Remember, I’m not a legal professional, but….

The use of images on your website, especially if you didn’t take the photos or create the illustrations yourself is a “hot button” issue today. More and more tech-savvy photographers and illustrators (including bloggers) are searching for their images online and finding that they have been taken illegally. Some are even taking legal action – and it’s costing some bloggers their livelihood!

Legally Using Images: What you need to know about using images that are not yours on your website or blog

Legally Using Images on Your Website and Blog: The Simple Rule

Any image you create, whether you use a simple color for a background with wording, take a photograph or draw something and scan it into your computer is yours! The moment you create the image and make it “public,” you claim a simple copyright on the image.

However, if you are using an image from somewhere else, or just using a background from another source, you need to ensure you have the right to use it. Here are some simple rules to help you determine if you are legally using images on your website – if you are complying with the license of a particular image or violating a copyright. Here is what you need to know for images that you DID NOT create.

You must have permission to use an image that is NOT yours.

This permission can come in written form if you happen to email the creator and are granted permission OR it can be in the form of a license. Simply taking a photo you have found online and creating a 5pt text link to the photo, without asking permission or look at the license, is not acceptable.

Always, always, always assume the image is copyrighted and has a non-existent usage policy until you find out otherwise.

Legally Using Images: What you need to know about using images that are not yours on your website or blog

First of all, look for royalty-free images. You can find TONS of free royalty free images online with a simple search or you can use a paid service that provides so many credits to you per month. There are even no-cost options; however, these are more limited.

Once you find your royalty-free images, ensure they are “free for commercial use.” “Say, what?!?” “I’m not a corporation?!?” Well… if you have any type of revenue stream on your blog or website, including paid posts, Google Ads, paid advertising or affiliate links, you are a business! And that “commercial” tag applies to you! Yikes, huh?

Now that your head is spinning, thinking about all of the images that you need to take off or modify on your website, let’s add in another kicker! For you to place text OVER an image, you must be allowed, in the usage license, to modify the image. “Oh no!” It’s not too bad – just make sure that the author is OK with you overlaying text on an image prior to doing it. Don’t ever assume!

Many images, including those found on blogs, will state they permit usage with an attribution statement. If you aren’t sure how to properly attribute a photo on your website, here’s how to do it.

Directly under the photo, you will place the following:
1. Title of Photo
2. Link to Original Photo Location Online (The photo title can be used as your anchor text with this link accompanying it.)
3. Author of Photo Link (Link to the Author or “About Me” Page)
4. License (This can be a little hard to find, but if you are using a site that states Creative Commons, you can state “CC” and then place the # of the stipulation next to it.)

The last thing to remember, is that if you are approached about a possible violation of an image, take it down right away. This could save you a ton of legal hassle, headache and even heartache. If you aren’t sure of the validity of the request, I would suggest removing the image, corresponding with the person making the request and asking for proof of copyright. You can always add the image back in at a later date.

Have more questions about using images on your website? While they aren’t legal in nature, these articles are worth a peek:
Resize Your Images to Boost Page Load Speed and SEO
Image SEO: Optimizing Your Images for More Traffic
Image Alt Tags: Why You Need Them and How to do Them

Interested in learning more about the laws? Learn more about DMCA protection.


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