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Grabbing Images for Blog Posts Or Newsletters

Can You Take Images Off The Internet And Use Them In Your Blog Posts Or Newsletters?

January 9, 2015

Images bring blog posts and articles alive. Downloading them from the Internet is just a matter of a few simple clicks. But are you infringing copyright if you use them? In the first of a two-part article on images, we look at this complex area of law.

Great images bring a blog or article alive. That’s why online newspapers and leading bloggers mix text with photos and graphics on all their pages.

But images are protected by copyright law. So, tempting as it may be, you can’t just go onto Google and grab any image that takes your fancy.

In the first part of this two-part article, we look at who owns copyright in images and why you need to identify them.

Who is the owner?

The basic rule is that copyright belongs to the person who creates a work.

Copyright in a photograph is generally owned by the person responsible for its creation.  This may be the photographer if they own the camera and took creative control.  However, if the camera owner sets up the scene, but hands the camera to another individual to actually take the photograph, then copyright will lie with the camera owner rather than the person who took the photograph.

A graphic designer or a painter owns the copyright in work they produce. However, ownership in photographs or graphic design work can be assigned.

Copyright infringement

If you want to use an image, you should first find out who owns it and having done this seek their permission to use it.

If you use an image that is protected by copyright without permission, you open yourself up to a legal claim for copyright infringementYou may have to pay damages to the owner. You may even risk having an injunction against you to stop the infringement continuing.

The rules around copyright ownership mean that it is not easy to know who owns the copyright, and therefore, who to ask for permission.

If you get permission from the wrong person due to confusion about ownership, you will find no sympathy from the courts. “Innocent” infringement is no defence. It is your duty to find out the real owner.  If you are unsure about the owner, consider getting an indemnity from the person you think is the owner to cover your losses if it turns out that your use is an infringement.

You may think that no one is going to notice that you are using their image. After all, the Internet is vast. But you’d be wrong. Websites such as TinEye or Google’s search by image are used by copyright owners to find out where their photos are being used.

Finally, the “fair use” or “fair dealing” defence for using an image without consent won’t necessarily help you. In the UK, the concept of “fair dealing” is quite narrow, when compared to “fair use” which applies in the US. We will look at this in more detail in a future blog post.

The message from the first part of this blog post is to identify the owner of the copyright and seek their permission for any images you use. As ever, if you are in doubt, take legal advice.

In part two of this blog post, I’ll look at stock libraries and Creative Commons licences, along with recent developments surrounding “orphan works”.