Using Images Legally – Does It Really Matter?

Every good blogger knows that pairing images with post content is a winning combination. This tried and true format has become the industry standard. People love visuals and by pairing the right image to an article, the tone you are trying to create can be conveyed to the reader in a glance. But before you overload your site with graphics, ask yourself one question. Are you using those images legally?


If you are on the fence about adding images to your site, consider this. A study carried out by Xerox found that the public’s willingness to read a piece of content increased by 80% when paired with a colored visual. While it comes as no surprise that people like visual content, it is surprising that your readership can depend almost entirely on imagery. Therefore, if you want to keep your readers’ attention, keep your site visual.


When adding images to your site it’s important to know that you are using the images legally. Infringing on someone’s copyright is not only bad form but it could also come with stiff fines of over $10,000! That alone should make you mindful of what images you choose for your site.


using images legally

But what if you are new to the business and have no idea how to tell if an image is legal? In this post, we will outline some common copyright terms you should be aware of. This will assist you understanding the different licensing types to ensure you are using those images legally.


What is a Copyright?

Let’s start with the fundamental concept of copyrighting. Copyright is defined as “a form of protection provided by the law to the authors of ‘original works of authorship.’ By virtue of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, works are protected in all 160 countries that are party to the Convention, as well as various other laws such as the US Copyright Act.”


What that all boils down to is this. Pieces of original work are automatically copyright protected. This means that the creator has complete control over the distribution and use of that work.


Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement has occurred when work is used without the consent of the creator or rights creator. This means that the rights of the creator or rights holder have been violated. Examples of these violations include using the image without permission, using the image beyond the scope of permission, or modifying the image without permission.


The costs of copyright infringement can be quite high and should be taken seriously. Those found in violation have been met with fines, lawsuits, and even criminal charges. As a result, to ensure you are using an image legally, it’s highly recommended that you do some preliminary leg work to ensure you can legally use the images you want.


Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that has created tools and licenses to give creators a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their original work. With these permissions, creators can specify how the work is to be treated.  The work can either be licensed for a specific use or it can be used in the public domain. The choice is up to them.


Creative Common Licenses

The Creative Commons licenses set parameters for which the original work can be used.  Copyrighted work can have the following conditions applied to them:

  • Attribution – while a creator is given credit for the work, it is acknowledged that the creator does not endorse the user or their use of the work. If the work is to be used without giving credit, the user must obtain the creator’s permission first


  • ShareAlike – this license allows the original work to be copied, distributed, displayed, performed and/or modified. However, the new work is bound to the same licensing terms as the original work.


  • Non-commercial – under this license, the original work can be copied, distributed, displayed, performed or modified if it is not for commercial use


  • No Derivatives – work licensed under this designation indicate that only original copies of the work can be copied, distributed, displayed or performed. This is the most restricted license.


  • Creative Commons Zero (CCO) – work licensed under this designation mean that they are free for personal or commercial use. They can be modified, copied and distributed, all without attribution. Images licensed under this designation are generally the safest and easiest way to ensure you are using the images legally.


What’s Your Job to Ensure You Are Using Images Legally?

To ensure you are using images legally, it is important to review the license designations for each image. There are some sites, such as Pexels, that state in their licensing section that all images on their site are licensed CCO. Other sites, such as Pixaby and Pikwizard, will identify the license type for each picture or give a broad definition of how all images on their site should be handled. By taking these few extra steps, you could be preventing a number of headaches later on down the line.

To ensure you are using images legally, it is important to review the license designations for each image. Click To Tweet

If you would like more information on blogging legally, check out our post here.


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