COPYRIGHT AND IMAGES. ‘Can I use this photo?’

‘Mentee to Mentor’ is a series of articles featuring budding digital marketers who’ve learnt the practical aspects of digital marketing under my mentorship. As part of their internship experience, they came across exciting challenges that they had to solve. And they learnt some valuable lessons that they’re sharing with you here.

First up in the series is Alice Plebs who did an extensive research on the best practices of finding images and visual material for blogs and social media.

Without further ado, here she is with her findings

How many times did you struggle to find the perfect photo for your social media page or your article? Do you want to know what my answer is to this question? EVERY SINGLE TIME! 

There is a saying that goes: ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. And do you know why people say that? The answer has a physical basis: the brain’s part that processes visual information is older than the part that processes verbal ones. But, now comes the tricky part. Have you ever heard about copyright

Copyright attaches when a person creates a photo. As soon as you take a picture, you become the owner of it. People can’t use your creation without asking for your permission to do that.

Copyright is what blocks you from copying and pasting pictures that you find on the internet. And you know what? Crediting the author isn’t enough.

So, what is the solution? If you don’t want to face penalties, you have just one choice: asking for permission. 

What happens is that, sometimes, it’s not simple to find the author of the picture that you want to use. For example, on Pinterest, images are shared multiple times, and it becomes impossible to know who took the photo. 

So, your question now could be: are there some tricks to avoid asking for permission? Yes! Here are some tips to avoid penalties and have the chance to use multiple photos: 

  1. Use websites like Unsplash, Pexels, Pixabay or that offer free stock photos and videos. In this particular case, you don’t have to ask permission to use their creations, but it can be a good idea to show them your appreciation by linking back to their work. 
  2. Use photos that you find on creative commons. Now you may ask, what’s that? Creative Commons is a non-profit that offers an alternative to full copyright. For example, many Flickr creators have chosen to share their work under a Creative Commons license. However, you need to be aware that not all images are copyright free. Every creator can decide how people can use their photos and how they need to credit them. Make sure to read the rules about creative commons licences. Here you will find everything you need to do if you want to use CC resources!  
  3. Create your content. Try to create your own photos. People love original content! Are you afraid that you don’t have the skills to take pictures? Nowadays, you don’t need to have professional cameras to do that. A phone, good lightning (how about a ring light?) and a little bit of creativity are enough. 
  4. Take inspiration from others and try to recreate the pictures that you love. I am going to give you an example to make it more clear. I was searching for the best feature image for a blog. Guess what? I found it, but it had the copyright. The picture showed the copyright symbol highlighted by a magnifying glass. Simple but very intuitive. At that point, I realised that using Canva and its free elements and images, I could recreate what I needed by myself!  
  5. Last but not least, you can decide to pay for the images that you need. Websites like Getty Images provide a wide range of pictures. Though, this can cost you a lot of money. If you really want to invest in something, think about engaging a photographer and create original content. Remember that people love to see your photos! 

Now, you understand what copyright means and what are the tips and tricks to use photos from others or create yours. What you probably still don’t know is that all these rules also apply to social media platforms. And, if you think that repost apps can make all the work for you, you are wrong! Asking for the author’s permission is a must. Though, repost apps remain the best way to give them credit! 

Before closing the article, I want to explain to you how to give credit. There are a few methods that you can use (and, if you are not sure which one to choose, ask the author directly how he wants to be credited): 

  • If you use an image for a blog or a website: “Photo by [artist name with their website hyperlinked]” or “Image by [artist name] via [website hyperlinked].” 
  • If you are reposting an image on social media: you need to tag the author. On Facebook, you share the post that you liked on your personal Facebook page, and for Instagram, you can use repost apps.  

That’s it, and that’s all. The copyright world is extremely complicated to understand, but I hope that I’ve given you an overview of what you can and cannot do when you find an image that you like. 

What do you need to retain from all of this? Remember that asking for permission and properly crediting the author is the best way to avoid penalties and show your appreciation to the creator. You’ll look professional and competent! 

About the author:

Alice studies Languages and Communication for Business and Tourism in Italy. She just became a digital marketing intern at Figaro London Hair & Beauty, learning about the practical aspects of online marketing under my mentorship.

I asked her to describe herself in just one sentence: ‘Marketing enthusiast always curious to learn new things and challenge myself every day.’

Alice just discovered the marketing world this year, but she would like to make it her job one day.

Reach out to her via LinkedIn:

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