What Are the Copyright Rules for the Images on Your Website or Social Media?

A phone screen displaying a library of images

Today, almost everyone online has a sophisticated eye for up-to-date website layout and images. It can be a challenge for libraries with limited budgets to keep up. There are options for getting images at no cost, but it is essential to understand the copyright rules.

In this post, we feature an infographic on photography copyright laws compliments of Pikwizard. It tells you more about how to find and use safe and free images on your website and social media.

Online Communications Need to Be Visual

A good selection of pictures can help your website to appear more professional and appealing. You can also use images to drive an important point home in your blog post or give people a reason to keep reading. About 84 percent of communication is predicted to be visual by the end of this year. For years now, the standard block-of-text website has been out of fashion.

Unfortunately, many libraries don't have the budget or staff to create high-quality images themselves. That means that they have to head online to find other hubs of visual content that they can use. Of course, not all of the images that are online are free — in fact, some of them come with a big price tag.

Using Someone Else's Images

It wouldn't be morally or legally right to take someone else's e-book and put it on your website to attract new readers. In the same way, you can't simply grab someone else's graphics or photos and use them for your own means. In simple terms, doing so could be copyright infringement.

You need to find out whether the image is licensed under Creative Commons or whether it's in the public domain. If it isn't either of these, then you could face a pretty hefty fine. In fact, there's a famous story circulating the Internet about a company that had to pay $8,000 for using a pretty sub-standard picture of Nebraska in its content.

The Risks of Posting Images Without Permission

If you think that no one will ever find out that you used someone else's images without permission, think again. You'd be surprised how often legal issues crop up as a result of image-related copyright infringement. What's more, you're still liable to pay damages, even if

  • You immediately get rid of the image
  • You accidentally used someone else's images
  • You have a disclaimer on your website
  • You cite the photographer

Are the Images Safe to Use?

Ultimately, for a copyrighted image, you need to receive authorization from its creator to use it. The best thing you can do is get this permission in writing. Alternatively, you can make sure that you're using images that are free from copyright by downloading your pictures from a reputable website offering free-to-use pictures.

It is really not an option to skip using images on your site. Online images are more important than ever. We live in a world that loves visuals.

And so, it is essential to know the issues of copyright infringement. The infographic below on photography copyright laws will tell you what you need to know about using safe and free images on your website and social media. It was originally published by Pikwizard and is reprinted here by permission.

Infographic: Lock, stock, and  plenty of lawsuits

Click the image to view the full infographic

Additional Resources: Finding and Using Free Images

About the Author

David Coen is affiliated with the free stock photography website Pikwizard.