Jennifer has submitted a fabulous question this week! With all the talk around the blogosphere of plagiarism, copyrights, and images, surely some of you must be wondering how to know if you’re allowed to use an image on your blog. So today we’re going to be talking about licenses, copyrights, and legally using free images!
Do you know anything about using photos and images from online on your blog without getting in trouble about copyrights? Like which websites have the best free photos and how do I know what really is a free photo?
When using images on your blog, keep this in mind: when someone creates an image, they own full copyright. You don’t have any permission to use that image, unless otherwise stated. So the rule here is: if in doubt, don’t use the image. Unless the image is licensed in a certain way or you have explicit permission, you cannot use an image. It doesn’t matter if you give credit or not; you are not allowed to use the image unless you have permission.
How do you know if you have permission to use an image?
In the online world you want to look for two beautiful words: Creative Commons. There are several different variations of Creative Commons, and you should read up on the exact definitions of each license. The variations will determine whether or not you’re allowed to modify/alter the image, and whether or not you’re permitted to use the images for commercial works.
But, Creative Commons isn’t the only option. There are several other licenses out there that allow you to use images. For example, there’s the WTFPL license, which encourages licensees to “do what the fuck they want to do”. In other words, you can do whatever you want with an image. You can use it, redistribute it, modify it, and you aren’t required to credit the original author.
Look for the license!
I know it’s a bit of a hassle, but the best thing to do is find an image and then look for a license. Can’t find a license? Can’t find any text saying you’re allowed to use the image? Then don’t. But if you do find a license (i.e. LGPL), then read the terms. The image will either come with a copy of the license, or if it just says “Licensed under LGPL” then Google the license and read the terms there. Usually it’s laid out plainly enough and will tell you whether or not you’re allowed to use the image, and whether or not you need to provide credit.
Where to look for images?
There are so many ways to find free images. One way is to do a Google search, then switch to advanced settings, then at the bottom look for “Usage Rights”. You can filter search results according to usage. You can select the option that suits you and search that way.
If you’re looking for icons, then I adore Icon Finder. Do your search, and if you click on an icon you will see a section on the right for “License”, and it will tell you what the image is licensed under. You should be able to click on the license to read the exact terms.
Another option is Flickr. This is very similar to Google. Search for an image, switch to “Advanced Search”, and at the bottom you can check to search for only images within Creative Commons. Then there are optional check boxes to filter it even further, to find images for commercial use or images you can modify.
What about using book covers in reviews?
Displaying a book’s cover along with your review falls under the “fair use” policy. As long as you’re not directly claiming that the book cover is yours or was made by you, you’re free to use it! This is very similar to quoting from books falling under “fair use”. You’re perfectly allowed to include quotes from books in your review, as long as they’re not too long. There isn’t an exact rule for how long your quote is allowed to be (particularly because it depends on the length of the source), but it’s best to stay under about 300 words.