Inevitably, I get an email about once per month with a panicked statement from an associate, past client or friend about a lawyer requiring them to stop using a copyrighted photo in their blog post. Either in past posts or pages or even current ones, the owner of the blog has used an image they had no authority using. They panic and have no idea what to do.
You may have even experienced it yourself. I hear about a lot of you that say, this guy is using my photo for his cover header, or this person used my photo on their blog. One more time folks
YOU CANNOT USE JUST ANY PHOTO YOU FOUND ONLINE IN ANYTHING COMMERCIAL
I've probably talked about this before but it demands reiteration. It's just happening too much! Do you really want to risk a $5000 lawsuit for a simple image of a comic because it fit with the topic in the post? It's just not worth it.
Now, I don't care if my kid uses an image he found online for a quick personal printout for school or something that no one else will see but our household, but if it's out there for the world to see and especially if it's commercial in any way, you cannot use it! PERIOD.
What do you do if you get one of these emails or letters?
If ANYONE questions where you got the image or if they say you have used their image without their permission, just take it down. It's a picture, for crying out loud. It's not worth it. Immediately remove it, UNLESS you are positive YOU took the image or that you obtained it legally. (Honestly, unless you can prove you took the image yourself, I would just remove it rather than fight it.)
IF you get a legal letter requiring you to pay for the photo, take it down immediately. AND it all depends on how much they're asking for. I've seen emails where they've asked for $10 and others where they have asked for $5000. I AM NOT A LAWYER, so I cannot give any legal advice, but I can give my opinion and experience. Sometimes being nice really can work. If you remove the image right away, many times they will go away. I've known some agents that just remove the image and then don't respond to any other emails and eventually they go away. I've known some agents that pay a couple hundred bucks and drop the issue. But, don't count on it. If you've used an image without permission or even without attribution, you could be in trouble.
Attribution is like accreditation. You are giving credit to the person that actually took the image. You may be able to use the image according to their license but you must give credit where credit is due, and YES, they can come back at you if you miss that little attribution. See below... If you use the image, you have to put the Attribution on the same page.
There are a lot of similar sites out there but it's important to verify they allow use for commercial posts and pages.
Where to find images?
Stay FAR away from Getty Images. They have free embed images for blog posts but they are kind of wonky and require you to use their photo the way they want you to display it... In my opinion, it's just too difficult and risky.
There are a few great sites out there for free and paid.
- Canva.com - Great site for developing images with text and design (most images are $1)
- Photodune.com - Paid site where clear, crisp, high-quality images can be up to $15 each
- Shutterstock.com - Where we usually find high-quality cover and header images for $15 each
- Unsplash - Free for commercial use
- Pikwizard.com - New site, free stock photos
- Pexels.com - Free site with no attribution
- Pixabay.com - Free site and they offer a plugin for Wordpress sites so you can search their site, right in the back end of your own!
- Commons.wikimedia.org - very few public domain (free) images, most are with attribution
- Flickr.com - Be cautious. There are some great images here for attribution but most are copyrighted, HOWEVER, I have emailed the photographer and asked for permission for commercial use. I have only gotten one 'no'. I keep the email to prove I have permission and send the artist the link. If you use one with attribution, make sure you give appropriate credit.
- Search.CreativeCommons.org - this site searches all known CC images but be aware that they do not assume responsibility for the images, it is still up to you to verify you have permission to use them:
"Please note that search.creativecommons.org is not a search engine, but rather offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations. CC has no control over the results that are returned. Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license. You should always verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link. Since there is no registration to use a CC license, CC has no way to determine what has and hasn't been placed under the terms of a CC license. If you are in doubt you should contact the copyright holder directly, or try to contact the site where you found the content."
But if you really want to always steer clear of any issues, just take the photo yourself. I know that's hard to do but I have done it multiple times because I can't find any image that works. You know no one is coming back at you for your own image.
I'm sure I will get some flack on here and this brings up a controversial topic for sure, but I'm trying to save you some serious stress. There's nothing like getting an email accusing you of copyright violation and a $5000 (or more) bill to go along with it.
Read More: More about Wiki Commons Images
Wiki image By Visitor7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons