Do not be the one to get sued over photos on your blog!


I had to come out of my writing cave for this one.  Most people know this already, but I wanted to take this chance to warn those who might not be aware they are violating copyrights by posting random photos from the internet.  Even if you find it on Google images or through any other method, you MUST obtain permission to post it on your own blog/website.  Assume all photos are copyright protected.  It only takes one angry photographer searching the net to see where his/her photos have been illegally posted for you to be in trouble.

Some of you may have caught this as it made its rounds through Twitter and other blogs yesterday, but I wanted to fill in the gap of anyone who hasn’t.  Author Roni Loren was sued for using a photo on her blog she found through Google images.  She did, in fact, have to hire a lawyer to handle it and settled out of court to avoid further fees, but it still cost her way more than she could afford.  Most of the authors on this blog know how little money you make (whether you are trad or indie) so this was a difficult experience for her.  She immediately took the photo down when the artist contacted her and apologized to him, but that wasn’t enough because soon thereafter he went after her in a lawsuit.  You can read the full details here.  I feel awful for her because it was an innocent mistake some people make.  Should she have known better, being an artist herself?  Sure, but she hadn’t truly meant to harm anyone.

On the flip side, authors know how upset they get when their books are copied and distributed without their permission.  Photographers and artists feel the same way.  Just because it seems innocent enough doesn’t mean you should take any random photo you find online and post it on your blog.  Doesn’t matter how you got it.  Someone put time and effort into producing it and may not appreciate numerous people using their work without permission.

I am thankful to say I was paranoid from the beginning when I started my blog and didn’t post random pics.  In the beginning I used freedigitalphotos.net  and downloaded free ones from there.  The only thing is that you have to attribute the photographer in a very obvious place on or near the photo.  Not long after, I started paying a $3 fee to get the picture so I didn’t have to attribute it but that got expensive.  Later I switched to 123rf.com where I could get photos for a dollar each.  With those, I usually still link them back to the site so people know where I got them from (maybe the photographer will even benefit from that).  Anyone who has clicked on some of the pictures posted on my blog has probably already figured this out.

Some of you may think you have gotten away with using random pics so far without trouble, but it doesn’t mean it won’t come back to haunt you eventually.  I have noticed people using Google for specific images and ending up on my blog.  After they get here, they click on the photo.  I suspect some of them may have been checking to see where I got it from.  As of yet, no one has contacted me to complain but I’m ready for them if they do.  I’ve kept every single receipt for all the photos I purchased and posted.  Basically, I’ve covered myself and you should do the same.

Another thing to remember is that cheap price of a dollar (or three) is only good for using in blogs and small time stuff.  If it will be used in any way that could lead to profit, you will probably have to pay a much higher price for expanded copyright permissions.  An example would be book covers, though I am sure most of you knew that one.  Whatever you do, read the terms when you pay for a photo so you can know exactly what you can and can’t do with it.  Some will specify how many times you can copy/post it to various places/books/etc before you’ll need to pay more.  They may even say how many times it can be “viewed” before you must pay more.  It might seem like a hassle, but spending that time and money will cost you far less than a lawsuit.

Personally, I think if a person immediately takes the photo down and apologizes that should be enough.  Suing a person who’d at least taken steps to rectify their mistake went a bit too far, but I’m not in charge of such things so that’s why I’m warning you.  Please don’t be that guy/gal who gets caught.  It’s not worth it.
Feel free to comment if you have your own take on this or have suggestions for good places where free/cheap photos can be found.  I like paying for mine because I want to support photographers, but I know not everyone can afford it.

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~ by Suzie on July 21, 2012.

12 Responses to “Do not be the one to get sued over photos on your blog!”

  1. Well said! And as a photographer, I think that other photographer took it way too far!

  2. This is a great post! As a photographer, I can attest to the fact that we feel much the same as writers do when our work is improperly used. I think that copying words holds a higher outrage factor for the general public, but there are those of us that depend on images for a living.

    I don’t think I would ever sue anyone over using my images for a blog….unless they were being difficult about correct attribution/refusing to take it down. Helpful hint from a photographer: we take it as a huge compliment when contacted and asked to allow someone to use photographs – many of us will give you the go ahead free of charge. It’s always better to ask for permission than forgiveness, in my opinion.

    • Well said, as well! :)

    • You never know, DOB, I may be asking to use one of your photos one of these days. I promise to ask first, though!

      If someone is being difficult or refusing to take it down, that is a whole different story. I wouldn’t feel bad for them getting sued. It is your livlihood (or hobby for some) but either way photographers deserve the credit for their work.

  3. Thanks so much for this post. I’ve never used pictures on my blog accept for book covers for the reviews I do, but this is good to know.

    • You are welcome, Sandy! From what I understand book covers fall under “Fair Use” so they are safe. It’s definitely good to be aware of what is legal or not. I’d hate to see anyone else go through this.

  4. I looked up movie stills, and it seems those are okay to use as well. This whole thing now has me paranoid about FB. The number of photos people are sharing seems to have quadrupled in the past few months. I sometimes share them to my own Wall if I really like them, but I have no idea where the original person got the photo, and if they have permission or not. So I won’t be doing it anymore.

    Someone told me you can do an advanced search on Flickr for photos under Creative Commons license.

    • Yeah, I’ve heard Facebook and Pinterest are places where it is violated a lot. Some of the comments on Roni Loren’s blog discussed this. I don’t have a Pinterest account so I’m safe there and don’t use Facebook much (though I may still double check that one to make sure I didn’t mess up). It’s easy to forget if it’s something like those funny cartoons that go around. This has definitely made me think more about what I do with images.

  5. Susan,

    I some how missed this event. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. Pictures that I put in our blog are either mine or given to me with permission of the authors that I’m helping to promote at any given time.

    Happy writing and thanks for taking the time to share this with us.

    • I figured some people might have missed it and thought it would be a good idea to bring the topic up here, Lynn. Not everyone uses photos to dress up their posts, but it’s always nice to know these things in case the temptation arises! Glad you are covered with your blog. Getting sued is a scary prospect.

  6. Thanks for solid information, Susan. I’ve been cautious so far about any images I use – not that I use that many. The only stuff I’ve dared to use on FB and Twitter has been stuff that has a “share” button.

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