Finding Images For Your Blog – Copyright Considerations

By Richard Chapo | Blogging

Feb 10

Adding images to your blog is a proven strategy for enhancing it, particular with a picture montage. Before you race off to add images, however, it is important to remember there are legal issues to consider.


An image is a copyrighted work whether it is a photo, graphic or cartoon. The person creating the image is automatically designated the copyright owner as a matter of law. As the copyright owner, this person is the only person who may copy and distribute the image with a few exceptions we will discuss later. Anyone who copies and distributes the image without the consent of the copyright owner can be sued for copyright infringement. Damages can be as high as $150,000 per image infringement.

Copying Images Online

Photo Use and Copyright IssuesComputers are set up to almost encourage copyright infringement. How so? You can run your cursor over an image, right click, save it to your hard drive and then republish it on your blog. The process is so simple, most people doing it never pause to consider the legal ramifications. This is unfortunate since this act almost always constitutes copyright infringement.

The fact you can copy an image online does not mean it is legal to do so. The images found in the Google image search engine and on other sites are almost always copyrighted. If you copy and republish them, you run a significant risk of being sued for copyright infringement.


A copyright owner can give permission to others to use a copyrighted image. As you might expect, this process involves the transfer of money from you to the copyright holder. To facilitate this, you can find available images on sites such as Fotolia, Shutterstock and iStockPhoto.

In certain situations, copyright holders may even give you the right to use their images without paying for them. This is typically done under a “creative commons” license.

Read The License

When licensing images for your blog, it is absolutely critical you read the license to ascertain if there are any restrictions on the use. There often are. Examples of prohibited use can include:

  • Copyright and Photo Useusing the image in a manner that depicts the model in a negative light,
  • using the images on a blog discussing politics,
  • resizing the images,
  • using the image in multiple locations such as your blog and social media accounts, and
  • using the image on an adult site even if the site is just discussing sexual issues in an educational manner.

The copyright holder controls the license, so don’t just assume your payment entitles you to do whatever you wish with the image. Read the license!

Fair Use

Fair use is a legal defense to a copyright infringement claim. The basic idea is there should be certain situations where copyright should not be used to restrict free speech and acts benefiting society as a whole. Classic fair use defenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Criticism – Example: A book review citing text in a book.
  • Parody – Example: Saturday Night Live skits spoofing a movie.
  • Commentary – Example: News reports discussing the moral implications of the Fifty Shades of Grey book.
  • Educational – Example: Using a classic novel as a teaching tool in a writing class.

In the case of images, you can only use the defense where the focus of the blog post is on the image. If you are talking about the economy and copy an image off the New York Times site of a bank, you are infringing on the copyright.

It is important to also note a procedural point. The fair use defense is asserted as a defense in a lawsuit. You might ultimately prevail in the lawsuit, but keep in mind the “win” will cost you $50,000 to $100,000 in legal fees and costs. The phrase “hollow victory” comes to mind in such situations.

In Closing

Using images to bolster your blog is definitely a smart strategy. Just make sure you have the right to use the images from a copyright perspective.


About the Author

Richard Chapo, Esq., is a San Diego internet lawyer providing legal services to bloggers through his blog at With 20 plus years of experience, he is both readily familiar with the issues bloggers face online as well as being as old as dirt.

sandi February 11, 2013

Yes, Adding images to your blog is a proven strategy but problem is copyright.
Actually big problem is if you do not have an author’s permission.

One option is to use an image and provide link back to author.

HelpfulPapers February 11, 2013

Yes, using images is a must for all blog owners. Visitors like those eye candies and reward us with lobger visits to our pages and even contributions to discussions. Thanks for sharing your experience

Hadley February 11, 2013

Never had any issues with images myself, there are places to get free images that we usually use so fortunately everything’s been fine so far.

    Richard Chapo February 11, 2013

    Absolutely correct on the free sites such as stock.xchng. Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with more than a few cases were people copy images out of the Google Images search engine or similar platforms on the assumption they can just use the photos. Next thing they know, their site is being taken down based on a DMCA complaint and the fun starts…

Natale February 11, 2013

What if a photo is used just as an AVATAR? Is that also infringing
on copyrights?

    Richard Chapo February 12, 2013

    Hi Natale,

    Yes, it is still infringing. Changing the size of the image, in this case to a small avatar, doesn’t void any copyright claim.

Jay Yadav February 11, 2013

i have never thought that while using the images , but after reading your post i would surely make sure that i will provide a link back to the author . hope this will settle all things .

    Richard Chapo February 12, 2013

    Unfortunately, this is a common misconception. Just linking back to the source does not resolve the problem in the vast majority of cases. You either need express permission or be licensed. Fair use in certain situations will cover you, but not nearly as often as people think.

    This article points out where to find images that are licensed for free:

Richard Chapo February 12, 2013

One other thing I would mention is it is usually smart to use one site for your images. I use fotolia for instance. The reason this is a good idea is you have all your downloads in one area. If someone sends you a copyright infringement notice, you know where to go to point out the licensing.

John Deyn February 12, 2013

Thanks for this useful information.. we never know about these type of copyright infringment when we are in beta stage.. but from now we will try to acomplish these things in my blog..
Thanks again..

Kapil Jekishan February 12, 2013

Howdy Richard – I used to have this perception that bloggers could grab any image from Google Images but that can land you into a heap of you know what.
Thanks for the stock.xchng recommendation which is an excellent portal for free online images.

khadeer February 12, 2013

Hiii Richard, very nice tips given thanks for sharing such a wonderful information.

WordPress Brian February 13, 2013

Great way to open bloggers’ minds, Richard. I’m not sure many people think about where they are getting their images.

I came to this realization by chance several years ago, and as a result I’ve come to on Flickr Creative Commons for most of my photos. I use Attribution licensed photos, so by adding a link to the photographer’s Flickr profile (with the anchor text of “source”) in my image captions, I am making sure my work is copyright-aware and free of liability.

Thanks again, great article – Brian

Leon February 16, 2013

I think if you credit the source of the image you shouldn’t have a problem unless someone wants to be an a** about it.

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