Online Graphics: How Do I Know if I Can Use Them?

Written on the 13 January 2015

Nowadays, one of the most common places to source online images for your business is online. The internet is brimming with millions of online images, which you can use for your business or marketing effort. There are online images you can use for Facebook or other Social Media channels and then there are the online images you can attach to your website and blog posts to make them look prettier.

Whilst we are huge fans of using online images, you should be very careful when it comes to using images found online. The could end up hurting your business more than helping it, especially when you end up receiving copyright infringement notices from the creators or owners of the online image.

To avoid copyright issues, it is wise to spend a little time learning about the different rules and regulations that govern the use of online images found on the internet.

Copyright Laws

Copyright infringement can be a very serious case, with some businesses ending up paying thousands of dollars to the owner of the image they used. Some online images are circled with a "C" which means they are copyright protected. However, there may not be a circled "C", since copyrights are immediately attached to any image published (or unpublished) online without the owner needing to file any ownership. Oh and if you were wondering about giving accreditation to the original owner or creator of the image, this does not exempt you from copyright infringement and neither does editing the whole or part of the image.

Creative Commons Licenses

Even though you can't use online images with copyrights, there are other images that you can use those with creative commons licences. Some people, when they post their images online, usually place creative commons licences on them. That means you are able to use their images, provided you attribute the images to their name. There are different types of creative commons licenses some will allow you to use the image for commercial purposes while others will not.

Images in Public Domain

Images in the public domain are your safest bet when it comes to using images sourced online. Images, like stock photos for instance, under this are fine to use, without the need for attribution (unless specifically stated) and without fear of infringing anyone's rights. However, these can become expensive, and you still need to make sure that you follow the terms stated for use of images in the public domain. A special note here though, images on Facebook covers and profile pictures are public, which means everyone can see them, however the word public does not mean that you can grab a photo and use it.

Are you confused yet because we are! The safest bet in protecting your business is using online images on your website and images on social media that have been designed for your business by a graphic designer. Facebook cover photos for business pages are a good opportunity to promote your business, so it makes sense to have a unique design for your online images rather than a standard image that others have.


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