Adding an image to your content is always a good idea, but images come with an unexpected twist; you can't use many of them without the artist's or photographer's actual permission. Citing the source is sufficient with content, but this is not the case with images.
Copyright Rules For Using An Image
MIT Libraries tells us, the moment someone takes a photo or begins working on a piece of art, it becomes their property and is protected by U.S. copyright laws. Even though many artists take the extra step to insert a copyright symbol or watermark to their image, they don't have to for their image to still be legally protected.
Fair Use laws for copyrighted images are confusing. In determining whether to use an image in a particular case, four factors should be considered.
- The purpose of use, including whether it is for commercial or nonprofit educational purposes;
- The nature of the copyrighted work;
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work
Arguing fair use for images can turn in a writers' favor if they used a lower resolution or thumbnail, placed it in a new context, or only used certain portions of the image. Nevertheless, I'm not sure I'd bet the rent on these guidelines.
Consequences Of Unauthorized Image Use
"You don't want to learn this the hard way," said Kari DePhillips of The Content Factory to PR Daily Post. The Content Factory was sued for sending a blog to a client which included a photo used without permission. Even though the photo was immediately removed when the client received an email from an attorney, the client was still served with an $8,000 copyright infringement suit. The Content Factor settled for $3,000; a pretty hefty penalty for a blog Google Analytics showed only drew about 100 readers.
How To Avoid Copyright Violations When Using Images
One way to avoid copyright infringement is to take your own photographs or team up with a photographer who has given you their written permission to use their work.
You can also check out sites which sell or otherwise provide images specifically for blogs and articles such as Shutterstock.com and bigstockphoto.com. or Getty Images. Most sites come with fees or subscriptions, but they offer high-quality and extensive selections.
Here are a few sites where you can get free images:
- Google's advanced image search identifies images allowed for scholarly use. Select "free to use" under Usage Rights to see what's offered at no charge.
- Flickr Creative Commons
- Wikimedia Commons
In sum, I recommend using extreme caution when using others' images. Make sure you have done your research to ensure you are allowed to use the image without any negative repercussions.
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