Q: When I search for and find an image I want to use on my website, how do I know if there is a copyright?

by | Jun 26, 2013 | At Checkerboard, Design, Integrated Marketing | 0 comments

A: I would love to give you an all-encompassing answer, but this subject can be very tricky!

Most images are subject to copyright laws, if one is found to be posted on your site without permission, it could result in fines and legal proceedings. When you do find an image containing a watermark – consider it off-limits without first obtaining permission or purchasing the image – thus removing the watermark and allowing you to post on your site.

Here’s where it can become tricky:

  • Let’s say Company X purchases an image of a horse from ABC Image Store and posts it on their website – nothing illegal here.
  • Now let’s say Company Z needs an image of a horse and performs an Internet search in which Company X’s image is shown in the results without a watermark
  • Company Z then uses that same horse image on their website.
  • Company Z has now used the image illegally and could be forced to pay a hefty fine to ABC Image Store.

Even though Company Z was unaware that the original horse image was property of ABC Image Store, they are still liable for the fines. The laws are in place – and it is up to you to know the legalities of image usage.

The only way to be sure you are safe to use images is to purchase them from places like iStockphoto, Shutterstock, or Getty Images.

There are also a few places where you can download images free: Stockvault, Freerange, Unsplash, and Stock Free Images.

Canva, a new player in the game has a collection of both paid and free stock photography you can use when creating social media graphics, invitations, and more. We use Canva here regularly with our clients.

Always err on the side of caution and manage your use of images properly – always check licensing restrictions.  It only takes a few extra steps to ensure you are not in violation of the law – and those extra steps can save you from headaches down the road.

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