How to legally use images and content in your blog posts

This is the forth and final post in this bloggers guide to copyright series. We’ve covered what Copyright, Creative Commons, Fair Use and Copyright Infringement mean, talked about tips for protecting content, writing copyright notices, stating terms of use and how to contact someone who used your content without permission. Today I’ll be talking about how to protect you and your blog from being accused of copyright infringement and how to legally find images and use content without violating copyright law.

DISCLAIMER

I am not a lawyer, this post is based on personal experience and learnings. If you have questions about plagiarism, copyright laws, etc., be sure to consult a qualified legal professional.

Why it’s important?

Have you ever…
– Copied and pasted a full post from someones blog onto your blog without permission?
– Used someones photo/images without permission?
– Uploaded something to your site to sell or give away which was downloaded from elsewhere?
– Translated someones content on your blog without their permission?
– Copied someones code/design/template?

Even if you credit or link back to the author/creator it is not allowed without initial permission and you are violating copyright law. You can only use copyrighted material if you have explicit permission from the author to do so or if it is under Fair Use (for the purpose of commentary, criticism, reporting, etc). If your initial thought is that they will never know let me just tell you that it’s not difficult to find where your content has been duplicated. I have found my content on other sites numerous times without even looking for it. If you remove the copyrighted material that doesn’t actually remove the copyright infringement, they can still take legal action.

Republishing content from somewhere else regularly can result in your blog being marked for duplicate content and spam. This negatively affects your site and it’s search engine rankings. If your blog has too many marks against it could be penalised or removed from search engines results such as Google.

Avoid Copyright Infringement

If you want to use images or content that are not your original works, here are some guidelines to help avoid violating copyright.

  • Use works that are in the public domain, are royalty-free or have a Creative Commons license. Check the terms of use to see how you can use these.
  • Ask the content creator’s permission before using any of their work and check their terms of use policy. Credit the original source and provide a link to the post/page that it appears on.
  • If using images and you don’t know the original source, here’s a tutorial for finding it – how to find the source of any image online
  • Crediting the original owner and providing a link back to the source post/page is often enough to satisfy them (as they may get some traffic from you) as long as you don’t copy their content word for word or copy full posts multiple times.
  • Typically you can publish a quote or excerpt (small portion) using quotation marks to indicate that it’s from somewhere else with a link to the source. Add your own opinion to the snippet, so that the vast majority of content on your blog is original and not duplicated.
  • Avoid using copyrighted or commercial imagery to represent you or your blog (in your header, about me image or logo).
  • Apart from resizing images to fit your post, avoid altering them.
  • Be careful with making money from your blog if you do use work that you do not own copyright for.

Where to find images for your blog

There are a number of places to find images for your blog, some have different licenses so make sure to read the terms to find out how exactly you can use them.

Flickr Creative Commons
Death to the Stock Photo
Unsplash
Creative Commons Search
Public Domain Archive
Little Visuals

You can also use Google to search for certain licenses by clicking search tools > usage rights.

Find images to use on your blog

I have been putting together a list for bloggers with a number of different helpful tools and resources so will have more places to find images on that soon.

Other Questions

What about Pinterest, We Heart It, Google Images…?
These are NOT an images source. We Heart It and Pinterest are bookmarking sites. Google Images is a way of searching for images on the web, like you would search for webpages or articles. The images shown are from numerous websites and are listed using their titles, alt tags, etc.

What about embed feature on Youtube, Pinterest, Vimeo…?
My personal opinion on this is – on Youtube and Vimeo you can turn on/off the embed feature so if it’s on that would mean that they were okay with their video being embedded. If I embed another YouTubers video and a reader of mine plays the video, the YouTuber is getting the views.

As for Pinterest, if they are actually the owner of the image and I embed their pin with their details, then that seems better than taking their image and uploading it to my blog. They’ll get the re-pins and follows. It’s better than nothing but I’d still avoid it as it is a grey area.

Do not embed an image, meaning do not copy their image url and use it on your site. This is hot linking and 90% of the time they will know because of their stats and bandwidth.

What about using product images from store for wish list posts, etc?
We’re hardly going to contact Chanel to ask if it’s okay to feature an image of their new bag on our blog. In my opinion using images from online shops to feature them in wish list posts, etc and linking to their site isn’t going to be a problem as they might make a sale from it.

What about a disclaimer saying that I do not own the content?
Adding a disclaimer to your blog or site stating you do not claim ownership of the content will not protect you against legal trouble.

Related Posts on Copyright

What is Copyright, Creative Commons and Fair Use? – An Overview
Tips for protecting your content + Writing a copyright notice
How to check for plagiarism and what to do if someone steals your content
How to legally use images in your blog posts
How to find the source of any image online and see who is using your images

Further Information / References

Plagiarism Today
Plagiarism
iCopyright
Creative Commons Licenses
20 Best Free Anti Plagiarism Tools by Blog Herald
Copyright Explained – I may copy it right by Smashing Magazine
What to do when someone steals your content by lorelle

4 responses on “How to legally use images and content in your blog posts

  1. Thank you for doing this series, it is really informative. I’ve known of a few instances that bloggers have been copied, and hopefully this will not happen to me.

  2. Thanks so much for this. I really struggle trying to find photos I am allowed to use so those sites will come in handy! Amy

  3. Thank you for the helpful information. I have a question for you…..if I have a deals blog, that showcases different sales or deals from stores, can I link to that sale/store and use their product image for my blog? I am having a difficult time finding out the answer to this question. I know there are several blogs, like Hip2SAve or Money Saving Mom that just show sales, but don’t actually sell on their site and I’m wondering how you go about that? I’m not sure if I have to contact all of these companies, or if I can just link to it and use their picture? Thanks so much!

  4. Thank you for this super useful guide!
    We have lots of pictures of our wallpaper designs but not general interiors, we were hoping that referencing images from Pinterest would be okay, on our blog. But having read around, it seems to be unacceptable. Perhaps other shops and e-commerce sites and their images are the way to go.
    Sometimes its just hard to talk about other products without looking like you’re promoting them or trying to sell something!
    Many thanks, Laura Hart

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