Time and time again in the business blogging world I see businesses, big and small, using images improperly and without licensing. Google makes it easy to find any type of image you could possibly want, from cat memes to “business professional working hard at the office.” Because of this, it’s pretty commonplace to grab images this way for internal documents, presentations, marketing materials, and blog posts.
As marketing experts we’re here to tell you... NEVER PUBLISH AN IMAGE YOU FOUND ON GOOGLE that doesn’t clear state you can. Every image you use on your website or blog should and MUST be licensed properly. Lawsuits are popping up across the country for illegal image usage and it could cost you much, much more than the original price of a similar photo.
“But I linked back to the original site…”
Attribution doesn’t always make it right. Just because you link back to the original source or give photo credit, doesn’t mean you can get away with copyright infringement. So to play it safe we suggest anyone getting into the online publishing or inbound marketing world, to set up an account on a stock photography site and buy your images there. Make sure you’re downloading files that can be published without credit. You’ll build a database of images that you can reuse and you’ll save yourself money and a headache in the long run. Plus, your site will look much more professional without these types of attribution links.
Here are a couple sites to check out:
A bonus tip: You don’t need to purchase the largest image available. For a blog post you typically only need it to be a few hundred pixels wide, so keep this in mind and save yourself a couple bucks by purchasing the smaller images unless you have some other uses in mind for them.
Exceptions to the Rule:
There are definitely exceptions to the rule of only using purchased images. Sometimes you might really want to use a public image and if it has a Creative Commons License, then you possibly could. Possibly. Every image owner has the right to provide this image with his or her own guidelines (for example: it might be free to use only for non-commercial work).
Another exception is if you are writing an editorial piece on another brand. There can be a lot of grey areas with image licensing, which is why I always choose to play it safe. I’m not a copyright lawyer so I always do my homework on a case-by-case basis and I would suggest you do the same.
Finally, if you do decide to use free images from a site like Flickr, then make sure you follow each individual’s guidelines for how to attribute that owner. They could be different from photo to photo.
Read the Fine Print
A final note worth making is that every stock photo site has their own definitions and rules, so that’s why I also suggest you find one you like and stick with it. Make sure you read the fine print and understand the kind of images you’re allowed to use for your company blog.
Flickr defines an Attribution License as “You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work – and derivative works based upon it – but only if they give you credit.”
An Image is Worth a Thousand Words
With all this being said, images are a critical component to any great blog post. Us humans love images and we love visuals… so don’t let your fear of breaking the law keep you from finding the perfect image to pair with your next post. Instead, just know the rules and err on the side of caution.