Using Images For Blogs

As a lawyer-librarian, I thought that it would be prudent to fully research using images for a blog. Previously, I had been doing a Google Image search, finding an image that I liked, and posting it to my blog. I found out that this is a very bad (and often costly) idea.

BlogHer posted a great article about using copyrighted images on blogs. From the post:
"Like most of you, I'm a casual blogger and learned my way into blogging by watching others. And one of the things I learned early on was that a post with a photo always looked nicer than one with just text. So I looked at what other people were doing for pictures. And mostly it seemed that everyone was grabbing pics from Google Images and pasting them on their sites. Sometimes with attribution, most of the time without. And when I asked others (or looked at disclaimers on websites and Tumblrs), it seemed that everyone agreed using pics that way was okay under Fair Use standards."

But as BlogHer recently found out. "It doesn't matter...

  • if you link back to the source and list the photographer's name
  • if the picture is not full-sized
  • if you did it innocently
  • if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
  • if you didn't claim the photo was yours
  • if you've added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
  • if the picture is embedded and not saved on your server
  • if you have a disclaimer on your site
  • if you immediately take down a pic if someone sends you a DMCA notice (you do have to take it down, but it doesn't absolve you.)

NONE OF THAT releases you from liability. You are violating copyright if you have not gotten express PERMISSION from the copyright holder OR are using pics that are public domain, creative commons, etc. (more on that below.)"

So what is a blogger to do? BlogHer goes on to share some great tips for using images:

Search for photos that are approved for use.
Creative Commons licensed pics -- You can search for photos that are free to use (with some restrictions) through Creative Commons. Usually this means you have to attribute the photo to the owner and link back to their site.
Wikimedia Commons offers free media files anyone can use.
Buy a subscription to a stock photo site -- This can be pricey up front but then you have access all year.
Use photos that are in the public domain.

Take your own photos and share the love.
Take picture and open up a Flickr account and list your own images as creative commons so that you can share the love.

Use sites like Pinterest and Tumblr with caution.
Both Pinterest and Tumblr (and most other social sites) say that if you load something into their site (i.e. Pin It or Tumble it) YOU are claiming that YOU have a legal right to that picture. And if the owner of that photo comes after the company, you will be the responsible party. And Pinterest goes so far as to say if you REpin something, you're saying you have the right to that photo.

Assume that something is copyrighted until proven otherwise.
That's your safest bet. If you're not 100% sure it's okay to use, don't. This includes things like celebrity photos. Someone owns those. There are enough free pics out there that you don't need to risk violating someone's copyright.

Spread the word to your fellow bloggers.

I took BlogHer's advice, and I removed any image from this blog that was either copyrighted or any image that I wasn't sure about. For all others, I searched Creative Commons to find images that I could use. I then attributed the image and linked back to the original.

Thanks BlogHer for the wealth of information, and other bloggers beware!

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