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Fair Image Use on Blogs and You

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Always ask for PermissionWe all know how helpful images can be when writing blogs, articles, POVS, and White Papers. There’s always the question, “I wonder what will happen if I use this copyrighted image without permission?”. Well, it’s a pretty serious thing, especially since owners of images on the internet can get you in legal fees for not receiving permission. Many bloggers are still under the impression, “Oh, I’ll just use it now and if I get caught, I can take it down and there will be no repercussions.”

Not so fast, oh wise one. You can now be fined and required to pay a fee for not getting permission from the image originator even if you take the image down. Now, do you really want to waste your resources on paying off a fine for illegal use of an image? Probably not, so please read on to understand acceptable and illegal use of images found on the internet.

Similar to plagiarizing a book, photographs and drawings have the same rights when it comes to unauthorized copying, meaning re-posting said items to your blog post. Doing so falls under infringement. Unauthorized use would be using an image without permission from the: photographer, illustrator, publisher, designer, or any other creator of an image. However there are instances of implied permission. An example of implied permission is when the source of the image has share options tied to the image. Pinterest would be a great example of implied permission. There is a caveat to this though. If you click on the share options and a link TO the image is generated that that is as far as you can go. Now, if you click on the same button and get a replication of the image then the implied permission would extend to the use of the image itself. Same thing would apply to embedded code for images.

Now on to what is considered Fair Use. According to, there are four principles courts use in considering whether it’s Fair use or unauthorized:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, uncluding whether such use is of a commercial nature or nonprofit purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

It’s basically a balancing act between what is fair to the image creator and public use of said image. The reason it’s a balancing act, because the original purpose for the creation of the image must be determined, therefore each ruling is different. How is it okay for us to use images of products or tools we review? Well, because the few images used in the review cover a small segment of the post and is relevant to the commentary provided on the subject. Basically, because we’re reviewing and discussing the specific thing that is in the image, and it only covers a small part of what we’re sharing, it’s okay for use. Now, let’s say you take a screen shot of someone’s photo of the Apple store and you’re talking about Microsoft, you’re not exactly using the image appropriately OR giving credit to the photographer. The reason for this is that by using the image without permission, you’re lowering the value of the image for the creator, by making it more widely available. The exception would be transformation of the images, like making thumbnails of the work, or completely editing the image to be another original image.

So what can you do to stay covered? Well, here are some ways to get around some things legally from different sites.

Deviant Art had a vast array of images, specifically art and photography based. This is one of those sites with the share buttons available for many of the images, while others may not have the share option available. They also make it rather convenient to contact the owner for permission for use of the image.

Flickr has a section on their site called “Creative Commons” for users to license them for use with certain restrictions:

  • Attribution: You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work – and derivative works based upon it, but only if they give you credit
  • Noncommercial: You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform  your work – and derivative works based upon it, but for noncommercial purposed only.
  • No Derivatives Works: You let other copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.
  • Share Alike: You allow others to distribute derivatives works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.

There are a few million photos to choose from, so you should be able to find something close to what you’re hoping to use for a post.

Stock image sites are probably the safest bet, as you’re required to purchase the image for use, which allows you to use the image in pretty much anything, since you paid for it. Just keep in mind that if you’re only thinking about using it for something you can play with the watermarked preview image until you’re absolutely sure that you’re set to use the image. Also, there may be quite a bit of searching for the perfect image. A few sites that you can purchase images from are:

Now that you know rules of thumb with images and the fair uses, you can blog without looking over your virtual shoulder. Still have questions or need clarity? Feel free to send us your questions!