Inspired by Richard Byrne’s post on best practices for using images in blog posts, below are three simple tips to follow to avoid copyright issues. Just because images are freely available on the Internet to view, does not mean it gives us the right to use them without permission. You can of course contact the owner of copyrighted images to ask for this, however this can take time and potentially be refused. The options below help to alleviate this.
1. Use your own images
Now so many of us own phones that enable us to take photos and the fact that these very devices are usually carried on our person most of the time, there are so many opportunities to take snapshots. The phone cameras are often equal to or better than our existing cameras with regards to quality. Photos can be quickly accessed and saved to sites like Flickr or filed on our own devices. Care should be taken when photographing people that can be identified and permission sought if you wish to post online, however at a distance photos are fine.
2. Use public domain photos
These are images that have been uploaded and given a pubic domain licence. Stanford University offer a useful definition:
The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.
Examples of websites offering public domain images:
- British Library
- Photos Public Domain
- Public Domain Archive
- Public Photo
- Wikimedia Commons
3. Use photos with a Creative Commons licence
Here owners of images that have given their work a CC licence, give permission to others to use their images. It is important however to give attribution to the owner of the image. Alan Levine’s CC Attribution Helper also makes it easy to format image citations. Secondly care should be taken to check whether the chosen licence (there are a number of different ones) allows modification or use commercially (if this is relevant). Visit the Creative Commons site for more info https://creativecommons.org/choose/.
Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that assists authors and creators who want to voluntarily share their work, by providing free copyright licences and tools, so that others may take full and legal advantage of the Internet’s unprecedented wealth of science, knowledge and culture.
Examples of websites offering Creative Commons licenced images:
Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig expains Creative Commons licensing
Image source: Photos Public Domain