This article provides you with six essential tips for legally using images to help you minimize your copyright risks and lower your risks of copyright infringement. When selecting images, research their copyright status and obtain copyright permissions as necessary.
Be Copyright Compliant by Following These 6 Tips for Legally Using Images
Images are the new words. We’re all looking for that perfect image, illustration or photograph to use on our website, in our presentation or in another work document. However, before copying and pasting that image we need to consider and possibly research whether we have the rights to do so or if we need to obtain copyright permission.
Consider adding to the tips below for legally using images and creating your own best practices to ensure your consistent legal use of images, illustrations and photographs.
6 Crucial Tips for Legally Using Images
Research, Link or Use Your Own Photos
1. Start with the assumption that all images are protected by copyright. This includes images you find through a Google search. See Copyright Law + Using Photos and Images from Google.
Never use an image, illustration or photograph without first doing research to determine the copyright status of the image.
2. Copyright-wise, it’s always less risky to link to a photo or other image than it is to copy and paste that image into your website or social media platform.
Before reproducing an image, ask yourself whether this is necessary. Does it really add to your use of the text? Or would you get the same message across by linking to the image and not making a reproduction of it (which is an exclusive right of the copyright owner)?
3. When possible, use photos that you’ve taken yourself. But keep in mind that you may not always own the copyright in photographs you take or images you create. If you’re employed when taking photos or creating images and these tasks are part of your job, then you likely don’t own the images. In this situation you may need permission from your employer to use the images outside the course of employment.
4. Use and re-use images that have a Creative Commons (CC) license. However, be aware that a CC license is just that: a license.
You need to read the terms and conditions of the license and see what’s allowed or not. Not all CC licenses allow the same uses. A CC license may allow use as-is, or in a remix or as part of a new work. Some CC licenses require acknowledgement of the copyright owner.
5. Acquire images from stock photo agencies and follow the license terms. You’re not outright buying images from a stock agency but are paying for certain uses of them.
Read the specific terms and conditions (to which supposedly you’ve agreed). For example, you may be able to post the image on your website but you may require additional permission (and have to make additional payment) to use the image on the front cover of a print book or to save it in a digital archive.
Get a Warranty From the Alleged Copyright Owner
6. When you seek permission from the copyright owner of an image, always ask first if they actually own the copyright in the image.
The image’s creator may have assigned their rights to someone else, or the photographs or other images may have been created at work as part of their work duties. In these cases, the photographer or other image creator doesn’t have the right to provide you with permission to the use their work. Have the photographer provide you with a warranty or guarantee that they are the image creator, still own the rights in the image and have the right to provide you with permission to use it.
Best Practices and Tips for Legally Using Images
These six tips on legally using images may be your inspiration for creating a checklist for researching copyright permissions or obtaining permissions to use copyright-protected images.
- Which of the above tips are ones that relate directly to your use of images?
- What steps can you add to these tips to develop best practices to keep you copyright compliant and within the boundaries of copyright law?
There are lots of checklists and flowcharts online that will help inspire you to develop your own best practices for the legal use of content. Use a search engine to locate helpful resources and start reading how others are clearing copyright in images, illustrations and other intellectual property.
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Want to learn more about using images? See our online course Legally Using Images.