Twitter posts with images are said to receive 150% more retweets.

Blogs, social media updates, websites and newsletters are just some of the times you may need to find the ideal image to get your message across.

It’s easy to just right click and save a photo you like, upload it to your social accounts but STOP!

Before you press publish do you know where that image originally came from? Who is the original photographer? And more importantly do you have the right to use it?

A photographer’s tale

At this point I should perhaps tell you I have a vested interest in this subject. As well as my Virtual Assistant business I am also a photographer and I supply stock images to a couple of agencies along with some portrait and product work.

Just by chance I came across one of my images being used by a local taxi company as the banner for their website. I contacted the owner of the company and politely pointed out that I hadn’t received a request for the use, or indeed had any license been purchased. I did get a reply, mostly abusive but quite emphatically stating that as he’d found it online (my Flickr account) he could use it however he wanted.

I replied, again politely, asking how he would feel if he spent his valuable time driving somebody to their destination only to have them disappear without paying the bill? I never did get another response but the image was taken down.

This particular image was not held with an agency, if it had been they would have pursued the taxi company for payment.

Incidentally, I am more experienced now and have set my Flickr account to block downloads. This is only a deterrent though and the fact remains he had no right to take and use my photograph. He was the first person I came across using my images. There have been many more and I now include an invoice with my email. Some pay, some ignore but too many say they weren’t aware they were breaking the law.

Copyright law

Photographers, illustrators or artists are not required to register images or watermark them and just because it’s on Flickr or Google Images does not mean it is free to use.

It is the users responsibility to undertake all reasonable methods to find out the original source of a photo and then ask permission or purchase a license.

You can read Google’s advice on using images from its library and also see for UK Copywrite Law.

A word on licenses

It is useful to understand the various license rights that might be attributed to an image. Don’t forget you are just purchasing the right to use the image, the ownership of the image generally remains with the original creator as does the copyright.

Rights-Managed – when you purchase this license you are normally purchasing it for a specific pre-determined use – a blog post say. If you then want to use the image in a different way you will need to purchase another license specifying the new usage.

Rights-Free – contrary to belief, and somewhat confusingly, this does not mean an image is free to use. When purchased this license means you can use the image as many times as you wish, and in different ways, although you can’t re-sell or change it. This type of license may have a time stipulation. These images tend to be cheaper than Rights-Managed and are often sold in different sizes so you can choose the best option for the particular medium you are using it for.

Creative Commons – these images are provided by the photographer or illustrator normally for free. However the usage is dependent on the specific sub-license requirement. For instance you may be required to credit the creator. There are 6 different types of Creative Commons license so make sure you understand which one relates to the image you use and abide by the stipulations.

Public Domain – Public Domain images are NOT just images that are on the web or ‘out in the public domain’. They normally relate to images where the creator has waived the intellectual property rights or the rights have expired. It is still good practice to credit the original creator but once you have ascertained the image is a Public Domain image you are generally free to use it as you wish.

Source well

To be certain you are not breaking copyright law ensure you source your images from well-known and respectable stock agencies. There are free images available from sites such as Unsplash and Pixabay, however the disadvantage here is the best ones are already being widely used. For more choice you will need to pay and agencies such as Getty Images and Shutterstock offer either individual download prices or, if you need regular images, they offer packages. For original images you could get professional photographs taken, either of styled set ups to suit your website or blog or simple product shots for your e-commerce site.

Finally, remember the photographer or illustrator who created these images is likely to be a freelancer or small business owner trying to make a living too. Don’t be that taxi driver!

%d bloggers like this: