Almost every aspect of creating a blog or an online persona is about creativity, and the freedom to express yourself as you wish. The trade-off for this is taking a few minutes to make sure that you understand the regulations of copyright and Creative Commons licenses. It’s not just important for legal reasons – although you can find yourself in trouble if you choose to ignore it – it’s also a way of showing that you respect the work of artists and photographers.
Luckily, it’s not as complex as it sounds. The platform Blogger has its own basic guidelines on copyright, telling us that “copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.” This means that you can’t just pull pictures off google images and expect to have the rights to use them. The same applies for audio, and even linking back to the source doesn’t guarantee that you’re in the clear. The consequences of using media that you don’t have the rights to can be expensive, as Romance author Roni Loren testifies to in this post describing her experience of being sued for infringing copyright.
However, it doesn’t mean that your blog is doomed to a bland and imageless existence. There are many legal (and free!) options for sourcing a rich array of images. Many creators apply Creative Commons licenses to their work, allowing them to be distributed under their own terms. Over at HubSpot, Beth Dunn explains the different types of Creative Commons licenses, and also suggests sites like Flickr and Wikimedia Commons, which can be used to find Creative Commons images. Media found this way will need to have the original source attributed alongside it. A second free option is to use public domain images, which can be found on a number of sites; the British Library’s Flickr account, for instance, contains over 1,000,000 public domain images. Alternatively, images can be purchased from stock image websites like ShutterStock. If you choose to pay for your pictures then it negates the need to add credit.
Once you know the rules, it’s easy to stay on the right side of copyright laws and regulations. If you want more information then check out this Legal Guide For Bloggers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or Sara Hawkins’ list of “the best ways to be sure you’re legally using online photos” – and never forget her top tip, “assume every image you find online is copyrighted” before you use it.