Imagine sitting through an hour long presentation with no images. You are bound to fall asleep, right? Images, graphics, photos, pictures, snapshots and infographics all have a higher impact compared with text.

Human perception of a particular content can be drastically changed with the right graphics on your website or blog. However, when it comes to online content, there are certain considerations and constraints with respect to the legal use of images: You cannot just choose any image, of any size, of any quality and of any format. There are certain copyright rules you have to abide by before choosing an image for your site.

Today we are going to discuss the different types of image usage licenses and the correct way to use them on your websites and blogs.

Use Of Stock And Royalty-Free Images (paid images):

Usually, there are two broad types of images available online – Stock images and Royalty-free images.

Stock images are top quality unique images that have limited usage rights. You need to specify the usage of the particular stock image and make sure you use it only for that purpose. For instance, if you have bought a stock image for an ad banner, you cannot use that image on any of your webpages.

There are also limitations on size, duration of use and geographic distribution of the image. The stock photo supplier can only resell the image a limited number of times. This ensures that your stock photo is not commonly used everywhere else and keeps your website/blog image look unique.

Royalty-free images, on the other hand, are less expensive than stock photography. You can use them multiple times on multiple projects without paying additional fees. They are of high quality too, but since they are distributed in large numbers, you may find the exact same photograph on some other sites around the web.

Popular vendors of stock photos and royalty-free photos are:

Getty Images has recently made 35 million images free to use for non-commercial purposes (although it clarifies that using these images on blogs that have ads is OK). They have brought about embed codes to their images. This is because many webmasters that use stock photos are unaware of image license agreements and this gives room for illegal reuse of these images. The embedding system will ensure a free use of these select images, but at the same time it will be automatically attributed to the original source when someone embeds it on their blog or non-commercial site.

Some of the other royalty-free and stock photo resources are listed below:

Although some of these offer some free content, most come at a cost. Royalty free images are great to use on your website, to illustrate a point, but if you want to include images in a blog that may be circulated, it is advised to use unique images. For this you will need some cheaper alternatives that are discussed below:

Use Of Images That Need Attribution (free images):

On search engines such as Google images you can use search tools, when searching images, as shown below, to filter the images according to usage rights:

Google Search Tools Options

Google Image Search Tools To Choose Images With Usage Rights

You can also use Creative Commons (CC) and Wikimedia Commons, a collective search engine for copyrighted images that are allowed for distribution.

In both these options, you would have to pay close attention to the license agreement of the image. Most of the images found on CC may ask for attribution (a link to the source of the image). Some of the attribution licenses that you will find in the CC images are listed below: (The trick to quickly understanding these terms is to take the literal meaning of the license name.)

As the name suggests, for using such images you will have to give appropriate credit (attribution) back to the author. Attribution generally includes the following:

  • Link to the material
  • Copyright Notice
  • License Notice
  • Disclaimer Notice
  • Name of the creator of the image (if supplied)
  • Name of the attribution parties (if supplied)

Correct Format Of Image Attribution

Correct Format Of Image Attribution

There are many other examples of attribution, and you can use whichever is applicable to the information obtained from the source of the images.

CC Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

You must attribute the image to the original author. Additionally, if you distribute this image after modification, you must use the same license on it.

CC Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)

The attribution requirements are the same as that in CC-BY but if you modify or remix the image, you may not distribute it.

CC Attribution- Non Commercial (CC BY-NC)

Every condition applies similar to the CC-BY license, except that you cannot use the image commercially (such as on ads).

CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

Every condition applies the same as that for CC-BY where the images can be distributed when modified, but it must use the same license and cannot be used commercially.

CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)

Every condition applies the same as that for CC-BR where the images must not be distributed commercially. If the image is modified, it must not be distributed at all. Learn more about the copyright and license terminology in this Smashing Magazing post.

No Attribution Photos (free images):

No attribution photos or images that have no rights reserved are free to use without linking back to the original author. There are two types of images that you can use without attribution and they are:

  • Public Domain Photos
  • Photos Taken By You Or a Photographer Hired By You

Public Domain Photos (CC0)

These are images that have no usage conditions whatsoever. You can modify and reuse the images, at no extra charge and with no attribution required. Sources for public domain images are as follows:

You can freely use these images on blogs. However, they might not be good enough to be used on a professional website. Remember, your business website is a first impression of your business, hence, you must be very careful in choosing the quality of images for your business website. And you don't want your webpage to look the same that any cheap webpage.

Photos Taken By You Or a Photographer Hired By You

You have full rights on these photos because they are yours. You can use them as freely as you want on your website or blog. In some cases, using your own photos is the best option. For instance, for an about us page, you can use your own office staff image rather than using misleading stock images of models. Similarly, to help guide your customers on your locate us page, you could use an image of your office building (along with a Google map, of course).

If you have a blog, you can create custom graphics on a regular basis and brand that image with your logo. However, make sure if you do use screenshots from any other website as part of the graphic you create, attribute it to the site from where you originally got the screenshot. I usually use this awesome tool called Canva to make custom blog graphics for WooRank blog. Lastly, in a few cases, where you have a photo taken by a friend or relative being used on your website, do make sure you have their permission before using it. Copyright issues are a serious matter of consideration and should never be taken lightly. Ignorance in the correct usage of the images on your website or blogs may end up in violation of image copyrights. It is especially a problem when you use copyrighted images on website or blogs that have monetary purposes, for instance, on blogs that allow ads or business websites.
So, before you use images on the internet, just make sure that you have taken the appropriate steps to attribute images or get hold of free to use images that don’t impinge on copyrights.

Where do you source your images from and how do you ensure that you sue your images properly?