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What’s the deal with pictures and copyright online?

Updated: 22/06/20

Chances are if you’ve stumbled across this blog, you’ll probably have some understanding of how important the use of imagery is online for both SEO and engagement. But, have you considered the rules surrounding the use of pictures and copyright online?

Newsflash: Photos are protected

It’s amazing how many people still think it’s OK to do a quick internet search and then copy and paste the perfect picture to suit their digital marketing needs. The pressure is on to find imagery to finish off your latest blog post, or your new website — pair this with a tempting array of images displayed online and it’s not hard to see why some people take the obvious option.

Copyright to some probably seems like a bit of a strange concept in the open online world where tonnes of content is exposed and shared to millions of people every day. But, the reality is that photos are protected by copyright law, which gives the owner a protectable right to prevent others from using or reproducing their image.

Straight from Pexels, for free, taken by Md Iftekhar Uddin Emon (we don’t have to give credit when it’s from Pexels, but it’s always nice to!)

There won’t always be a caption to say that an image is covered by copyright online, so don’t assume that a picture simply isn’t protected because somebody put it on the internet. Once someone has created an original photo, copyright to that author is automatic.

Misunderstanding around pictures and copyright online

It would seem that copyright laws aren’t totally understood, or even known about by some small business owners fresh to marketing their company digitally. They’re faced with suddenly gathering a high percentage of engaging visuals without any original source.

If you’re new to digital marketing, it’s best to assume that images you find online are protected by copyright. It’s a risky game to play copying and pasting other people’s images and using them for your own marketing efforts. There are many reported cases of photographers suing on grounds of copyright when their images have been stolen — and it makes no difference whether you are a small, or large business.

So, what pictures can I use?

If you take some time to look, you can find images that are in the public domain and that are free, or low cost to use via public copyright licenses like Creative Commons.

Creative Commons was set up to enable others to use and share creative works legally, via a creative commons (CC) license. It’s still important to apply any attributes or request get permission before you use any photo via a free licence — just read any specific requirements clarified.

You can also pay for photos from a photo stock site, like Flickr and Shutterstock, as long as you abide by the specific purchasing fees and follow the specific requirements/attribution requests.

Some free/low cost photo sources:

Below are a few places you can go online to source free, or low cost pictures — do a little research and always remember to read the rules of use when it comes to attribution.

More resources can be found in our 2016 article, Just Another Free Stock Photo Resource List.

Remember: Be original wherever possible

The best thing you can do is to start taking your own photos, or if the budget allows, hire a professional photographer to do so for you. It’s always good to start building up a photo library — photos are essential for your digital channels as well as your bigger marketing requests like brochures, leaflets, posters and adverts.

If you need any assistance when it comes to marketing your company online then contact us on: 01454 804 039, or email: info@peak.agency