Avoiding Copyright Infringement When Creating Images Online

Today, I’m pleased to introduce a guest post by K.M. Robinson, a professional photographer and writer I met on Twitter. We share a respect for copyright and a dedication to helping writers and other artists understand not only how to protect their rights, but how to show respect for the rights of others.

And now, I’ll turn the blog over to K. M. Robinson:

11A15 KM Robinson headshot

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and as far as I am concerned, this holds some accuracy. An image can communicate with a viewer faster than written words can, showing an entire topic in one glance. This is why we often pair images with our words through our social media. This is a fantastic way to engage fans through various platforms.

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As a professional photographer, a topic that is very personal for my industry is that of image copyright. Within the photography industry we are incredibly careful not to infringe on the rights of others, ensuring that we do not intentionally or unintentionally take someone else’s work when we shouldn’t.

There are a few important ideas to remember when creating your own imagery that will help you avoid copyright infringement and risk being sued for that violation.

The most important tip is that if you didn’t make it, you can’t use it without getting written permission. Having written permission is important so you can back yourself up should there ever been an issue.

Avoiding copyright infringement is easy:

1.)  Make your own imagery.

With cheap point and shoot cameras so easily available, you can create your own photographs to use. Since you made them, you can use them however you want. Even cell phones have cameras these days.

2.)  If you want images that look professional, contact the owner of the image and ask for permission.

In some cases they will allow you to use their imagery for free. Most likely you will be able to license their image to use in your marketing.

3.)  Licensing websites can also give you decent imagery.

There are many stock image sites where you can pay little to no money to license imagery to use. Be sure to check what the site’s licensing agreement contains so you do not violate its terms. Be sure it allows commercial use of the images as well if you plan on using it in your marketing.

4.)  Commission an image.

Commissioning imagery costs money. Just like you wouldn’t do your job for free, a photographer or designer should not be expected to work for less than they can survive on. Commissioning a piece is a great idea for book covers or marketing materials but is not something you would invest in for a simple blog post in most cases. This will get you the best imagery for your brand because it will be customized to you for your specific needs and has the flexibility to give you more images and/or video that you can use in additional marketing pieces, something that is usually not an option when you are using stock images.

Using images you don’t own or haven’t purchased the rights to use is the same as pirating a movie or illegally downloading a song off the internet. It’s possible you won’t get caught, but you’re still doing the damage. (Side note: there are websites that let you find out who is using your image on the internet. You’re going to get caught, even for simple blog or Instagram posts.)

It’s very important to remember that even if you post an image with image credit, if you have not received written permission to use an image, it is still illegal. That would be like someone posting your entire book online. Even if they gave you credit, does that make it okay?

Check your licensing agreement to know your rights to alter the image. Adding words, filters, or editing the image in anyway could be a violation if you don’t have the rights to do so.

Respecting all creative professionals is the best thing you can do for the industry and your reputation. 

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To learn more about image copyright, creating your own imagery, marketing, branding, and designing for authors, there is a free online course, Author Bootcamp, being offered during February 2016, that will equip authors to more effectively market their brands and interact with their fan base. The class is open to up to ten authors to allow for one-on-one time with the instructor, K.M. Robinson, as well as develop a small group community with the other participants. For more information about the class, curriculum, or to get involved, visit www.readingtransforms.com/authorbootcamp 

1 Author Bootcamp

K.M. Robinson has been a professional fine arts photographer, videographer, web designer, social media designer, marketing and branding consultant, couture dress maker, costume maker, and teacher for the last fourteen years. She is currently using her photography and marketing skills from K.M. Robinson Photography to grow her Reading Transforms platform from her reading inspired photo series into a resource site for authors and book bloggers, focusing on book styling, marketing, branding, and promotional material creation to empower authors and book bloggers to expand their own platforms and grow their brands.

Note: all text and images in this post are copyright: K. M. Robinson and/or K.M. Robinson photography; used with permission. For re-use or reproduction contact via www.kmrobinsonphotography.com