Using images from the internet that you do not have permission to use, means you are stealing content.
Do you know what breaks my heart? When I get an email from one of my design clients and they tell me that they saw an image I created for them, on another blog. Half the time, the fool that stole the image doesn’t even host it on their blogs. They hotlink it from the blog they stole it from. So, it is a double theft. Theft of an image THEY paid for and theft of bandwidth. You notice that keyword in this paragraph? Theft. It is theft. The blogger paid for the image. This person took it without asking and used it. Theft.
The sad part of this story is that most of the time when contacted by me or my client, the thief has no clue that what they did was wrong. Usually, they justify their theft with “it’s just a digital file.” Basically, the same way people who engage in piracy justify it. It’s easy to right click and grab an image. It’s just a font banner…it’s just a graphic promoting a book that WE all love. Why is that wrong? But, it is. It’s copyrighted material.
Issues of image theft have increased over the years, especially now with Google Image search. Users don’t even have to see what blog or website the image is coming from. All they have to do is type something like “Blog Tour” into the search engine and voila — tons and tons of images. Users see the ones they like, click View Image and download it. So easy to take and use it on their blog. No big deal. Google wouldn’t have an image search if they didn’t want us to use the images, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Pictures are Just Like Words. They are covered by the same copyright laws.
Things to keep in mind when using an image on your blog:
- Taking artwork from another blog or website and placing it on your blog is a copyright violation. You can be subject to fines, legal repercussions, and your blog being shut down because of DMCA laws. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is used in force, especially by large internet companies and CMS software companies. If you are on Blogger, one email to Google can shut down your blog for good, especially if the person you “borrowed” from has proof. Is that image worth it?
- Giving “credit” on the image does not give you the legal right to post it.
- You can only use an image on your blog if the owner of the image gives a “free to use” disclaimer with the image or images.
- Free to use images sometimes also come with restrictions, like “give credit”, “link back” or only usable on a certain type of site, pay attention to the restrictions.
- Grabbing an image online and then changing the coloring, adding text or cropping does not constitute ownership, you are still in copyright violation. In fact, changing an image or adding text can be in violation of a “free to use” image.
- If you can’t find the owner of an image, or see a copyright this does not put it in the public domain. You can not claim ignorance on copyright by giving the excuse, “I couldn’t find the owner” or “I didn’t know.” Ignorance is not a viable excuse. You can’t steal a six-pack of beer from the corner store and stand before the judge saying “I didn’t see the owner, it was just sitting there” and expect him to let you off. Same applies for copyright.
- The moment someone takes a photograph or creates a work of art copyright protection is attached to that piece even if they don’t file with the Copyright Office. They own the rights to reproduce, display, distribute etc. They have to give PERMISSION or relinquish copyright in order for the photograph/art to be displayed or reproduced. They or their legal representative are the only ones that can give permission.
- This is why when dealing with a designer, artist or photographer, even if you pay for commissioned work, you must get permission to reproduce their work. Bought a beautiful photograph that you are using for the cover image of your book? If the artist gave you permission for an eBook, if you want to get them printed and distributed – guess what? You have to go back and ask permission. Even if you purchased stock photography it has limits on their distribution. Some stock photography can only be used on certain things and there are limits to the amount of time it can be printed. So, if you are running off 500,000 copies of your book, you would have to buy an extended license.
- You also have NO RIGHT to take an image you had created by a designer and have “another” designer change it. You must get permission from the original designer to release those files. By passing on that image to a new designer you can get yourself and the new designer in trouble. This is why I always ask a client where they got their artwork. If they say it’s from another designer, we have to stop and get the permission of that artist.
- You can contact the photographer/designer/artist and ask permission to display their work. If they do not reply, you still do not have permission to use their work.
To summarize, there is a lot of confusion about online images and what we can and can’t do. People tote phrases like “Fair Use” especially when books are involved. You do have the right to post a book cover, so why not images or art? There are very definitive rules about artwork and photography and what defines fair use. “Fair Use” is a term used for commentary on an item. A review. Using an image to “spice up” your post is not a commentary. You also have to remember those definitive laws have serious consequences. There are tons of online FREE stock photography sites that you can download images for days, get off other people’s blogs and go there. They have some nice photography too. Sites like deviantart.com have wonderful art that gives “free use” in the credits. Just make sure to check because those usually require links and credit.
Just remember you shouldn’t be scared of using images, just keep in mind where they are coming from, instead of just willy-nilly right-clicking. And — if you find yourself on someone’s blog and see a banner, button or some kind of design that you really like…don’t do it. They probably spent time designing it themselves or hired someone to design it for them. You have no right to use it…if you are that tempted, email the blogger and see if they’ll let you use it. Who knows, you might be surprised by their answer.
Have you found your image on another person’s website?
What do you do? Here are some tips:
- Contact the blogger and TELL them that they have to remove the image.
- If no response or a negative response is given, contact their ISP/Host and file a DMCA complaint (it should stop here)
- Still up and running? You don’t want to give up. Copyright your image or artwork, by filing with the copyright office.
- Hire a lawyer and have them send a Cease & Desist letter.
- Take civil legal actions, especially if they are profiting from the use of this image.