Make sure you aren’t guilty of copyright infringement when blogging!

Research shows that blogging helps increase online visibility for businesses that invest in the strategy. But it’s not just about the words you type; you need to include compelling, captivating visuals in your blog articles.

You may think, “No problem, I’ll just hop on Google and find some images I like.” This, however, is a big problem.

We’ve all been there searching the internet and coming across an image that we want to use in a blog post. But taking that image and posting it on your website could be illegal. More than likely it is illegal. Simply copying and pasting images from the web will likely violate copyright laws and could land you in legal trouble.

Legally, you aren’t allowed to simply take an image you find and use it for whatever purposes you want. Copyrights protect the original author, photographer, videographer, etc. from having their original work stolen or misused. That means that if you did not create that image you’re using on your blog, someone else holds the copyright to it. Therefore you cannot use it unless you have been given explicit permission to do so (like a written letter expressing that permission), you have a license to use it or it is in the public domain.

How do you know if an image is copyrighted? As Lifehacker explains, “The general rule is if you make it, you own it.” If you take a photo and want to include it in your blogging efforts, great! But if you didn’t create the image or video yourself, you don’t hold the copyright to it.

You may assume, “Well, if I give them attribution than it’s fine.” Lifehacker addresses this as well, explaining that attribution doesn’t make it legal.

Common sense may say that an artist wants exposure for their work, but we’re talking about the law here and common sense doesn’t always parallel. Copyright law gives the copyright holder the right to decide where their work is published and maybe they don’t want their work on your site, in your book, included in your newsletter or distributed to your social media network. It’s not for us to question why they wouldn’t want “exposure.”

How to Find Safe Images When Blogging

Where does this leave you in your effort to include visuals in your blogging strategy?

  1. Visit stock image websites to find images you can purchase for your blog, such as iStockPhoto, Shutterstock and 123RF.
  2. Search for websites where photographers share their work under a Creative Commons Zero license, which means anyone is free to download their photos and do what they want with them. Be careful as you select which sites to use, however, as some allow anyone to upload any photo, and if someone uploads an image they don’t own the copyright to and you use it, you can be held responsible for infringement.
  3. Use graphic design websites like Canva or Visme to make your own visuals to accompany your post.

Before purchasing or downloading images from any websites, make sure you read and understand their user agreements and licensing information. You don’t want to inadvertently violate someone else’s copyrights and find yourself – and your business – in a costly lawsuit.