Images, copyright and how to stay out of trouble

Jack Prichard
July 26, 2017

I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. For legal advice on copyright contact a lawyer who specialises in copyright.

Finding images for your blog

Right, now I have that clear let’s talk about images on blogs. We all know images on blogs are important we get told this by blogs like 5 Powerful Reasons To Add Images To Your Blog Posts. Here at OptimalBI we try to have at least one image on every blog. Google Image Search makes finding images very easy and once you have found an image downloading it to your computer is about as easy as it gets. However, things are more complicated than that as I’m about to explain.

Copyright basics for the rest of us

I’m in New Zealand so the main sources I’m drawing on are from the New Zealand Copyright Council:

The basic points:

  • Copyright is a set of property rights that creators have in relation to the things they create.
  • To be protected by copyright a work must be original.
  • Copyright law in New Zealand is covered by the Copyright Act 1994 and court decisions.
  • Copyright applies automatically and there is no formal system for registering the copyright of a work.
  • You don’t need to display a notice on your work for it to be protected.
  • Copyright owners have the exclusive right to copy or publish their work.
  • If a work is created in the course of employment, the employer owns the copyright.

All of this applies to photographs and other types of image.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Jack Prichard photo

Source: OpitmalBI images

Google Image Search makes finding images simple and once you have found an image, putting it on your blog is easy. The photo to the right is of me and was taken by an OptimalBI staff member when I joined the company, it’s the image of me on our website. I found it by doing a Google Image Search for ‘Jack Prichard’. As you can see by the screenshot downloading this image to my computer by right-clicking on the image and choosing ‘Save image as … ‘ is simple. Then I can upload it to a blog post which is then published on the OptimalBI site.
Because it is so easy to do this, many people use the process above to add photos to their blogs. The difference is that they are searching for, finding, downloading and uploading photos they have no right to use. Just because you can download it from Google and put it on your blog doesn’t mean you should because you are probably breaching someone else’s copyright. OptimalBI owns the copyright to this photo and therefore me using it on this blog is fine.

Tips to do it right

Here is how to not get in trouble with using images.

Either attribute it or don’t use it

Every image you use should have an attributed source. The source will determine whether you have the right to use that image or not. It doesn’t need to be fancy or legalistic but it should say where you got the image from and if appropriate what permission you have to use it. If you can’t find a source for an image don’t use it. We use WordPress so I’m using the caption field most of the time and under the photograph in circumstances where I can’t. We are careful to use images which we have the right to use but I’m currently going through all our blogs to attribute all of our images. The reason to do this is two fold:

  1. It covers you in future from claims you are using the image without the right to do so. If you can say where the image comes from you be able to say how you have the right to use it.
  2. It provides a test. If you can’t find a source for the image then you don’t know you have the right to use it and you shouldn’t use it.

In some cases, you should state how you have the right to use an image in others such as if you took the photograph it can be inferred.

Use a free stock photo service or pay for images

There are free services on which allow you to download photos and use them for free. These include:

There are also stock images sites such as which charge for the use of images and offer some for free.

When you use an image from these services, both free and paid, you should still attribute them.

Use the Google Images search tool ‘Labeled for reuse’.

Source: OptimalBI images

Google Image Search has a filter under tools which allows you to search only for images which are ‘Labeled for reuse’. However, you should use this as a first step to finding out whether you can use an image. Once you find an image you want to use you should find out the source, check to see if you can use the image and under what terms and then attribute it when you use it. Google itself says: “Before reusing content, make sure that its license is legitimate and check the exact terms of reuse.” But they don’t go into whether using the ‘Labeled for reuse’ filter is a legitimate way to check this.

Take photos yourself.

Using stock photos is all very well but these photos are, well, stock. They are probably on other websites and they don’t really say anything about you or your company. They certainly aren’t personal. If you are doing something worth blogging about you are doing something worth taking a photo of or creating an image about. You will automatically own the copyright of any photo you take and with today’s technology you probably have access to a reasonable camera and some editing tools. The quality of photos might not be as important as the content.

This photo is from my personal photography blog.

Why do all of this?

Sooner or later you will get caught using an image you don’t have the rights to use. Some stock photo companies have a business model which consists of searching for images of theirs used without permission and asking for payment. Possibly, more importantly, you want to respect the rights of others to use their work as they see fit. You wouldn’t want someone to use your work without permission, so don’t do it to other people.
I said it at the start of this blog but I’m going to say it again. This isn’t legal advice and I’m not a lawyer. If you want legal advice on copyright talk to a lawyer who specialises in copyright.
Success is preparation meets opportunity – Jack

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