Are you writing a blog and wondering what the deal is with using photos from the internet?

The internet is a visual smorgasbord – photos are dished up from everywhere – published on Google, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

So, the question is:

Can you download a photo from Google (or other platforms) and use them on your website?

People do it all the time BUT the short answer is NO.

As an end user, you need to do one of the following if you are using a photo in your blog that you have not taken yourself:

  1. Buy the licence to use a photograph from a stock photo provider such as Shutterstock, Getty Images or The Photo Forest. Depending on the provider and the photo, you may need to buy the licence and pay for the release as well.
  2. If you want to use a free photo, use one that has a Creative Commons licence (CC) attached to it.
    Attribution is required for every photo under CC but depending on how and where you want to use it, there are different conditions attached.  Conditions apply for use by attribution, non-commercial use, non-derivative use, and share alike use. You can find out more about Creative Commons licences here. Remember, attribution is required regardless of which Creative Commons category your use of the photo is under.
  3. You must gain permission from the photographer before use.

How do you find out who the photographer is?

What do you do when you find a photo on the internet you’d like to use but it has no indication of the owner or photographer?

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. If you found the photo on Facebook, ask the person who posted it for the source of the photo. It may be they have no idea either, but at least then you know you have to look further.  Just because they appear to have used the photo without permission does not make it ok for you to do the same. It also pays to double check their source if they do provide details.
  2. You can do a Reverse Image search on Google or TinEye to find the source of a photo.

In all cases, you must attribute the photo.

Is full attribution enough without seeking permission or purchasing a licence or release ok?

No – it’s better than no attribution but you are still breaching the photographer’s copyright, i.e. using someone’s original work without their permission.  It’s worse if you are obtaining financial gain which may very well be the case when using the image in a blog that supports your business.

You may be the subject of legal action for breach of copyright, or you may be asked to take the photograph down, or both.

It’s difficult when you are starting out blogging or doing business to know what’s okay and what isn’t.  It just seems so easy to download a photo from the internet and run with it.

Follow the simple rules above to minimise the consequences of using a photo grabbed from the internet without permission.

Need help?  You can book a $97 Power Session with me, to cover more complex issues.

XX Shalini

Further Reading

You might find this blog or a personal experience by a blogger interesting too, read “I Got Caught” by Plumbette.