3 Things To Think About Before Using Copyrighted Images

“A picture is worth a thousand words” – you’re probably familiar with this famous adage. However, when the picture in question is copyright protected, its worth equals just three words: cease and desist. Okay, that was a joke, but it illustrates how serious of an offence it is to use someone’s copyrighted image online without their express consent.  

Now, the purpose of copyright laws isn’t to give the author the right to deny their work to others; but it is to encourage and promote its creation. Section 8, clause 8 of the United State Constitutions’ first article states that the purpose of copyright laws is to encourage the progress of useful arts and science, by securing for limited times to inventors and authors the exclusive right to their discoveries and creations. It’s a fine balance between the public’s interests and the rights of creators.  

However, this blog post is about the fair and legal use of images online, and its purpose is to help you understand how to use images that are captured or created by others in a way that’s respectful of their ownership rights. Here are three things to think about before using a copyrighted image.

Why You’re Using The Image

If you’re using a copyrighted image for purposes such as research, educating, news reporting, comment, or criticism, you’re on the right track. However, if you’re using the image to beautify your promotional material, you should think again—or better yet—purchase the image or at least get the owner’s permission.  

Will You Modify The Image?

Are you inserting a copyrighted image into an infographic? Will it be used as a part of a video that’ll be used for one of the reasons specified in the Copyright Act?

If the work in which you’ve incorporated the copyrighted image involves altering the image in a way that it no longer resembles the original, it’s important that you ensure that you’re allowed to do that. You can do this by reading up the terms and conditions specified in the image license.  

How Much of the Image You’ll Be Using

If you use a thumbnail of a copyrighted image and link it to its source, there’s a higher chance of finding fair use than if you just posted the original image. For instance, let’s say you’re creating a post on facial features, and you’ve found an image online that you like. If you just use a portion of the face in the image, you have a better chance of arguing fair use than you would have if you used the entire image.  

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