Everyone likes to use images to spice up posts, right? Posts without images are boring (except mine, of course! :-)). The question comes up alot, “How do I use images in my blog posts legally?”
It’s a very valid question and more and more people are getting in trouble for using images that are copyrighted. Let me be clear, it’s Theft!
While, I’m not a lawyer and my advice should not be construed as real legal advice, it’s becoming more and more critical that bloggers understand the ramifications of copyright infringement. And while I think that copyright law is laden with crappy case law and even crappier legislative law (let’s hear a big boo for DMCA), violation of such laws carry hefty fines and penalties. And while individual infringements probably do not mean problems for the blogger, they can carry penalties of anywhere between $200-$150,000 per infringement in the U.S. (USC 5-504(c)).
So where can you get legitimate photos?
Creative Commons provides a means to search for CC-licensed work. Creative Commons licensing mainly constitutes an attribution clause which requires that you cite the author. It’s pretty open. If your site is for-profit, your search should include the checkbox for “Commercial works” which will give a for-profit entity permission to use CC images licensed as such. If you’re someone who likes to modify images, you’ll also want to check the box allowing for “Derivative Works”. The social media community is all over Creative Commons. Share and share alike is sort of a defacto motto. Ironically, the real evangelists of Creative Commons are in the podcasting and video communities where the most legwork is performed to produce their media. Even if you don’t produce Creative Commons media, supporting this movement is a strong way to help legitimize it in the eyes of mainstream folks.
Flickr is a great source of photography and a large part of it falls under Creative Commons or public domain. Search your term, and check out if the image you want to use from your search is actually freely licensed. In most cases, a link to the image page is perfectly valid attribution and is a highly respectable way to utilize these free images.
The U.S. Government is not allowed by law to produce copyrighted photography. All images available from the U.S. Government are in the public domain. This site has a list of lots of government resources but note the disclaimer that the feds themselves may have purchased the right to use a photo in the publication, so check the licensing. Almost all the photos are in the public domain.
stock.xcng may be my favorite source of free stock photography on the net. Most of the images are free to use, however there are a few that have specific requirements by the photographer such as “Ask me first” or “Go ahead and use it, but I’d like to know that you did so I can see it in action”. The last theme I had here at Technosailor came from this repository. The rider on the license was of the “Ask first” variety. I emailed the photographer who lived in Australia and within 12 hours, he had emailed me back thrilled that I wanted to use his image. So it’s really not hard to get permission.
iStockPhoto provides inexpensive hi-res imagery (very good quality stuff) for as little as $1 per shot and at most $20 shot. All images are royalty free so feel free to use them as well.
Deviant Art is another long standing citizen in the world of graphic arts and photography. Not all, but many of the photos available there are also Creative Commons licensed and I’ve found many great images there. Check them out.