« Photo, Audio & Video

How to Use Photos in Your Blog Without Getting Sued.

by Terry Stevens

Recently, a popular blogger on Tumblr had their account deleted because they used copyrighted images.

As a guy who does a fair bit of blogging, and is more than a little familiar with Copyright law, I thought I'd help my fellow bloggers learn how to use images without violating said law.

WARNING!  I am not an attorney!  I am simply a guy who has done quite a bit of research in Copyright law due to my work as a Copywriter.  I've saved my clients tens of thousands of dollars in lawsuits by keeping them from violating the law!

If you're going to use photos in your blog, you need to have Creative Commons bookmarked in your favorite browser.

Meet the website that will save your @$$

Once you're there, type in the name of whatever it is you're searching for into the search window.  Then, select the spot from which you wish to grab photos.

I prefer Wikimedia Commons as they tend to have the best stuff. Flickr 's pretty decent too.

For the purpose of this exercise, I'm going to search for a photo of one of my favorite new bands, Ghost (B.C.).

Once I find a photo that I like, I click it and scroll down a bit to check the Permissions as displayed below:

According to the Permissions on this photo, I can share it (post it on my blog) and remix it (add after-effects, crop it, etc.).

It also says that I must include attribution (credit the creator of the photo) and share alike (be willing to share my version of the image with others).

If the photo you want doesn't give you permission to share it, you can't use it.  Period.

Once you're sure you have permission to post the photo on you blog, do it.  Once it's there, you need to post attribution.

See where it says "Use This File on the Web" to the right of the photo?

Click that.

A pop-up will appear.  Inside that pop-up you'll see several lines of info.  The one you're looking for is "Attribution".

Now, just copy and paste the text of that "Attribution" below your photo on your blog, and you're all set.  I also link back to the source of the photo.

PHOTO CREDIT: By Scott Penner (Flickr: Papa Emeritus II - Coachella 2013) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons  

See how easy that was?

Now you might be wondering, "What's the worst that could happen if I just post whatever photos I want?"

Well, if you use Tumblr or some other social networking/blogging type site, you can have your account deleted.

If you're a blogger for a for-profit company like a radio station, television station, or some other media outlet, your company can get anything from a Cease and Desist Letter to a lawsuit costing them tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Play it safe.  Respect the Copyrights of photographers online.

Also, check out Ghost (B.C.).  They're awesome.

If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of U.S. Copyright Law, Fair Use and the like, YouTube has some excellent videos on the subject:

You should really read this piece regarding what is and what isn't Fair Use .

I also highly recommend the book "Getting Permission ".

Thanks for reading!

In addition to being pretty savvy with U.S. Copyright Law, Terry Stevens is a professional radio advertising copywriter and radio host for Midwest Communications in Wausau, Wisconsin.