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Are You Accidentally Breaking The Law With Illegal Blog Post Images?

Are you accidently breaking the law with illegal blog post images

It’s a well known fact that generally readers prefer blog posts with images. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that a well chosen and appropriate image that fits the blog post will enhance the post and make it easier to read. As the old saying goes, a picture says a thousand words. However. enhancing the post is no good if it get’s you in trouble with the authorities for using illegal blog post images.

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You’d be amazed how often I have seen Christian’s who are completely against piracy and believe “A worker is worth his pay” unintentionally illegally use a photographs work in their own writing opening themselves up to the possibility of legal ramifications.

Although some people may react by saying that they will never get caught or they are just a smaller person I hope you will agree with me that as Christians we have a responsibility to ensure our actions are above reproach and that we follow the laws of the land.

The good news is that there are plenty of free and paid solutions to use on your blog.

Some useful terms

Stock/Royalty Free

Royalty free simply means you don’t have to pay royalties each time you use A photo, video or song. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay an upfront cost or attribute the item though. So basically royalty free doesn’t mean “use as you like”, instead it means

Pay once and:

  • use multiple times
  • over as long a time as you like
  • the photographer can sell the photo to as many people as they like
  • There may be a limit on the number of times you can reprint it (useful if it is a print magazine)

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is an alternative to standard copyright laws that aims to simplify how people can use and share creative items. Basically, it means that if you were a photographer you can use state which creative commons licence you want on your item and how easily (or not) people can use it. As such it might be

  • attribution: People must say that you created the item
  • non commercial: you can’t make money of using this image (directly or indirectly)
  • no derivative: you can only produce an exact replication (no editing images)
  • share alike: Other people can share this item but under the same licence (i.e. if it was free you can’t sell it!)

The easy legal way of getting images

Make them! That’s right, if you take an image then you’re probably not going to have too much hassle with the legality of the rights to use it, you still need to be careful with brand rights (so don’t defame a brand) but that’s a lot less hassle than dealing with a company who continually scower the net for people who violate their image uses online (yes it happens).

The big problem here comes with quality. Unless you have a good DSLR camera (and the know how to use it) then it probably won’t be as high quality as the other options below.

Still there is something great about see pictures taken by the blogger, showing the blog or their own creative endeavourss.

Paid options

Shutterstock.com

The big distinguisher with Shutterstock is that once you buy an image…you buy all the different sizes of the image. It also has a different pricing scheme where you can buy one off images, a set of five or a set of 25 images. It also has subscription plans where you can download 25 images a day. The final thing on Shutterstock are enhanced licence images which are allowed for print or mass use unlike the other images.

istockphoto.com

iStock is very similar to lightstock except it is a larger secular group. They also give away free files (including video and audio), require you to buy credit but has a couple of key differences.

First is that images have a wide range of different credit costs that vary not just on size. Two images of the same size might be very different in price. The other is that you can buy either one off photos so you don’t have to buy a whole load of extra credit you never use…OR you can buy a subscription so every month you get a set of credit. This would be for a daily image and they cost a lot. It’s probably not worth it unless you are writing daily for one or two sites or publishing multiple blog post/using them for sermons.

Lightstock

lightstock

Light stock is a Christian specific stock photo collection. As such it has photos that are more likely to be relevant to your topics than more general stock sites. However, they if you are looking for a more general image then you might have to visit a different site as well. They have a system of 1 credit for 1 dollar with extra credits when you buy in large numbers. images cost from 5 to 2o depending on size

Best of all they give away a Weekly Free image which might come in handy in the future.

[P.S. If you want to help out the Christian Bloggers account then use this link to buy images from lightstock. When you do, we’ll get free credit for photos]

Creation Swap

This is a christian centric design site that offers not just photos but vectors, logos, slides, banners and more. Although I’ve included it in the paid section it also has a collection of free resources mixed in. Creation swap will also let you sign up to share any design work you do with the community or Sell you work so you can raise some funds.

Due to it’s features, this isn’t just a great site for a blogger but also for pastors or other members of a congregation involved with the design of the church.

creation swap

Free options

Compfight.com / Flickr

This is my image program of choice. It searches through flickr for pictures that are licensed for reuse under creative commons. It gives you option to download the images and best of all it provides an HTML code that you can copy and paste in your post and have the image correctly referenced.

Alternative you could just search through flickr and do itself.

PhotoPin

This was a site recommended by John Stallings. Like Compfight it also searches through flickr, also provides you with the html reference link to put into your blog post and also has premium photos (from shutterstock) at the top of the page that you have to pay for. The main differences are the user interface and the different downloading options.

Stockexchange

This site is actually owned by ghetty images and as such it will show some premium stock pictures at the top and bottom of your search results. The guide for referencing images on the site is slightly confusing as well and the pictures are less creative than those on Compfight and flickr, however if you need concrete examples of and object or simple created graphics then it is great.

MorgueFile

Another site recommended by John Stallings, this is similar to Stockexchange in that users upload their photos free of charge for people to use (in fact you can upload your photos too) and then users can download them. The legal conditions are a bit more confusing though. You don’t have to reference the photographer (but it seems like you should for both blog posts or merchandise, which seems to invalidate the statements that you don’t have to).

You also might need to gain “model release” (if there is a person in the photo). Good luck trying to track down that person!

The legal conditions seem a little vague which worries me but as users have to upload their own files, hopefully this is clear to those who upload a file. I would still advice against using these images if they have a model in and there is no model release listed in the photo description.

Google image search

Although doing a standard Google search is almost a sure fire way to break the law you can add special filters that will bring up pictures that can be shared or edited. It’s not a foolproof method as some images may be incorrectly labeled so it’s best to approach the person who put the image up originally.

Contact a photographer on Google plus

This was actually a really interesting method I came across +Bill Kraski doing. He followed some of the big name and great Photographers on Google plus who shared their images for free. The when he saw an image that inspired a post or that fit a post he was writing he would approach them to use the photo and if they said yes he would share a link to the post afterward.

The really nice thing was that he was presenting the gospel to some of these great photographers and generating some great discussion with them.

How to make sure you aren’t stealing an image using Google Image search

If you are unsure as to the legal rights of an image or you have forgotten where you got an image from then you can actually use Google image search to find the original source of an image and make sure you contact the actual owner.

All you need to do is go to google image search. Click on the search bar to make it active. Click on the camera icon and then upload the photo you want to search for. This should bring you the result of the image that you’ve searched for.

How to use Google image search

 

With that information you should be able to at least find a reference for the photo.

 

With all these tools and resources you should easily be able to insure that your blog is completely legal and still looks great. Of course, you don’t have to use other peoples images and including your own photos or pictures can add a great personal touch to your blog. In such a situation you have no worried about legal issues whatsoever.

Where do you normally get your images from?

About Chris Wilson

I'm a 27 English as a foreign language Teacher based in Badajoz in Spain. I also run the Christian Bloggers community and enjoy writing in my free time.

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11 Replies

  1. Just when I thought I was OK by using, stock.xchng… Thanks for the reminder about image use. You made a great point to take our own photos so there is no issues. I have been too lazy, but what an opportunity for growth. It is easy to see and hear things that sir us up for our blogs. Let us look with open eyes the visual to our blogs and capture them by camera. Thanks

    1. If you try to download from stock.xchng and you can’t then you need to pay. BUT most you just need to give a link. I used to do the system “Author Name” via “sxc.hu” With the authors name linking to their profile and sxc.hu linked to their site. As best I can tell from reading their legal agreement, this is okay but I’m always a little worried they’ll turn round and say I did it wrong (plus some of their images aren’t that great). That why I use services like compfight because they give you the html code as well.

      I think there is validity in using other peoples photos, not everyone is good at taking photos and not everyone has the creative eye or resources to make a good image. I like your challenge though Jeff and I’ll TRY and take a photo for my blog.

  2. I usually use one of two free sources: my own photos or those from US Government sites. The government sites I use have a statement about free use )at least for non-commercial purposes) or public domain and ask for attribution. An example is http://www.nps.gov/pub_aff/imagebase.html (see FAQs at bottom of page).

    1. Ah great advice their Don! I had forgotten that governmental images are legal. I need to check if UK gov images are. I know wikimedia images are legal too (as Tim Chastain mentioned in his comment.

  3. Most European Space Agency images are freely available. See Using Our Images/Terms and Conditions at the right side of http://spaceinimages.esa.int/Images. However, only a very small fraction of their images might be useful for blogs.

  4. Most of my posts have 3+ photos to make things more fun for kids!
    So far, I’ve used Zemanta, which comes up automatically with WP.com. Most of my photos have been posted on Wikipedia and have direct links back to the original picture file.
    If a photo doesn’t say “photo credit: Wikipedia” I always leave the username of the poster in the caption.
    Occasionally I’ll search “public domain … ” and only follow links to public domain websites to find photos to turn into memes.
    There’s no way I can take the kinds of photos I need every day, and my yearly budget is <$100 total. So, I'm hoping my system isn't in any legal danger.
    Oh, yes, most of my verse memes have NASA photos behind them. We've already paid for them, big time!

    1. Some great resources Cheri, I don’t personally pay for the Nasa photos (european and all) but it’s a good point. I’m glad the government agencies give away their photos! It makes a lot of sense really

  5. I gotta go through my posts now. 🙂 being a little new to this, I am also a little bit ignorant.

  6. You’re right, Chris, in my experience as a blogger I thought it is ok to simply “take an image I like” and put it on the blog….but you need to be careful when you do it! Images are part of the intellectual property of their creators, and if you use them without their permission (or if they are to be used after paying for them and you don’t) there can be some serious problems.

    I also use photopin.com and make sure that that the pictures I use are free to use – with a link back to the source. Also, it is good to learn some Photoshop or GIMP 🙂 and edit your own pictures. And yes, a small phone camera does wonders – you take pictures of buildings, cars, mountains, sceneries, sunset, etc – and overlay some text, and voila, you’ve got yourself a nice picture to use on the blog!

    1. I left my first site for that reason. I doubt it will happen but I don’t want to run the risks of my old miss use of images coming to bite me in the back! I like the way you use images on Agodman Stefan. And I’m glad you’ve learnt some new tools and will take more pictures.

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