There are an incredible amount of misconceptions out there, concerning the use of images on blogs/websites. This entry will outline some basic information, in order to keep your image use legal and in accordance with international copyright laws...
Just because you search for an image on google and it pops up, doesn't mean you have the legal right to use it. If you use images found on the internet for your website or blog, you could be guilty of copyright infringement (even if you didn't mean to infringe). Here are some tips to keep you out of hot water.
1. If you find an image on the internet, you must get expressed consent from the copyright owner, in order to legally use it.
Often people will take images from online news sources (newspapers, magazines, etc.) and assume that if they credit the news source or photographer on their website, then it's legal. This is completely incorrect. Legitimate news sources pay for the use of images on their website. This is called licensing an image. In other words, in exchange for using the image, they must pay a fee to the copyright owner of the image. It's no different than a movie studio paying an artist or record label to use music in a film.
Example: If you are writing a blog post about Lady Gaga, don't copy a photograph of her from CNN and put it on your blog, followed by (photo credit: CNN). This is copyright infringement. You must use a wire service such as Getty Images to purchase usage rights for the photograph. The other option is to contact the copyright owner, most often the photographer, and get their expressed consent to use the image.
2. Using copyright free images & royalty free images.
Images under this terminology can be tricky. "Copyright free" images, do not imply you can use the images and call them your own work. The only true copyright free images are the one's listed in the public domain. For example, many images in the library of congress can be used for free because they are considered part of the public domain. If you want to check out the library of congress' website, then it may be a good alternative to paying for images.
The term "royalty free" images, doesn't necessarily imply that you can use images for free. You are still entitled to pay for the usage of the images. The term "royalty free" only refers to the fact that you can use the image as many times as you'd like for a one time fee. These images still have limits depending on the usage; however, you can get royalty free images for as little as $1 from some stock websites. When in doubt, always read the licensing terms for the images. They will spell out exactly how the images can be used.
3. The penalties of copyright infringement.
Copyright infringement is incredibly serious, in fact there are lawyers that specialize in it. If you are found violating someone's copyright, a civil lawsuit can brought against the infringer, with monetarily devastating results and even jail time.
DO THE RIGHT THING!
The best option in any case, is to do the right thing and not use images you don't have permission to use, or don't have the right to use. Understand that even if you aren't being paid to write a blog or create a site, copyright laws still apply.
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