More often than you would think, I stumble across people using photos that they don’t have rights to on social media and in print products. This just happened this week, when a few coworkers and I attended an event only to find the program filled with images taken by one of our company’s employees.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Personally I would be willing to give most organizations permission to use photos for a good cause, and I think in a lot of cases my company and other companies feel the same way. But ask for permission.
Taking photos from a publication’s website is not only in poor taste, it’s against the law.
Copyright by definition and under federal law protects original works of authorship. A work of authorship includes literary, written, dramatic, artistic, musical and certain other types of works.
I don’t believe that people create things with the intention of breaking the law, though. I think there is a lack of education surrounding Copyright and fair use. So, here are some pointers when looking for images on the web:
Understand usage terms like “Copyright,” “Fair Use” and “Creative Commons.”
Here’s an article that can help with that. You’ll find that you, in most cases, will only want to be using images that fall under Creative Commons.
2. Properly use search tools.
Don’t, PLEASE DON’T, go to Google and right click and save the first image you see that you like. Because of the way SEO works, you’re going to see images from the most trusted outlets first – which means these images are most likely copyrighted.
Instead, under Google’s “Search Tools” option, choose “labeled for reuse.”
3. Use free stock photo sites.
I wrote about some of my favorites in this blog post. Sometimes, these sites aren’t going to have what you’re looking for. But it’s worth a shot.
4. Ask permission.
As mentioned before, if you’re holding a fundraiser or benefit event, an organization is probably willing to help you out. Look up an organization’s contact information on their website. If they’re not willing to give you an image for free, chances are that it only costs a few dollars for a digital copy.
But make SURE to give that company or artist credit for their work. Photographers, videographers, artists, etc. work very hard. They deserve it.