Given that 65% of the population are visual learners, the use of images in marketing can make a big difference when it comes to getting the attention of your audience and conveying your message. But finding the right image can be difficult, and when you DO find a great image, it is often difficult to understand whether you can actually use it.

Don’t think you can just do a Google search and use the images you find there. While Google may be a great source for images, most of what you’ll find there is subject to licensing in some way. If you use the images without purchasing the rights to do so, you can find yourself facing stiff fines or even a lawsuit.

Before you start that Google search, make sure you understand the rules governing image licensing. To help with this, we’ve prepared an infographic that makes it easy to know when you can or cannot use an image you find online, and when it makes sense to create your own image.

Here is the low-down on the infographic’s main points

How is the Image Licensed?

The first thing you should do is make sure you’ve got a good understanding of the different types of image licenses. The most common license types include:

  • Copyright – Copyrighted images cannot be used, copied or shared without permission from the owner.
  • Creative Commons – Creative Commons allows people to freely share images using customized licenses. Normally, Creative Commons images require proper attribution (ie. you need to give credit to the image’s owner or creator), but each work will have it’s own permissions and rights.
  • Public Domain – Public Domain images have no copyright, and can be used by anyone for any purpose.

Another recognized license is Fair Use, but since it tends to be geared toward educational purposes or public benefit, it isn’t usually an option for for-profit marketers.

Pay Up or Pay Attribution

If you use an image that you don’t have the rights to, or if you fail to give attribution where it is required, you may be subject to steep fines or copyrite infringement suits. Make sure you know the difference between protected and creative commons images, and where to find them.

  • Copyrighted Images – Stock photo sites are your best bet.
  • Creative Commons Images – Sites like Flickr are perfect for sharing and collecting great Creative Commons images. Be sure to respect the licenses that have been used.

Many search engines allow you to search images by their license. You can double-check the license on any image you find by doing a reverse image search on Google.

If all else fails, it’s a safe bet to:

  1. Assume the image is copyrighted
  2. Purchase the image and it’s copyright
  3. Create your own image

Now get out there any find some lovely and legal images to use in your next marketing campaign!

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