In today’s digital age, finding and using images on your website is easier than ever. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s always legal. Using copyrighted images or taking them directly from Google search results without permission can lead to legal trouble, fines, and damage to your online reputation.
That’s why knowing how to legally use images on your website is important. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about using images on your website without risking infringement of the law
In today’s digital age, finding and using images on your website is easier than ever. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s always legal.
Using copyrighted images or taking them directly from Google search results without permission can lead to legal trouble, fines, and damage to your online reputation.
That’s why knowing how to legally use images on your website is important. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about using images on your website without risking infringement of the law.
Using copyrighted images or taking them directly from Google search results without permission can lead to legal trouble…
Understanding Copyright Law
Before we get into the specifics of using images legally on your website, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of copyright law. The term’ copyright’ is defined as the law that gives the creators of original works certain rights over their content. The legal concept extends to images as well as other creative works like music, videos, and written content.
In simple terms, every form of content is copyrighted, and duplicating it without the creator’s permission is illegal.
When using copyrighted images, it’s important to understand that ‘fair use’ can be a possible substitute. Fair use is a doctrine that allows the use of copyrighted material under certain circumstances without permission from the copyright owner.
This includes scenarios where you may need content for criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.
However, it’s essential to note that fair use is not an absolute right. It depends on several factors, including the purpose of use, the type of copyrighted work, and the number of images used. According to some laws, only low-quality versions can be used. It also considers the effect on the potential market of the original work.
But be careful if you plan to use fair use content and research the guidelines carefully. In the past, during Associated Press v. Meltwater, the court ruled against Meltwater, saying that the copying was not as stated under the fair use doctrine.
Impact Of Using Copyright Images
Using copyrighted images without permission can harm your website’s SEO. If the owner of the copyrighted image discovers that you have used their image without permission, they can file a DMCA takedown notice. This is a legal request to remove the infringing content, and failure to comply with the request can result in a lawsuit being taken against you.
Search engines also penalize websites for using copyrighted images illegally if they receive a request from the owner of the image.
This means that using images without permission can lower your website’s ranking in search results, making it less visible to potential visitors.
We have seen several similar cases, such as Agence France Presse v. Morel. The court found AFP liable for using Morel’s photos from the 2010 Haiti earthquake without permission and incorrectly attributing them to someone else. The verdict remained in Morel’s favor; consequently, he was awarded $375,000 in damages.
How to Obtain Permission for Images?
If you want to use unauthorized images, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. This can be a complicated process, especially when dealing with a large company or organization.
Here are some tips for requesting permission:
- Contact the copyright owner: The first step is to contact the copyright owner and ask for permission to use the image. This may involve emailing or calling the owner of the content directly or going through their agent or licensing department.
- Get it in writing: Once you have permission to use the image, make sure you get it in writing. This can include a license agreement or email confirmation from the copyright owner.
Alternative Ways to Find Legal Images
Apart from taking permission, there are many ‘easy’ ways to find legal images for your website. This includes:
Custom or Personal Photos: You can use any photo you take with your personal camera on your website without hesitating about legal formalities. The same goes for pictures shot on your behalf by someone else.
Creative Commons: Creative commons licenses allow creators to share their work while retaining some rights. There are many types of creative commons licenses, but in general, they allow for non-commercial use of the image with proper attribution.
Public Domain: Public domain images are not protected by copyright, either because the copyright has expired, the creator has relinquished their copyright, or the image was never protected by copyright to begin with.
Stock Photo Websites: Purchasing stock photos for websites from reliable sources is the best way to prevent legal troubles. These photos are readily available in a variety of niches. The creators or stock photo agencies offer a license for their use to anyone willing to pay the fee.
However, the license does come with some restrictions, and it is important that you read the terms carefully to avoid any infringement.
Various Licensing Options
The common license terms you will come across when choosing legal photos from a stock photo agency include the following:
Exclusive or Non-Exclusive Licenses
An exclusive license grants the licensee the sole right to use the image, and the licensor agrees not to license the image to anyone else during the specified period. This means that the licensee has exclusive control over how the image is used, and no one else can use the same image.
On the other hand, a non-exclusive license grants the licensee permission to use the image. But since it is a non-exclusive license, the content’s owner can simultaneously provide the same license to other interested parties.
With a Royalty-free license, you can use the image multiple times without paying additional fees. However, they do come with regulations on how you can utilize the pictures. These limitations include the following:
- The image must not be used in a defamatory way that could harm the reputation of the people or property depicted in it.
- The image cannot be used as part of a trademark or logo or to endorse a product or service directly.
- The image must be part of a larger design and cannot be resold or distributed on its own.
- Sharing, gifting, or transferring the image to a third party is prohibited.
- The image cannot be used in morally questionable contexts, such as pornography or adult-related content.
How to Properly Attribute Images?
Giving attribution to the author of the image is an ethical way of praising their work. It is also a good way to promote their skill and boost their usability. In most cases, the decision to give attribution relies on the user. However, some instances – like creative commons image – may require attribution. Therefore, it’s important to follow proper methods to ensure there is no breach in the regulations.
Proper attribution typically includes the following:
- The name of the creator
- The title of the image
- The type of license under which the image is being used
- A link to the license
- A link to the original work (if possible)
Here’s an example of proper attribution for a creative commons image:
“Photo by John Smith licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0“
If you’re not sure how to properly attribute an image, look for guidance on the website where you found the image or consult a lawyer.
Legal And Ethical Considerations
Another consideration to keep in mind when using photos from third-party sources is the ‘models.’ We cannot use pictures of people, private properties, or landmarks without permission.
Using images of people and private property violates privacy, especially if the images are used in a commercial context. Additionally, using someone’s image without permission may be a form of defamation or misrepresentation, which could lead to legal action.
Similarly, using images of landmarks without permission may infringe on the intellectual property rights of the entity or organization that owns the landmark.