If you have read up on the laws of the Internet and copyright, you will know that to have a proper, law-abiding website, you must obtain permission before using any image. As any blogger knows, this is almost impossible because the owner may never answer your email, readers need images to look at, and half of the time nobody even knows who the image actually “belongs” to. This is why bloggers around the world have invented their own rule called site your sources.
If you have ever been to a blog with images, you have probably seen links that say “Image Source” or “Via” at the bottom of a post. I took a screenshot of an article about the Google Self-Driving Cars that I found on TechnoBuffalo to demonstrate how they link to the image source. If you click the LA Times link, it will load their story about the Google cars that contains the same exact image. According to the copyright laws of the Internet, this is not entirely legal, but bloggers have made it an accepted practice so that we can all get along on the Web.
If you run a blog that can use almost any type of photo, you may want to check out Creative Commons images. I personally use Wikimedia Commons, but there are lots more out there on the Web. The idea behind the Creative Commons images is that you can use them for whatever you like without having to pay, site sources, or worry about infringing on anyone’s copyright. If you want to be smart about putting media into your blog, try to use Creative Commons images whenever possible.
Similar to Creative Commons images, stock images can be found at a variety of websites including iStock Photo. Stock images can cost anywhere from $1-3 for a single picture, but some websites offer subscriptions for unlimited photos. If you purchase a stock image, you do not have to site the source or link to the website you purchased it from. The only problem with using stock images is that it would get expensive to purchase a $1 image for each blog post you publish.
If you are writing about a website, software, or anything else that requires a screenshot, these are perfectly acceptable images to post on a blog. With technology and Internet tutorials, I post screenshots all the time! Note that taking a screenshot of an image is the same thing as using the image itself.
As any blogger familiar with Google Pagerank and SEO, linking to shady or spammy websites is bad for your reputation. Ideally, it would be great to find every image you need on another website to simply site the source, but this can be bad for your website’s reputation. If Google doesn’t like all of the outgoing links to random, unrelated websites, they may become suspicious and not grant you a higher Pagerank. Stock images are great for designing a WordPress layout or a poster in Photoshop, but to use a stock image for every blog post would be very expensive. If you think out each method before choosing an image, it will lead to the best balance of the four sources. You should first look on Creative Commons websites, but if you don’t find what you’re looking for there, either purchase a stock image or find it on the Web.
Taking An Image Down
If you decide to use an image from TechnoBuffalo and they contact you to take it down, do so immediately. Copyright owners will likely said a friendly message first, but if you decide not to remove the image, they can legally sue you for using it. Remember that obtaining images from any of the methods listed above should be for information use only! The image should serve a purpose on your blog and be free to view. Selling or distributing the work of others is illegal and has hefty fines.