A Beginner's Guide to Image Copyright

If you have an online presence, you’ll need images. Whether it is for a website, social media channels, advertisements or anything else, high-quality photos are vital to making your business shine!

Most people will have a selection of images they’ve taken themselves, including products, branding and so on. However, for businesses that are successful online, there comes a time when more pictures are needed to share your message with potential consumers.

Why Does Copyright Matter?

Using images that are not yours can cause issues, both moral and legal, if they’re pulled from the internet without due diligence. To help you understand what you can and cannot do, we’ve put together this introductory guide to copyright, guiding you through the right processes to make sure you’re using pictures fairly.

What is Copyright?

Copyright dates as far back as the printing press and is one of the most straightforward rules to understand: anything you create is yours and cannot be copied by others without permission.

Anything original that is produced is automatically protected by copyright. Once something is protected, it cannot be reproduced, adapted or distributed without the copyright holder’s permission. In terms of images, that means copyrighted photos cannot be copied, altered through the addition of text or logos or shared online without the owner’s permission.

What Images Are Copyright?

An important thing to note when it comes to copyright is the famous ‘©’ symbol. Images, or any creative work, do not have to use the © symbol to be protected. Copyright is automatically applied to any original works, and while the © symbol helps in legal matters, it’s not strictly necessary.

As a result, it will not surprise you to hear that almost all images are automatically covered by copyright. Unless explicitly stated by the hosting website or user who created the image, you should assume that you don’t have the right to use the picture without obtaining permission.

Understanding Levels of Copyright

Copyright is easiest to understand by following the rules stated above. However, in reality, there are different levels that may give you access to specific images. If there’s a particular image you desperately need for your blog or business, consider these stipulations regarding copyright.

Creative Commons

One of the most common forms of copyright you’ll come across is known as Creative Commons (CC), named after the non-profit organisation. Creative Commons allows some relaxing of the stringent rules surrounding copyright, which can benefit both the producer and user when done correctly. However, you must understand Creative Commons licenses before using these pictures.

Creative Commons images usually allow you to use them without modification, so long as the creator is clearly cited. Often, this will happen in the form of a link to the user’s online profile underneath the image. However, there can be variations on the requirements behind Creative Commons images, so you must look into each case. Note that citing images not included in Creative Commons does not protect you from falling foul of copyright rules.

Fair and Non-Commercial Use

There are also variations with copyright regarding fair use. The fair use rule allows you to use specific images that are in the public interest, so long as its use doesn’t impede on copyright rules or alter the owner’s ability to use, modify or sell the image.

As you can see, fair use rules leave a lot of grey areas which make using these images incredibly risky. In general, fair use is designed for reviewers to include pictures of what they’re talking about and doesn’t apply to things such as images of public places. If you’re unsure, avoid copyrighted images, as arguments over fair use can be lengthy.

The same applies to non-commercial use. While this sounds simple, non- commercial use can mean different things to different creators. For example, if an image is labelled for non-commercial reuse and you use it on your business’ blog, the creator could argue that this is commercial. Again, if you’re unsure, avoid.

Web Image Search Options

Search engines such as Google and Bing have popular image search engines that allow you to find unlimited pictures. There are also tools on these search engines where you can only see images that are available for commercial or non-commercial reuse.

While these search engines can provide inspiration, they are not reliable when it comes to copyright. Search engines state that, regardless of where they appear on their platforms, the final decision is with the image owner and user, making you liable if the search engine turns out to be incorrect. You must research every image you wish to take from a search engine to ensure you know what copyright rules apply.

What Images Can My Business Use?

Thankfully, there are plenty of images that are available for you to use without having to worry about copyright! Free stock image sites like PikWizard come with clear and simplified licenses that allow you to use their images for any use, altered or otherwise.

Free stock photo sites are a great way to add depth to your business or blog’s image bank. When used in conjunction with your images, these additional shots can be really effective at adding excitement to your pages.

We hope that this blog will give you a little more understanding when it comes to copyright. Again, if you wish to use a particular image, then understand the copyright rules concerning it and get in contact with theowner if necessary. Alternatively, if you need quality images to add to your collection, consider free commercial image sites like PikWizard.

Browse our collection of images today, or check out our other blog on finding the right photos for a business website for more advice.

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