick search on Google and then click on Images, and BINGO! What more can you ask for?
The “bad news” is that doing that can be illegal. If you use an image this way, you are possibly stealing images. Let me get on top of my soapbox for just a minute and yell this out (excuse me for this…)
It is true! You cannot use whatever you find. Those images are OWNED by someone and you cannot just swipe them.
Just like you cannot buy a CD and make copies of that CD and sell them. It is illegal.
There are websites that will let you purchase a Royalty Free License to use the image. Usually, this will cost you about $1 USD (and up to $20 per image) and will let you use it on your website as many times as you want. There are some restrictions (depending on how they license it) so make sure you understand what you can and cannot do (for example, you can put in your site, but you cannot sell it to others).
Many of these sites that sell licenses also allow you to download a “proof” or a “comp” copy that has a watermark on it. This type of image looks like this:
I have seen people use these images as their actual images and try to say it is ok to use the watermarked image, claiming that it is advertising for the stock photo company. This is NOT the case! This is STILL ILLEGAL. You can only use proof images without a license during the development of a site. Once it is live, you need to purchase the license and remove the comp version.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, when I will share some great resources that you can use to get FREE images that you can legally use!
It won’t be some legalese that you cannot understand. I have created a list of sources you can use:
If you already have a source, leave a comment below and share it!
You can see Part Two here: Where Do I Get My Images?[Note: this post was updated on 12 Aug 2022 to be more relevant.]
Margit Crane (@GiftedWithADD) says
A friend of mine was sued. Thanks for reminding me to spread the word!
It can be a very costly experience, Margit! Come back tomorrow for the list of resources!
I have been paranoid. I usually only use mine and http://www.MorgueFiles.com as I understand theirs to be free. Otherwise I’m clueless. I still have a lot to learn. Looking forward to your next post. Thanks.
You are SAFE! Well, while using MorgueFile, that is. I use them a lot and love the selection for some types of images. Thanks for stopping by!
Excellent point! So many people are simply unaware of their major error. We pay for ours unless they are listed on a free site. http://www.CreativeCommons.org + http://www.MorgueFiles.com are both great sites to find some free images. But, you still have to watch out and credit your sources – Always! 🙂
Great sources, Janelle! I use them both.
As for ALWAYS crediting your source, it is a safe practice, however, not ALWAYS necessary. That is when reading the licensing terms is important.
It is also not okay to take photos from a competitors website of a product made by said competitor and then sell copies of that product on your own website. I actually had to explain this to a man that had downloaded photos from my website and uploaded them to his Facebook page and was passing off our work as his own. He genuinely did not see the problem.
That is tacky and NOT ok to do, Kandas! It is all about the educational process! Some people simply do not know!
Beth Camp says
I too tend to use my own images, but I love the creative images on Flickr and also use them — only by following their guidelines on appropriate use which includes the link back to their Flickr account and credit for the photo by name and artist. I think using book covers is OK, again IF the link goes back to the author’s site with an explanation. Looking forward to your post tomorrow!
Images posted on Flickr that are posted under the Creative Commons license (i.e., the photographer gives permission to use the images) is a great place to use images.
Using a book cover can be tricky. Book covers, unless they are very old, usually carry copyright-protected designs, and photographs of them may not normally be copied and posted. This makes a book review site difficult to maintain since having the book image is a good idea! I’ll touch on this in Part 2 of this series.
Angie Agerter says
I totally understand this, but its so hard cause there is some memes I’d like to use and various other little signs. I am really good though anymore on just making my own images.
There are a lot of memes that crack me up! The easiest thing to do is make your own (good thing you are getting good at it!)
Tami Principe says
Great subject matter! I will be looking forward to tomorrow’s blog as well. Also, is there a difference using Pinterest? A lot of people use those photo’s. I was wondering if the same rules apply. Thank you.
According to Pinterest’s Terms of Service, “you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms;….”
When someone pins an image, Pinterest actual stores a copy of the image on their own servers, not just a small thumbnail of the image. I won’t get into that now, however, that is a BIG deal because another copy exists that is out of the original owner’s control.
So, in layman terms, probably not!
Tami Principe says
Thank you! 🙂
Alana Mautone (@RamblinGarden) says
I look forward to your next post, too. I use my photos (perhaps 95% of the time) or photos of people I know, where I have asked their permission. But, there are many posts where I need some other source, and I’ve been concerned about using something I shouldn’t and getting into trouble because of it.
You are always pretty safe when you use your own images! Careful if you have someone’s face, however, and they may not want to be published! If you use that, they might not be happy and legal action can result.
Roy A. Ackerman, PhD, EA @ Cerpebrations.biz says
Great advice, Paul…
Too many fall into that trap only to be visited by a letter in a month, or two, or five…
Or a year, or two years… I agree, Roy!
Cathy Chung says
I use morguefile.com free photos. Not great quality, but I can usually get what I need.
I have had a lot of success with MorgueFile.com Cathy. Either a get a lot of images to select from, or nothing. All depends on how I search. As for the quality… I like they are all large files that need to be resized – that makes the images more flexible. Bigger size usually means better resolution as well.
Chef William Chaney says
I try to use as many of my own as possible but when I need more pictures I first shop Morguefile for free photos, if I find nothing there that fits the blog I also have an account at 123rf where I pay a dollar a photo. (I always buy the smallest one because they are only a dollar. Even then, I have a page where I list any copyright info they give me. With all that, I really am never to happy if it is not my actual photo..I just worry that I won’t do cross all the tee’s and dot all the I’s when using someone’s work.
Great point, Chef (I have always wanted to address someone like that – thank you!)
Something to keep in mind – when buying images for your website, you need not get the largest XXL size – typically the X-Small size is sufficient for your site. If you want to use the image in printed works (like a flyer or a brochure) then you might want to increase the size.
Lily Leung says
I am guilty. I always give credit though. Does that help? Should I remove the images? I use to always use my own photos until I noticed others using images off the web
If it were me, I would remove them. If I made a copy of a Rolling Stones CD and gave it to you and wrote, “This is a recording by the Rolling Stones,” I am still guilty of copying their music.
Great post Paul. Pixabay is another good image site.
Thanks for the comment, Deja – Did you see it is already on the list of the next post?
Sure did 🙂
Thanks for sharing! Ever since I started my blog and my business page I have relied on uploading my own content when possible. I have not thought about licensing my own work, which I should really consider. Not sure anyone would want to use my crudely drawn pictures, but you never know 😉
Thanks again for sharing!
You are right, Angel – you never know! If you market it the right way and for the right price, I am sure you can find a niche of buyers! Good Luck!
Great post, in the 5 years I’ve had my blog, I’ve only used my own photos.
That is awesome, Martha!
Jeanne Melanson says
Great article and thanks for the reminder. I tend to get most of my images at Flickr. They have such a good selection. I’ve never heard of http://www.MorgueFiles.com as someone mentioned above. I’ll check them out too. Thanks!
WHen using images from Flickr, Jeanne, make sure you only use the ones you are allowed (You probably do). MorgueFiles is great!
I try to use only my own images (usually photos taken with my own camera). The only time I use other images would be my motivation monday posts which are either from FB or Pinterest (with the image link function)and I generally acknowledge where I have gotten them from. I hope that isn’t illegal?
Take a peek at the follow-up post to this one, Patricia. You never know…
Really good information here. One of the newest sources for me is dollarphotoclub.com
Thanks, Howard! I will check that one out!
Very useful article. Thank you for sharing this Paul. 🙂
Thanks, Vinitha! You can never be too safe out there. It is too easy to track and find images that people are using. Thanks for stopping by!
thank you for this article. As a photographer who has seen her photos on another person’s website, I deeply appreciate it. In the ‘olden’ days, when you NEVER gave your negative to anyone, it was easier to keep control. It is very true that people now think that EVERYTHING that is on the internet is free. Untrue. EVERYONE deserves to be compensated for the work that they do.
Thank you for making it clear.
All I have to say to that, Francesca, is, ‘Amen!’
Great Post as I have seen so many folks use images that they have come across and in reality they weren’t licensed to use it. I pay for all my images or make my own and I have literally found my images being used. I can’t wait to see part 2.
Using your own makes you COMPLETELY safe (for the most part!) Honestly, I am not sure if you (or I or anyone) can take a picture of something copyrighted and use it. For example, I do not think I could take a picture of Mickey Mouse and start selling it or using it in a design… I play it safe and do not worry about that – I just stay away from it!
Francene Stanley says
I get my Google images under the usage rights heading of search tools -> usage rights -> labelled for reuse.
I used to do that well, Francene. I also used to go to social image sharing sites that permitted images to be used until I used one that the account owner was NOT permitted to use. Since it was on one of my sites, it was a LOT of work to resolve that issue. In fact, it was so much work that I said I would never again use a site like that.
A great reminder for us all. Is there any do’s and don’ts for using images that you have taken yourself?
If you took the pictures yourself, you are pretty safe to do whatever you want, Lee-Anne. However, depending on where you took the photo and who is in it, you may want to get a ‘signed model release.’ This is basically a form saying that the person in the picture gives you the right to use their photo however you want to use it. Generally speaking, if you took a photo in a public place (like a park, for example), you should be ok without a release. Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer or providing legal advice 😉 This is how I deal with my own images.
Unsplash.com has some beautiful quality free photos
Thanks, Alleta – I will check it out!
Alice Gerard says
I use my own photographs because part of the mission of my blog is to share my photography. I am, however, looking forward to part two because, sometimes, I don’t have quite the right image. This is very useful and helpful information.
Glad you found it helpful, Alice!
Jane Porterfield says
I will admit to being very naive and using images belonging to others – when I initially started blogging back in 2011. I now use free images from Pixabay and sometimes from FreeDigitalImages (which require attribution).
It’s scary to think that I could lose all my hard work on my 3 blogs because I’ve used someone’s image illegally. I’m not willing to take that risk.
It is scary at how fast you can everything if a big company came in and saw you were using an image that you were not permitted to use with out a license!
Thank you for sharing this information, I thought as long as I gave credit it was fine to use the image.
You are welcome, Kelly! Be careful of taking something and just giving credit – that may not always be OK.
Jennifer Hickey says
Excellent read! Looking forward to tomorrow!
The follow-up post is already ready for you, Jennifer!
Julie JordanScott says
Such important information. I usually use my own images or create on canva, sometimes with photos they provide that are copyright free. So important to be aware! Thank you!
Yes – you, me, everyone, needs to be careful in that way. Thanks, Julie!
Pamela Schmidlin says
WOW scrolling a long way to comment here…whew….wish others had to scroll through my comments- no- just could see as many comments as you have on my stuff! I’ll get there…..
Back to the subject at hand- I have used images from unsplash but as a photographer myself I prefer to use my own images- BUT I am someone who does believe in giving credit where credit is due and all. I only truly opt to use Unsplash or other sources when I truly don’t have any images to fit the piece I’m writing!
But today’s piece I had more than enough in fact with the exception of the one I took for today – I could have used a dozen other photos of my own to illustrate points!
I will sometimes go through my own pictures that I have taken and used that as the inspiration for what I can write about! IN this case, it is the reverse process… Select an image on my phone, and see how I can relate it to a blog post! No copyright issues that way!
Thanks for the reminder. I usually use my own pictures, Unsplash or Pixabay.
You can opt-in for the updated list of images. You will get a list of many more options to get images you can use.
Great reminder! Thanks for that. I love to use pexels.com for free images
That’s a good source!
April Lemarr says
I have a couple of sites that I subscribe to monthly and they take their own photos, plus I’ll use free sites like Pixabay.
I never take anything from Google. I’ve heard horror stories of lawsuits. Yikes.
Plus it just isn’t right to use someone else’s hard work!
Yes! I agree! However, some folks simply do not know that they cannot do it, they end up doing it, and then they pay the consequences.
DEB ANDREWS says
Paul, it is always good to remind of what is good and what can be illegal. Thank you for sharing.
And sometimes good can be illegal… so be careful out there! 😉
Jennifer Burke says
So important to know and thank you for sharing Paul! As a life-long amateur photographer, a librarian who studied a good bit of copyright, and as marketing coach – this is a topic near and dear to me.
It’s always safest to purchase the appropriate license for photos (and it does depend on how you are using the photo – you may need something different for a book or mug you sell vs. a blog post). I wrote a lengthy blog post explaining this topic, types of photo rights, and where to find better images for marketing.
Thank you, Jennifer!
As you mention, it’s essential to be aware of the different types of photo licenses and what they allow you to do with the images. We want to make sure people are aware of the consequences of using images inappropriately and let them be aware of copyright restrictions.
Karen Robinson says
Thanks Paul! Like many of your other readers, I often use my own photos or CANVA. One way we can show creatives we respect their work is to not steal it! Thank you again! Karen
AMen to that, Karen! Thanks!
Great post, Paul! Too many do not understand that you can’t just use someone else’s work, be it a photograph or text.
I only use my own photographs; but even then there are questions and protocol about what can be photographed and used and what cannot. Another blog post maybe?
Oh yes! Great idea, Betty! Some things cannot be photographed and used – one of the biggest issues these days is drone photography, as an example. Even if it is not ill-intended (double negative, I know… maybe I should say, ‘Even if it is friendly), if I were to use a drone to take an aerial image of my house and someone was out at their pool working on their tan, posting that image could have implications!
Thanks for the blog post idea!
Very important reminder, Paul! We all know visual content makes everything more appealing and it’s easy to just snatch one off a random website but we don’t always think about the consequences…
I agree, Emjae! It can be easy to either not know about the ‘legalities of this’ (I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on tv) and/or know about the consequences. Thanks for stopping by!
Thank you for this reminder! Some online creators do not realize this is wrong and it’s not that hard to find images to use without copyright infringement. I use Canva and I picked up an AppSumo deal with 100 downloads of images off DepositPhotos. (I picked up 2.) Thanks again for the reminder!
Thanks, Erica – There are great places to source images from – and getting an AppSumo deal is another great place to legally get premium licensed images at a fraction of the cost (when they have a special going on). Thanks!
Thanks for educating people on the importance of copyright. I work at a camera store and so many people think it’s okay to copy a photo from a professional photographer and it’s not unless they have a copyright release.
Thank you for your professional input, Amanda! It’s important to educate people on the importance of copyright and why it’s so important. This is something that needs to be taken seriously, as it can easily damage someone’s career or business if images are taken willy-nilly from a site. Someone is literally stealing images from you.
Benecia Ponder says
This post is a great reminder to b diligent about how I get images for my posts. I
Looks like your comment got cut off, Benecia. Thanks for stopping by!
I’m always surprised that people aren’t aware they can’t just use any old image off the internet, but I also went to school for communications so I think I’ve heard it so much I take it for granted.
I still get paranoid though, even when I’m using a site that allows use, that someone has added photography that isn’t theirs. I use a lot of public domain graphics & I have the same anxiety with those.
For the sake of my over-active anxiety, I try to use my own photos or ones from a stock subscription. I got lucky this year & one of my favorite subscriptions ran a promo for a $299 lifetime subscription & Black Friday always has great annual deals on stock subscriptions. Great article!
Thanks for the input! I completely understand where you’re coming from – it’s definitely something that I struggle with as well. Personally, I try to use my own photos or ones from a stock subscription, just to be safe. Thanks, Rebecca, for sharing your thoughts!
Jodi LeBlanc says
Great post, it is amazing how many people don’t realize that copyright still exists online. They think if it is online it is alright. Thanks for keeping people in the know about copyright protection for their sake and the artists!
You’re welcome! I’m glad to help out and spread the word. It’s so important to protect copyright online, especially given how much content is shared illegally these days. Thanks for your support, Jodi!
Melissa Brown says
Thank you for getting on your soapbox about this, Paul. So many people STILL don’t realize they can’t use any image they find on the net! It boggles my mind!
With stock photos readily available for free or low cost, it’s not that difficult to find something that will work without ripping off someone else’s work.
Thank you for shouting from the rooftops about this.
Thanks for bringing this up, Melissa! So many people still don’t realize they can’t use any image they find on the net. It boggles my mind, Melissa, but we can help educate folks and help protect them.
You are right – with stock photos readily available for free or low cost, it’s not that difficult to find something that will work without ripping off someone else’s work.
Thanks for shouting from the rooftops with me about this! This is a team effort!
Carol Bremner says
Hi Paul. I think finding images to use on a post is the hardest part of blogging. I’ve been trusting my virtual assistant to add them to some of my posts if I’m not able to find one of my own pictures. Maybe I better make sure she is being careful.
Hi, Carol! I completely agree – finding good images to use can be tough. Luckily, there are a lot of great resources out there for finding free stock photos. I share all my favorites in the “Find Free Fantastic Images” Report. They all have great collections of high-quality photos that you can use without worrying about copyright restrictions. Hope that helps!
Robin Smith says
Everyone needs to be reminded of this! I have clients that think it is OK. I’m going to refer them to your article.
I have a lot of clients who think the same thing, and I also send them here 🙂 We can help them learn, Robin! Thanks for stopping by!
Donna Loeffler says
Your short article really packs a punch! This is information people need to know, no one wants to face a potential lawsuit over a picture. It seems so trivial and yet is so important; I’m going to share this post with my Facebook business group. Thanks, Paul!
Thanks, Donna! I’m glad you found the information helpful. I hope it will help people stay out of trouble and legal hot water when it comes to using copyrighted material online. 🙂