Proper Use of Images in Blog Posts, Part 1

Since I started using Pinterest, I’ve been exposed to a lot more blogs. It’s interesting to see the commonalities and differences in how blogs in different interest areas are developed. A weight loss blog is likely to have before-and-after photos. A home decor blog will usually have a ‘home tour’ page with photos of the blogger’s home. A writing blog will feature images of…well, usually images of the writer’s self-published book cover. :)

One common habit I’ve noticed across all the various blogging niches is that we generally do a lousy job of attributing images not our own but used in our posts. There seems to be a misconception that if it’s on the internet, it’s free for the using, but that’s just not so. Or we stick an “Image Credit” at the bottom of the post or behind a link and call it attribution. It’s not. In fact, you could find yourself in a whole heap of trouble. If you don’t believe me, read Roni Loren’s story of the nightmare she endured when she unknowingly used an image under copyright by the photographer. She thought what she was doing was okay, and it was anything but. Her situation is not something I want to go through, that’s for sure!

So how do we find and use images properly?

The first step, in my opinion, is to gain a greater understanding of copyright and fair use. I’m no expert (I’m still in learning mode), but I can point you in the direction of some folks who know a whole lot more and have the information to prove it: Smashing Magazine’s “Copyright Explained: I May Copy It, Right?” is a comprehensive, informative, plain English discussion of many aspects of copyright and fair use. Read it. (Hat tip to Lorelle on WordPress for pointing me to that valuable resource and saving me from a potentially costly and/or embarrassing situation.)

Okay, we read it. Can we go find images now?

Not quite. Many images and creative works have copyrights under Creative Commons licenses,so we need to learn more about those. For that, why not go to the Creative Commons website, specifically, the license page. In addition to an explanation of the license process, there’s a good summary of the various types of licenses. Some works can be modified, some can’t. Some can be used commercially, some can’t. And so on. It’s a good resource to bookmark.

One way to avoid issues with copyright is to use works in the public domain. Wikipedia has an excellent list of resources for finding public domain images. Please note their cautionary warning at the top of the article: “The presence of a resource on this list does not guarantee that all or any of the images in it are in the public domain.” It’s still our responsibility to research the copyright.

And one last thing to consider. We can always contact the image source and ask permission to use the image, politely thanking them no matter what their response. :)

Copyright might seem like a dry subject, but it’s important to understand what it’s about. It’s both an issue of respect to our fellow creative types, and an issue of protecting ourselves from legal repercussions.

This series continues…
Part 2: Google Images
Part 3: Flickr

5 thoughts on “Proper Use of Images in Blog Posts, Part 1

  1. Copyright my seem boring to some, but for me, it’s really exciting.
    People think nothing of locking their doors, buying insurance, and taking preventative care to protect themselves, yet they still publish content of all types on the web, from social media rambles to photography and artwork, without clearly stating what they will or won’t allow for the uncompensated usage of their work.
    We must be clear about what we will allow, and where we draw the line. It’s not just about getting a copyright notice or Creative Commons license. It’s about clear, definitive terms. A standard that has developed on the web for Fair Use is defined by 10% or 400 words, though you may be more specific than that.
    Thanks for pointing it out to your readers. I adore folks who take time to educate their readers so there are no more excuses for ignorance. Thanks!

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Lorelle. I’m still working my way through your excellent treasure trove of articles, which is adding to my blogging to-do list mightily. :) But it will be worth it in the end to have those “clear, definitive terms” you mentioned.

  2. Pingback: Proper Use of Images in Blog Posts, Pt. 2 Google Images | Serentipity

  3. You are correct in saying that copyright is one of the most dull things to consider when you are involved in the exciting world of the web but the way things are been clamped down on and the efforts people are going to in order to protect their property it could end up been a really expensive lesson that that lot of people have to learn.

    We dont all need to be experts but anyone publishing anything online definitely needs to give it some consideration, the last thing you want is your blog which you work on as a passion to come back and cost you a fortune because you were careless.

    Nice post!

  4. Pingback: Proper Use of Images in Blog Posts, Pt 3, Flickr | Serentipity

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