How to Use Photos without Violating Copyright Laws

How to Use Photos without Violating Copyright Laws

Originally posted 2018-11-19 11:20:34

Visual media has become instrumental in designing a website or posting in social media sites such as Pinterest and Facebook. But if you don’t own the photos you plan on using, how do you go about getting the photos your site needs?

Grabbing pictures from Google images, off of other websites, or even assuming that you have the rights to photos of yourself or your business despite that it was taken by someone else are all common mistakes that violate copyright law, and if charged, you can be faced with damages of up to $150,000 per image.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can avoid illegal copyright violations.

Always ask permission to use a photo.

The first step in legally obtaining copyrighted images is to simply ask permission from the owner. It’s very important that you make sure the person you’re asking has the rights to license the image.

You’re going to want to explain how you’re going to use it, and give them a URL of where it is going to go. If they agree, they may insist on strict guidelines for the use of the image. They may only let you use that one image in that one instance, so it’s important to know what parameters you can use the image in before you give it many purposes.

Other things to keep in mind are that the owners might ask you to pay a fee when you request their permission for their material. Finally, but maybe most importantly, you should ask well in advance before you plan on putting the image onto your site.  Allow yourself time to obtain sufficient permissions.

Give proper credit to the creator of the photo.

The copyright to the photo image is owned by the photographer not by the image in the photo. So if the photo is of a celebrity, the photographer owns the copyright not the celebrity in the photo.

If you’re granted permission to use someone’s photos, you’ll usually be given instructions on how to credit them. Often, the instructions for use can be found in the terms and conditions of the website displaying the photos. These terms and conditions specify how to acknowledge them in their terms of use, so make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully. 

If there is no formal instruction, just adding their name and a link from that to their website may not be sufficient. It is best to contact them.

Understand the Fair Use copyright.

Under very specific circumstances, you may be able to use copyrighted material without permission. This can be done if your use of the material falls under the Fair Use clause in copyright law. In order to find out if Fair Use applies to you and your plans, consider these four factors:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantial portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Use images with Creative Commons licenses.

One very useful and convenient alternative to seeking permission is to look for photography with a Creative Commons license. These are images distributed by photographers that come with terms of licensing that users must abide by in order to use them. This means you won’t have to contact the image owner for permission, but it does mean that you’ll have to follow the licensing term that the owner is granting.

Purchase stock photos

If your site needs an image fast, you can always buy images from low cost stock photography sites such as iStockphoto. If you’re willing to spend even more money, you can find better quality images from sites like ShutterStock or Getty Images. Basically, the higher quality the photo, the more money it’s going to cost.


A copyright is a right to prevent others from using your originally authored work. To protect their creative ingenuity, as well as to ensure that they are the only ones who can make use of and profit from their material, authors of artistic or intellectual works have their material copyrighted. Those who have copyrighted material have many exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce the work, distribute copies to the public for sale, and perform the work. Since anything you create can be copyrighted, copyrights can protect endless types of creative work. Some examples are recorded music, books, software codes, video games, paintings, plays, or sculptures.

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