3 tips for sourcing engaging, relevant and legal images for your blog
When it comes to finding images that complement your blog posts you’ll be looking to engage your readers and find something relevant to the topic the post is about. It is just as important, however, to use images lawfully.
Everyone knows by now that adding images to blogs and social media posts drives more engagement, but the consequences of using the wrong image far outweigh the extra traffic gained from using them in the first place.
Despite how easy it is to find and save images from Google or other search engines, most of the photos and graphics that appear in these search results will have some restrictions on their use. If you’re responsible for sourcing images for your blog, website or social media pages, especially if you work for a big brand, it’s a good idea to brush up on copyright law.
1. Understanding copyright
The definition of copyright is a legal right given to authors of creative work such as written text, pieces of music, and of course, artistic works such as drawings, paintings and photographs. Once a piece of creative work is produced, copyright protection is automatically activated and the author has complete legal ownership.
That means if you use someone else’s image without permission you could be breaching copyright law. And while copyright laws are openly flouted across the web on a daily basis there are some real risks to your reputation and your bank balance if you follow suit.
Here’s an example: stock image libraries, such as Shutterstock or Getty Images, make their money by licensing images for various purposes, both online and offline. A lot of the results that show up in Google Images are owned by one of these companies.
Shutterstock and Getty both have a lot to lose if people think they can get their images without paying their fees so they will actively look for examples of misuse and can come down quite hard on anyone they catch in the act.
If you run a blog or need images for your website, it’s much safer to sign up with a stock image provider like one of these two and get your images from there rather than take the risk of receiving a nasty letter from a lawyer just to save a few dollars.
2. Asking permission
There are various defences against a claim of copyright infringement but a lot of them don’t easily apply to images. If you want to use an image that you haven’t or can’t pay for you always have the option of asking permission.
When it comes to copyright, permission can’t be implied (it was on their website so I thought I could use it, your honour), it has to be expressed (yes, you can use my image in your article, thanks for checking).
The Australian Copyright Council suggests contacting the website owner to find out who owns the image. Many websites will include their details in the ‘contact’ section of their site, and some even provide instructions for anyone wishing to use their work.
Once you’ve established who the work belongs to you can contact them to request permission to use the image. In some cases, finding the author of an image can be difficult and it may be tempting to just go ahead and use it, but a failure to contact the author does not automatically grant permission for use.
3. Using embed codes
The internet has done a lot to blur the lines when it comes to copyright law. One example of that is the common practice of embedding images, graphics and videos in blogs and web pages.
We said earlier in this post that permission to use copyright material can’t be implied, but content owners don’t provide embed codes unless they want you to republish their content.
Infographics, such as the one at the bottom of this post, are one of the most commonly embedded types of content.
If you’ve gone to all the trouble and expense of making or commissioning an infographic you want it see by as many people as possible. Providing an embed code is a way to make it easy for people running other blogs or websites to use your infographic and link back to your site when they do so. Content creators rarely call their lawyers to complain about free promotion and inbound links.
But it’s worth remembering that content you can embed is still likely to be protected by copyright. If you download it and publish it as part of your post as an image with no link back to the original that is very different to embedding it. That crucial distinction has been the source of a major gripe between video producers and Facebook.
For a helpful summary of copyright law and it applied to images check out this (embedded) infographic courtesy of Vound and Intella, in partnership with Gherich & Co.
Copyright Infringement: Images You Can and Can’t Share on Your Blog