People react more to visual aspects and audio than text. Finding images for your site to make it more appealing can be challenging. Nowadays, everyone is suing everyone left and right for copyright infringement, or worse, plagiarism. So, you cannot simply use any image that you’ve found on Pinterest or Google Images.
What is copyright infringement?
Whenever someone puts media such as an image, video or audio clip out there on the internet, it’s done. It is out there now and people will take advantage of it. Especially if it’s a high quality piece. Some may use it for personal use which in most cases are fine (see the CC0, GPL and OFL licenses).
The problem comes in when someone tries to use it for commercial purposes. You can easily get sued if you use someone else’s media for your products or shop without their consent.
Rather stick to commercially free media, which you will find on the sites listed below.
What is plagiarism?
This is the worst case of infringement. To plagiarise means to copy someone else’s work verbatimly (i.e. exactly as is) and making it your own. Whether this is for personal use or commercial, it is surely the biggest mistake you can make!
To give you an idea of how extreme this is: Universities will ban a student from ever studying again if they commit plagiarism.
Just don’t do it!
What counts as commercial use?
There is a fine line between personal and commercial use. Even if you don’t gain money directly from the image or video used, you may still step over the line.
If you use an image for an invite to a party at your house, it is fine. But if you use the same image as the main design for an invite to a fundraiser, for example, it can be seen as copyright infringement.
Let’s say you want to use an image from Google on your personal blog, it might be okay in some cases. But, if you have paid ads or affiliate links on your website, then it will be a problem, because that counts as commercial use.
Thinking about using a video or a part thereof for your YouTube channel? Again, if it isn’t clearly copyrighted, you might get away with it. But if you get more subscribers and use ads to make money on YouTube, it will be and issue = commercial use!
Just save yourself all of the drama and use media with the correct licenses.
Or, the best idea ever: Create your OWN content! Check out my site’s shop or my Etsy shop for examples on how I use my own images for my product designs. I know those are my own designs because I have drawn them by hand. Safe!
Types of licenses (that matter)
100% Free / Completely Free
Use this media to your heart’s content! You can use it personally and commercially. You are allowed to edit, change, manipulate, distribute, etc. this media.
An example of this are some fonts at dafont.com
(Note: Click on a category, and below the box at the top it will give you options to define your search. Click on more options and tick the 100% free box. Press enter)
Here are the steps for downloading a 100% free font:
Choose any category.
You can cleary see the licenses next to the font. One is free for personal use, the other one is 100% free.
Define your search. Click on “more options”
Notice how you can now select the type of license needed for your project. Select 100% free. The public domain / GPL / OFL license will also be automatically selected – you can deselect it if you want. Now Press enter.
Check the licenses. Download the fonts which you like.
Types of licenses (continued)
The Creative Commons (CC) license is a public license for media which would otherwise have been copyrighted. Artists who state that their work has a CC0 license or CC license gives you permission to use, share and build upon their work.
The General Public License is a public software license which gives you permission to use, share, run or change the software. Fonts count as software.
The Open Font License is specifically for the use of fonts and the use, change or share thereof.
This license permits you to use the media in any way you wish.
You may have also noticed that some media require attribution…
What is attribution?
When the artist requires you to acknowledge them or their work in your projects. This can mean simply to mention them or link to their website, blog or other platform. Some artists require you to have a tiny watermark somewhere on an image.
Personally I steer clear of attribution requirements, because it can ruin your whole brand.
What to look for in an image?
You need to clearly see the disclosure of licenses on a stock image website. If it isn’t clearly visible next to the image or in the website’s disclaimer, then rather not use those images. You need to be familiar with the website’s licenses before you make a mistake which can possible get you sued.
How do I protect myself from copyright infringement?
This is my own personal method of protecting myself, in case someone tries to sue me over their work.
I will take a screenshot of where I have found the image (the webpage). This screenshot gets pasted into MS Paint (or similar). I will save the image exactly the way it is with the current date as the file name. For more than one image on the same day, I will just number them like 00, 01, 02 etc.
So your file name might look something like this: 18-10-2017_00.jpg.
Go ahead and save that into a folder on your computer. I have a Pixabay folder for instance, where I save the downloaded image. In that folder I will have an “evidence” folder.
Why is this important?
Some people deliberately put copyrighted images on these “free stock image” websites. If you use these images, they find you by using the encrypted meta data imbedded into the image itself. (complicated stuff, I know!). They can then sue you for hundreds or thousands of Dollars.
They actually make a living out of doing this!!!
If you take screenshots of where you download your images or content, you will have evidence. In your screenshots you will clearly see the URL of the webpage in your address bar.
I am not claiming that this will work in all cases of copyright. But it is a chance to state your side of the case, before someone tries to sue you.
Here are the steps for building up your stock image evidence:
Locate the image which you want to download. (Notice how the URL and license is clearly visible here)
Take a screenshot. There is a screenshot button on your keyboard for PC (print screen).
Paste you screenshot into MS Paint or similar.
Save your image as is in a folder on your computer (this will be your evidence folder). Notice how the URL and the licenses are clearly visible on the first image screenshot.
By the way, that is what I like about Pixabay: They clearly state the license on the right hand side and also give you multiple download size options.
Let’s not wait any longer!
Here is the list for finding free stock images for your blog:
(Please be sure to check out all of their licenses first, just to double check. One can never be too careful with these things!)
For images and vector graphics
- Ancestry Images
- YouTube library (for YouTube videos)
- Soundcloud (search for free commercial music, some are paid)
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