Copyright and Using Images in Blog Posts

Adding an image to your blog post can make a big difference on how easy the post is on the eyes. Good use of images grab reader’s attention.

I really wanted to include use of images in my Here’s My First Five Tips For Writing Better Blog Posts — What Are Yours? post but it really requires a series of posts. So this post will focus on copyright and using images plus how to attribute (acknowledge) the original source of an image. The next post will cover how to find images and add to posts.

Copyright and Images

Locating images can be frustrating and time consuming because you can’t just use any image you like in blog posts. Why? Because unless stated otherwise the law automatically grants full “copyright” over any creative work a person makes. Using copyrighted image exposures you to the risk of copyright infringement which is why most bloggers use images licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons, founded in 2001, is an organization which provides free content license (i.e. creative commons license) that people can apply to their work. When you license your work with creative commons, you are giving people the permission to use it without having to ask permission, provided they use it in the manner stated in the creative common license.

The reason people use creative commons licenses is to make it easier for everyone to share and adapt creative work without the concern of copyright infringement. Creative commons licenses are used for books, websites, blogs, photographs, films, videos, songs and other audio & visual recordings.

Check out this video to learn more about Creative Commons Licenses.

Creative Commons Flickr Photos

The most common source of creative commons images used by bloggers is Flickr. Unfortunately many assume Flickr images are licensed under creative commons and allowed to be used. This isn’t the case; images marked as “All Rights Reserved” are copyrighted and require permission from their creator.

Images marked as “Some Rights Reserved” means a creative commons license applies. Always check to see which license applies when using a photo from Flickr to ensure you only use the image in the manner specified by the license.

Image of locating the Flickr License

People can choose from a range Creative commons licenses for their Flickr photos. Each license imposes different restrictions on how you use the images. Below is what each license means:

Image of Creative Commons 2.0 license

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license means you are allowed to use the image, and manipulate it in any manner, for commercial or non-commercial purposes provided you attribute the original author.

Image of Creative Commons 2.0 no derivatives

Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives Works 2.0 Generic license means you are allowed to use the image, for both commercial or non-commercial purposes, provided you do not modify it in any manner (this includes cropping and adding words to the image) and attribute the original author.

Image of Creative Commons Non-Commerical

Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license allows you to use the image for non-commercial purposes only provided you do not not modify it in any manner (this includes cropping and adding words to the image). You must attribute the original author.

Image of Creative Commons Non Commerical

Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 2.0 Generic license means you are allowed to use the image, and manipulate it in any manner, for non-commercial purposes only provided you attribute the original author.

Image of Creative Commons ShareAlike NonCommercial

Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike 2.0 Generic license means you are allowed to use the image, and manipulate it in any manner, for non-commercial purposes only. Any resulting work that is created by altering, transforming, or building upon may only be distributed under the same or similar license to this one. You are required to attribute the original author.

Image of Creative Commons ShareAlike

Attribution Share Alike 2.0 Generic license allows you to use the image, and manipulate it in any manner, for commercial or non-commercial purposes. You are required to attribute the original author. Any resulting work that is created by altering, transforming, or building upon may only be distributed under the same or similar license to this one.

Image Attribution

It’s a requirement of all Creative Commons Licenses that attribute the original author i.e. you can’t just use a creative commons image without acknowledging the person who originally created it. Within or at the end your blog post you must attribute the image.

Opinions vary on how images should be attribute, some consider linking back to the original source (e.g. it’s Flickr photo page) is adequate. However you are meant to make it clear to others what license applies to the image which is why I attribute images by also including the link to creative commons license.

Here is an example of how I attribute images:

Photo by cogdogblog licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

You will notice that if you click on the link cogdogblog it takes you to image’s photo page. Similarly if you click on the photo it also takes you to image’s photo page. Flickr’s community guidelines specify that if you post a Flickr photo on an external website, the photo must link back to its photo page. This attribution ensures it’s compliant with both Flickr and Creative Commons requirements.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This post is meant as an introduction to the issues of using images and some of the implications to bloggers. Copyright laws varies between countries.

The next post will cover how to find creative commons images and add to posts.  Alternatively you might like to check out all our posts on using images in blog posts.

If you are enjoying reading this blog, please consider Subscribing For Free!


Sue Waters

Edublogs Support Manager @suewaters on Twitter

64 Responses

  1. Cathy Nelson says:

    Sue I try to use Flickrcc for most of y pix. What about a screen shot (like a log for Twitter, etc.) that I snagged from my own desktop?

  2. Sue Waters says:

    Good question regarding screenshots. Check the information here on copyright issues relating to screenshots.

    Lots of people do use screenshots of twitter however I see Twitter as a slightly different situation because some people have locked accounts. What we need to consider is perhaps these people with locked accounts don’t want their tweets to be public. My personal decision has been not to use screenshots of twitter that includes tweets; instead I copy the text and link to their names — will often send out tweet asking if they are okay with me doing this.

  3. Miss Scott says:

    What about photobucket??????

  4. Kelly Dumont says:

    Sue,
    Excellent post on Copyright and Creative Commons. Goes to the top of my CC resources.

  5. Sue Waters says:

    Very good question Mis Scott regarding Photobucket. Most bloggers tend to use Flickr because of the number of creative commons photos available through Flickr plus the 3rd party applications that you can use to easily search and/or modify creative commons Flickr photos.

    I’ve read through Photobucket terms and conditions my interpretation is that by using their services you are automatically granting other users to use your photos in any manner including on other websites. Trouble is I don’t think most Photobucket users would be aware of this and would assume that when they upload their photos they are “All Rights Reserved.” I personally would choose not to use Photobucket photos. However if a person did choose to use photos from Photobucket, I would still provide attribution by saying photo from Photobucket, name of the person who took the photo and linking back to the location of the photo.

  6. Marie says:

    Thanks for the explanation, nice and clear!

  7. James Webber says:

    Sue,

    I have seen this list of sites, also on a blog- techtipsforcsesteachers.blogspot.com

    cheers
    James

    http://www.bubbleshare.com
    http://www.moonk.com
    voicethread.com
    http://www.flickr.com

  8. Nice summary, Sue. One big time saver is that in Flickr, you can click on “Advanced Search” and search only for photos with Creative Commons licensing. I only use Share-alike photos and the Advanced Search feature makes them easier to find.

  9. Jeff says:

    I believe you have misread the Flickr TOS. The linkback requirement does not pertain simply to “using” photos from Flickr–that is purely a copyright issue–but to embedding photos with hosted by Flickr (i.e. with img src located at Flickr). If you do the latter, you must link the photo itself back to Flickr–it is not sufficient to include a text link. I conclude this from the following:
    Flickr TOS

    The Flickr service makes it possible to post content hosted on Flickr to outside web sites. However, pages on other web sites that display content hosted on flickr.com must provide a link from each photo or video back to its page on Flickr.

    Text following embed code on individual image pages:

    Remember! Flickr Community Guidelines specify that if you post a Flickr photo on an external website, the photo must link back to its photo page. (So, use Option 1.)

    “Option 1″ links the photo to Flickr photo page.

  10. Thank you, Sue. This is a very timely post!

  11. Sue Waters says:

    @Marie Thanks I’m glad the explanation helped.

    @Britt That is an excellent tip regarding Advanced Search. I’ve have some 3rd party Flickr Creative Commons tools that I will show in the next post as well.

    @Jeff Thanks for highlighting that issue with Flickr as I did miss it. I know a blogger who got caught out because he linked the photo to the person’s photo page but didn’t provide the text attribution. I’ve reworded it — I would like to insert a thank you where I reworded it acknowledging the fact that you had pointed it out. Do you have a blog or site I can link to?

    @MaryAnn Glad it has been of assistance.

  12. Great post Sue! I wanted to offer another option, which is Photrade.com. (Yes, I do work for them :) Creative Commons can be a very tricky issue for many photographers, and I think a better solution is to give the photographer an opportunity to make money through their photos by using them on your site. This gives them attribution and a revenue stream for their work.

    Feel free to check us out and let us know what you think.

  13. Jeff says:

    No need to link to anything of mine. One thing is clear: copyright is very difficult to explain succinctly, as you are trying to do here. I could quibble with a few other things in the post (which could use some proofreading!), but it’s not really worth it, since the basics are there and those who wish can explore the topics further. I would only add that it’s worth chiming in for fair use, given that many of the people in this community are educators and their blogs are used in an educational context. In other words, there are many cases in which bloggers would be free to use copyrighted images even without an CCL or other license, if they are putting it to a clearly educational use, if the images are scaled down, etc. Fair use is a tricky thing to figure out, and copyright holders like to pretend it doesn’t exist, but all the same it’s a nice thing to try to keep alive.

  14. mrlane says:

    Sue,

    I have been pondering this issue for some time and I am thankful that you have tackled it. Now that I have a forum, I would like to ask for clarification on the following:

    ~ Are images” and “videos” being lumped together in the same bucket?
    ~ As an educator, how much leeway do I have (as Jeff aluded to) when using materials (images, viedo, and/or audio) found on the web for educational purposes?

    I have a few other questions but your answers for the above questions may dictate what I ask in the future. :)

  15. inpi says:

    Sue,
    Thank you for your very useful post, I needed it.
    I know I’ve posted a photo from hubblesite.com and I must find the reference in their gallery. I’ve tried to insert some information when embedding the photo, where we may add “title” and “description”, but I suspect I didn’t “save changes”.
    I don’t know what to say about my own photos; I’ve posted one or two photos taken by me – how should I show them? Must I include a link to Creative Commons License?
    If I use my own photos in Movie Maker and then post them on You Tube, should I include special links too?
    Thank you for beautiful lessons!
    Ines

  16. Sue Waters says:

    @Chris Thanks for the link to your site.

    @Jeff Fair Use law is part of USA copyright law. The other concern I have with using Fair Use is concerns that students don’t get educated on the implications of copyright and get caught out badly when they take the skills they learn at school home for creating their own projects.

    @Mr Lane Part of the challenge we face is copyright laws vary between countries. The other issue, regardless of whether you are using for education, is people (the creator) may take offense if they feel you haven’t attributed them how they feel you should have. e.g. John Connell an edublogger in the UK used a photo – the photo linked back to the photo page on Flickr (as required by Flickr guidelines) but he had not supplied text attribution to the photographer. She pulled him up on this by writing a blog post title Folks using my pics without credit: I’ve absolutely had it. If you read the comments on both posts you will see the debate on what is attribution.

    In terms of attributing videos if you embed in blog posts — it generally isn’t the same issue because the link normally takes you to the video page. If you are using audio e.g. music for creating projects I suggest you stick to podsafe music and supply attribution as per terms of service.

    @Ines You are free to use your own photos how you choose. This is a reason why many bloggers get quite good at taking their own photos as it makes it easier. Also when you create a video you can add a creative commons license at the end of the video and on the information about the video so it tells others how they can reuse your video.

  17. mrlane says:

    Sue,

    Thanks for getting addressing my questions so quickly. I looked over both links you provided and will incorporate their arguments/positions into my instruction this fall. I can see both points of view and am trying to mesh them with my own (e.g., if you don’t want to share, don’t put it out there (I know, not a very progressive mindset!)).

    Regarding podsafe music, where do you recommend one heads?

  18. David Truss says:

    A useful link that I use to search cc images on flickr:
    http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/

    Just click “(See more)” on the license you are interested in. Then put in key words to find what you are looking for.

    As I write this there are: 21,393,033 images that you can use in the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License section… amazing to be able to freely search that many usable images and know that every result is usable on your blog with credit to the photographer. I put this license on all my posts so that I am sharing-alike too.

  19. Tony Searl says:

    Sue
    thank you for these helpful posts.
    As a new 30 day blogger, once I master the technical apsects I’ll need more help on issues like copyright.
    Fair dealing for educational purposes is covered by Australian laws so far, but how does that transcend globally? Legally or technically if we use other peoples work do we need to cover all copyrights in all countries?

  20. drmike says:

    Greets Sue:

    Have to agree with Fair Use and caution on it’s use. Usually when one uses part of a copyright work under fair use, it’s a portion of the work. When you use an image, usually you’re using the entire image.

    And we never covered copyright in school outside of using sources when quoting stuff within term papers.

  21. Sue Waters says:

    @Mr Lane Sorry for extremely slow response – I thought I had replied and now realise I didn’t. Read this post by Joe Dale as he supplies links to sites (you also might like to subscribe to his blog since he is really into integrating podcasting into the classroom).

    @David Truss thanks for sharing the link. Its a shame that many of the educators are finding their schools are blocking Flickr.

    @Tony Welcome to blogging. I notice you are from NSW; have you joined our OZ/NZ educators network that meets up virtually each week? Hard questions regarding Fair dealing. My personal belief is it is safer to stick to Creative Commons for images and with text to only use quotes and link to original site.

    @Dr Mike Hope you are feeling better and have edited the comment. Thanks for your thoughts on Fair Use.

  22. Spiro Bolos says:

    Dear Sue,

    What a great primer on CC!

    One incredibly useful tool I have started using is a Firefox extension called Zemanta (no relation to me!). I think many bloggers are torn in using it because it ‘reads’ your posts as you compose then it automatically ‘suggests’ images and links to include. Most of the images it retrieves for you are CC-licensed.

    I don’t use it every time I post, but it gives me ideas!

  23. mrlane says:

    Sue,

    I have just reread your response to my question about attributing videos if you are embedding them in blog posts. Your response made complete sense and I wasn’t running into issues until I got back into school and found that the district is blocking many of the sites. If I pull something from, let’s say YouTube, to Edublogs.tv and then embed it in my blog post how should I handle attribution. Also, knowing that I can pull videos from one place to another also means someone else can too — how do you provide proper attribution when it may be two or three “owners” removed from the actual owner. I look forward to your inisght…

  24. koren says:

    I see the frustrating edublogs glitch has even affected your post, Sue! (Luckily you provided a link.)

    The embedded video just appears as a white box… I have discovered that you must upload videos in html mode and you can’t ever switch back to visual mode or the video doesn’t work.

    This makes editing posts later on very annoying.

    Would love to see this crappy glitch solved!!

    Cheers,
    Koren

  25. Sue Waters says:

    @Spiro Thanks for telling me about Zemanta — I will definitely need to give it a try.

    @Harris I’ve sent you an email. However the answer is Google Analytics for site visits and Feedburner for Subscribers. If you check the tags in the Edublogger sidebar you will see the links to posts on these.

    @Mr Lane Apologies for slow response. I have been thinking about your question and not really sure of the answer. I would probably do the same as I do for images; state their original location and who created them.

    @Koren Thanks for pointing out the video wasn’t working and yes they are working on that glitch. I may have edited the post without remembering that a video was embedded because I’m very careful not to switch back to Visual Tab. Any way all fixed and have now replaced the embed code.

  26. Marie says:

    A question has just arisen for me: if I use free stock images (I can’t see any CC licence details) can I add my own text/words to the image?

  27. Marie says:

    I’m thinking the answer is no … stock photos don’t actually have any additional attribution details, so it would see that to do this I’d need to use flickr images with the attribution that allows it.

    • Sue Waters says:

      @ Marie I take the decision now that when in doubt it’s safer to stick to creative commons. Have you tried using compfight.com for searching images?

      • Marie says:

        Thanks Sue, I’ll check it out. Seems like the safest option is searching via flicker creative commons/byfor images that I want to add text to. Otherwise I can spend ages finding the right image with the right attribution.

        • Sue Waters says:

          @Marie compfight.com is an application that rapidly searches Creative commons Flickr photos – I should have mentioned that. You can change the settings based on the type of creative commons license you are looking for. I use it all the time for my searches.

          PS time stamp on blog is USA time zone — there are some benefits for me that way :)

  28. Marie says:

    I am not an insomniac! The above post says I posted at 2.03am!

  29. dannyq says:

    what happen if the author *for unknown reason(s)* change the image license…
    do we adopt the first license or adjust to the latest…. ?

    thanks,

    -danny

    • Sue Waters says:

      @danny, There is always a chance that someone will change the image license. My thoughts are at the time of posting you’ve followed all appropriate steps (and hopefully have linked to their photo page).

      It is the responsibility of any one else who sees that image and then wants to use it to follow that link to check if the image license has changed before they use it.

      But would love to hear others thoughts?

  30. Techie Kids says:

    Hi Sue,
    What about Screenshots of a website that I’d like my students to visit? I’m thinking about showing the logo or title in my blog post and linking directly to the site I want them to use.
    Thanks!

    • Sue Waters says:

      @Techie Kids, most of us use screenshots of websites and don’t ask permission. While technically you should ask for permission most companies are more than happy that you are linking to their site.

      Generally people will only ask for permission from a web site when they are writing a book.

  31. drmike says:

    If you want to feel comfortable with legal concerns, use a max width of 150 pixels for your images when it comes to screencaps. There’s some caselaw here in the US where the courts ruled that one site’s usage of thumbnails of 150 pixels and under was acceptable under fair use. We had a rather lengthy (and very nasty actually since Matt and Automattic really don’t understand copyright) discussion of this on the wp.com support forums a long while back.

  32. littlelf says:

    Thank you, Sue. I don’t blog myself (I marvel how edtech bloggers find the time during the school year), but I do teach two computer classes, and this information serves as a primer for me in CC. Talking about the different licenses with my kiddos will be a great addition of our Internet unit.

  33. TK says:

    I wonder if someone here can help me with a copyright question. If I write a book review, how do I source the cover image I use? Do I use a citation for the book, or do I use the website I got the image from?

    What about graphic novels?

  34. Srikar Reddy says:

    How to attribute “All Rights Reserved” Flickr photos after taking permission from the creator?

    • Sue Waters says:

      Hi Srikar, underneath the photo you need to say Photo by and the person’s name with copyright photo used with permission from and the person’s name. Also a good idea to link the photo to the webpage where it is located and link the person’s name to this page.

  35. cheryl says:

    Hi Sue
    What about if you run a fashion blog and get images sent to you by PRs for a brand and use them to write about the brand? And also: what if your blog is registered in one country, say, Mexico, and someone in another country, say, Qatar, accuses you or breaching their copyright? Which country’s copyright laws would apply and how would that play out in court (where?)

    • Sue Waters says:

      Hi Cheryl, this is one of our older posts on Copyright and use of images. The latest information can be found in this post – http://www.theedublogger.com/2012/02/09/the-educators-guide-to-copyright-fair-use-and-creative-commons/ If the host of your website receives official notification of a copyright breach they will remove the image immediately and won’t bother disputing it. The key if someone sends you images is to check that you have the rights to use the image. The image needs to be either Creative Commons, public domain, free to use or the copyright holder needs to have granted you permission to use. If it doesn’t fit those scenarios than it is better to not use the image.

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