Copyright Law 101: Using Online Images for Your Healthcare Website and Social Media Pages – Part 2

Nuala McLoughlin

Nuala McLoughlin

Posted on August 30, 2013

So, in case you didn’t read part 1 of this blog post (shame on you!), let’s quickly bring you up to speed:

  • Hosting infringing images on your blog, website and social media pages? You’re breaking copyright law, and guess what? It’s illegal!
  • If you infringe upon an image and the creator of the image notices, they can sue you for up to $150,000.

Not looking so great, is it?
Good thing is, at New Wave Marketing we are professional-expert-superheroes problem solvers. So we’re going to walk you through how you can use images you find online without becoming a member of the chain gang.*
*Note: This article is not about how to steal images from designers and artists. It’s about how there are many ways you can use images you find online, but you have to follow the rules – i.e. the law.

Attribution Sometimes May Work
The first instance which may allow you to use an image without permission is attribution. We discussed attribution in part 1. As we noted, attributing the image to its creator technically doesn’t hold any legal weight – you’re still breaking copyright law.   But many photographers/image creators would be happy to let you use their image as long as you give them credit for their work.
Attribution can help if you use an image from a smaller website, blog, etc., smaller than your own. Linking back to the blog will probably be enough to stop any kind of take down notice/ law suit. The smaller blog will get some click through traffic from you – they’ll probably consider it a fair enough trade.
Play Fair With Fair Use
The second instance in which you can safely use an image you find online is if it falls under the concept of fair useFair use is kind of an exception to the rule of needing permission to use copyrighted works – but it does have limits.
Fair use allows you to use images as long as it’s used for one of these purposes: commentary, criticism, news, reporting, research and parody. To be considered fair use, you also have to use the image in a transformative manner (what?!), which means using the image in way that doesn’t take away from the market for the original work and serves a different purpose.
Bad example of transformative use:  stealing your chef-blogger-nemesis’ cookie pictures and uploading them onto your cooking blog. You pass the photos off as your own. You’re taking away from the market of your blogging nemesis.
Good transformative example: using a chef blogger’s cookie pictures by uploading them onto your list of “ten of my favorite cookie recipes,” on your blog that, in general, talks about cute cats. You link back to the original cookie blog post and attribute the photo to them (kudos to you – you’ve successfully followed the fair-use-guidelines-in-a-transformative-way!).
Fair use is most often a defense after copyright infringement has been claimed. Check out the wiki-gods to learn more:
Don’t Illegally Share Stock Pictures
 Kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? We all know what stock photos look like (they have a pretty distinct appearance).
Attributing stock images to the site where you found them is completely meaningless. The site may have purchased the photography – which gives them rights to use the image but not you – or they could be infringing the images themselves. Also, using stock images is not considered “transformative” as that’s what they were created for.
You only have two options when using stock photos:

  • Pay for them
  • Use free stock images that are legal to use

There are a ton of websites that are full of stock-like images that you can safely share and upload without breaking copyright law. Also, Google indexes most of these images. To find them you just have to do a more refined Google image search. Here’s how:

  • Load:
  • Scroll to the last field in the search form
  • Select: “ free to use or share, even commercially”, or “free to use, share or modify, even commercially”
  • Search for images as normal. You’ll be given a broad selection of images that you can’t get in trouble for using. Thanks, Google!

Some takeaway points:

  • You can get free online stock images, just be sure you do a safe search, and stay away from any watermarked images
  • In some instances you can use copyrighted images – but they must fall under one of the fair use parameters
  • When in doubt LINK and ATTRIBUTE. This tends to keep most people happy
  • Some people don’t care if you share their publicly posted creation. You know the kind, a cheesy inspirational quote over some kind of photo, or a cat doing something funny with some text like “TGIF”. They tend not to look too professional. These are made for sharing (and laughing!)

Most people won’t sue; they’ll probably just ask you to take down their image personally or via a takedown notice from if it’s on a social media site.
So we’ve thoroughly walked you through how to avoid copyright law when using images online. Not too hard, is it?
You’re all very welcome. If you’re looking for a way to repay us here at New Wave, we accept all types of tasty chocolate addressed to our offices. In lieu of doing this, you could share this article on your social media accounts.

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