“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Indeed it is. In our visually dominated world, pictures and video are key to any blog or social media post. Not having a picture is akin to having only half a post. It’s not as easy as just Googling the image of your choice and sharing it to your blog. As with its analog and physical counterparts, digital data is also subject to copyright laws.
What is copyright?
Copyright is defined as “The exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.” (Google Dictionary). In a nutshell, when you create original media – be it a play or a piece of art or a song – you have the right to tell anyone to not use it if you don’t want to. If they do, without your express permission, you can sue them.
Fair Use comes into play if you are doing a review or report on an entity and require a photo that you did not take yourself. The Fair Use Doctrine allows for limited and reasonable uses, provided they do not interfere with the owner’s rights under copyright law.
Section 107 of the Copyright Act states:
the Fair Use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.
In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Source: 17 USC Section 107.
How do know which pictures I can use?
The short answer is No, you cannot use pictures that you find on Google on your blog or website. There are a couple of different options for finding pictures for your posts online. If you do search on Google for images, it’s important to ask for permission before using them in a post. You can Visit Page (red circle) where the image is hosted, find the owner of the image, and ask for their permission to post. Google also makes sure that you know that images may be subject to copyright (blue circle). Once you contact the owner of the image, they may or may not give you permission to post it. If they don’t, it’s best to just move on and find another image.
Image Sources on the Web
Contrary to popular belief, there are many resources for great free and low-cost stock images on the web. We use BigStock Photo for all of our stock photography. If you are a blogger, getting an account with a stock photography website is a good idea. However, if you’re pinching pennies, there are some great sites that offer free stock photography: