Online Images and Copyright Issues

Anyone creating and building a business knows the importance of an image to sell a product or service to create brand recognition. Images are used everywhere … websites, blogs, social media, advertisements and emails are just a few. We all know that procuring images to represent a brand is hard and doesn’t come cheap. Graphic design and photography can vary significantly in price, but these services are necessary to create a polished marketing effort. So, it’s not uncommon for people to search the internet for supposedly “free” images. But just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s free. Copyright laws protect all forms of artistic work.

According to the US Copyright Office, copyright is a form of intellectual property law and protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Placing a copyright on any type of work is automatic and a registration with the US Copyright Office is only necessary if a lawsuit for infringement is brought up. A copyright gives complete control and distribution to the person that created the words, photo or design. The Copyright Act grants five rights to a copyright owner, including the right to:

  1. Reproduce owned (i.e. copyrighted) work.
  2. Prepare edited alternatives of the owned work.
  3. Distribute copies of the work to the public.
  4. Perform the copyrighted work publicly.
  5. Display the copyrighted work publicly.

Finding the Right Images
The fact of the matter is that you can’t just find an image online for use in your marketing efforts to promote a business. Even sourcing images carries its own risk as explicit permission must be granted by the owner.

The most realistic solution is to create your own unique graphics and photos by hiring a graphic designer and/or photographer, but sometimes this just isn’t possible. Other options are to buy stock photos on Getty Images, iStock or ShutterStock, or leverage free stock photos from, Unsplash, or Flickr. Smartphones come with pretty amazing cameras these days so that you can even take your own photos. The same goes for graphic design. If you don’t have the money to hire a designer Canva, Snappa, or Pablo provide customizable templates for everything from social media to brochures to website design. These platforms even provide a variety of free stock photos and images that can be included in marketing materials.

Although the subject of copyright laws pertaining to images seems like a black and white issue, it can be complicated! Questions? Give me a call.