So you’ve written a great blog post, you just need the perfect picture to go with it.
If you’re like a huge number of bloggers, your first step is to search for images on Google, and copy the image that you like, before using it on your blog.
STOP RIGHT THERE.
Did you know what you’re doing is actually against the law?
That you’re infringing on someone’s copyright?
And they have a right to send you a bill for using their image?
Copyright is a law that protects things we create (words, pictures, movies) from being copied and used by other people. You don’t have to do anything special for your work to be protected – the moment you create something, it’s protected.
When you take a photo without paying, or asking for permission, it’s theft.
But I used a credit on the photo…
Lots of bloggers think if they say who the photo they’re using belongs to, that means it’s okay. But legally, it’s not. Legally, you MUST obtain permission to use every photo you use on a blog, if you don’t already own it.
If you only change one thing after reading this post, it’s this: STOP using Google Images to find photos, and then using them on your blog. Regardless of whether you credit Google, or the original image holder, if you take the image and use it, that’s copyright theft. You might get away with this 99.999% of the time, but every so often someone gets unlucky, and they’ll be landed with a big bill.
bad news: nobody much cares
If you think this is a non-issue, then you might want to take a look at the case of North Star Cakes, which is being talked about extensively on Facebook and Twitter this week. A blogger, North Star Cakes, produced a snake cake that was tremendously successful. Being a savvy sort, she sold the rights to her photo to a photograph agency based in Germany, who became the new owners of that image.
When other food bloggers and website owners began copying the snake cake photo and using it on their own sites, the photograph’s owners were not impressed. Some bloggers downloaded the photo from Facebook, ad then uploaded it to their own pages. And so lots of bloggers found themselves facing bills of 1,800 euros from the agency for using the images.
It’s not the first incident of this kind – bloggers and website owners in the UK have fallen foul of the law, receiving big bills for retrospective license fees after inadvertently using images owned by companies such as Corbis.
Legally, it’s a mess. But copyright owners ARE entitled to charge people who use their photos.
good news: you can avoid the whole issue
The good news is that it’s deeply easy to avoid this whole issue. Don’t use other people’s pictures without permission.
- Use your own photos. The best possible way to have a blog that’s unique and personal and full of personality is to take your own photos and use them. Simple.
- Buy your own photos. Need professional quality photos? Then use a stock image library and you can search through thousands of photos, and pay a small fee for a license to use those you really like. There’s lots to choose from including iStockPhoto, Shutterstock and Crestock (which has one of the most affordable celeb photo libraries around)
- Use ‘creative commons’ photos. Lots of people don’t mind you using photos providing you credit them as the photographer, and they’ll let you know this by sharing their photo with a CREATIVE COMMONS license. Sometimes the photographer doesn’t mind if you even edit the photo a little (check individual licenses to be sure). Want to find creative commons images? You can search specifically for CC images in Google and Flickr, or via sites such as Compfight (which even offers a WP plug-in)
- Ask permission. If you want to use a shot of a particular place or product, drop someone a line, on email or Twitter. It takes 2 minutes and takes all the worry out of using a professional image.
- Use PR shots. Lots of brands will have press rooms with images that are free to be used in reviews and similar content – sometimes, you’ll need to register and provide your blog credentials first to access these areas. Photos may also be issued alongside press releases on sites such as Homes4Media and Food4Media. If you can’t find a PR library online, try dropping your PR contact an email and asking for some photos to use.