What Are The Rules When It Comes To Copyright and Using Images Online?

What Are The Rules When It Comes To Copyright and Using Images Online?

As part of the contract I get my new website and social media clients to sign, there is a line in there stating ‘We assume any images you supply us follow correct copyright laws and permission has been granted by the subjects for use.’ I assumed it was one of those ‘stating the obvious’ clauses that of course everyone knows that and would never do it. So many times lately though I have realised that what the ‘correct copyright laws’ actually are is so unclear to most people, and more and more people are getting caught out by adding an seemly innocent image they have simply taken from Google, assuming it was open for anyone to use. Suddenly what seemed like a pretty picture to add to a blog or Facebook post is becoming very expensive, with fines being handed out and lawyers getting involved.

So what are the rules?

Basically – nearly every photo or image created gives the author (the photographer or artist) a right to prevent others from using or reproducing that image. The photographer or artist owns the copyright. Copyright is automatic upon creation of an original work of authorship. Sometimes an artist will put a copyright symbol on the works so that it is obvious it is protected, but regardless of the symbol the image is copyrighted.

So can I ever just take an image from the net and use for my own purposes?

Generally NO! As a general rule, assume that if you find an image on the internet that it is covered by copyright. You cant just ‘right click/save’ and put it on your website or blog or other social media platform or use it on print materials.

Sometimes you can determine where the image has come from and contact the owner and see if they will grant a license, such as creative commons, or offer it in the public domain to allow you to use it. If they do offer a license, either free or for a fee, you just need to comply with the license, follow their rules and you will be ok to use the image.

Can I give a shout-out to the artist and then use the image?

Still NO! Of course, you need to give credit if that is what the license requires, but that is when you actually have permission. Just telling people who took the photo will not protect you if the author did not give you permission to use the image.

Then what is the solution?

Really the best solution is to take your own photos if you are able to. You’ll be in full control over them, know they are original, and it’s always good to create original and interesting content of your own. However there are also plenty of sites where you can get cheap and free images and avoid getting yourself in trouble.

Some I use are;





Just don’t forget – Before taking any photo off the internet, you need to get permission and figure out what the licensing requirements are! Trust me it’s a lot cheaper and less hassle to spend a few minutes emailing a provider for permission, or paying a few dollars for an images rather than It doesn’t take a lot of time to find a quality image rather than dealing with a  get a cease and desist or paying an expensive fine.