Copyrighted Images on the Web

Copyright Images

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Have you ever used images that are not yours? Do you know how it’ll affect your website by using images that are owned by others? Using copyrighted images on the web could put your business into a lot of risk.

To make it simple, I’ve divided the article into sections:

  • About copyright images
  • Kinds of copyright licenses
  • What happens if you infringe any copyrights?
  • How to avoid copyright infringement?
  • Conclusion: Good practice to use own images

Copyrighted images

Copyright images

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

So let’s get started with a simple definition of copyrighted images.

Copyright is a licensing right given to the owners of the images.  License is a privilege that these owners get when they sell their images for intended use. Similarly rights are given to the creators in literary, musical, artistic, recordings and broadcasting. Photographs come under artistic works. You are not allowed to use copyrighted images without the author’s permission or publish it on the internet.

Copyright is automatically attached whenever an original work is created. Let it be a photo taken from a camera, or a painting or anything which is created by you. The creator doesn’t have to register anywhere to get his copyright license.


Copyright Licenses

Under what conditions you can use the images on the web? Images that yours, free license images, public domain images, and by fair use policy.


User’s images
Create own images
Image courtesy of

Whether you are using images for educational purposes or commercial purposes, it’s always a good practice to use your own created images. When you use your images, it will fall under free license or public domains so that there are no restrictions on these images. This applies when you take photographs of three dimensional objects which automatically create copyrighted licenses and not photographs of two dimensional objects such as paintings. It’s like copying others in a school test!

Free licenses

With these licenses, images are used only for non-commercial purposes such as educational purposes.

Images in public domain

Anybody can use images which come under this license. There are no restrictions of any kind. Images enter this license when are made public by the creators or when images do not qualify for copyright infringements or expiring of their copyright license.

Fair use Images

In this category, images can be used by anyone only if the usage does not affect the owner’s rights on the images. This is an easy way for the public to use copyrighted images without having to get the permission of the author.

In special cases like scanning photographs, the scanned image does not share any rights. For instance if you take a photo of Mona Lisa, this is not eligible for any copyright license.

Some of the websites don’t allow you to copy images by putting restrictions to the pages like this one-

Copyright website

Even though you take a screen shot of the image, you will still be liable for copyright infringement. No escaping this law.

As a content writer, I know the value of images. They are the key elements which grab the reader’s attention. It is very easy to express your message with just an image.  To do this, you should either create own images or use images from other authors by obtaining their permission.


What happens if you infringe any copyright?

Copyright Law

Let’s take an example of Companies like Getty images and iStock photos which are very strict in copyright infringements. This is a very serious matter to them. Sometimes using free images as well from other websites may be liable for copyright infringement without your knowledge.

When you get a copyright infringement letter, please do not ignore it. The copyright owner of the image maybe entitled to a large amount of money if you don’t respond to these letters. You don’t need to worry a lot since these notices are reasonable. Companies like Getty images, one of the largest photo companies in the world apply licensing fees for the period you have used their images on your website and other processing fees. So it’s better to settle at early stages than later.

The law states that the owner is eligible for collecting fines from around $700 to $30000 from the copyright infringer. This will depend on the number of images used in your website. Some of the copyright settlements have gone from 675 thousand dollars to one million dollars. This number increases more and more if the case runs for a longer period. Sometimes the court can increase the fine if the images were used knowingly.

Even if you or an employee in your company uses copyrighted images without knowing about them, you could be sued for a lot of money by the copyright owner.


How to avoid copyright infringement?

Preventing copyright

1. Always try to use your own created images which make everyone happy.

2. If using other images, always provide credits to the source from which you have taken the images.

3. Not a good practice to use images found on the web (Like Google).

4. Try avoiding scanning of images or taking screenshots from your computer. The image’s copyright still belongs to the author.

5. Even if an employee in your company uses such photos, you will be liable for copyright infringement. So always make sure your web designer has all the licenses of the images used in your website.

6. Be very careful when you buy any website and make sure the images used do not infringe any copyrights. Also be aware of the company’s copyright insurance as these can help you if any company makes a copyright claim. It will cover all your legal fees and damages involved in the claim.

7. There are many sources where you can get images that are free from copyright license. The number one source is YOU! You can always create new photos through your camera, use photo editing software and other free sources.

Some of the free online sources which allow you to use their images are;




Using copyrighted images is like stealing which isn’t good for anyone. Do not let others call you a copycat! Photographers license these images and earn their livelihood through these photos.  So always make an effort to use own images in your work or website. People are not aware of the above repercussions of using copyright images. Clear messages should be displayed along with these images to avoid any confusion. When in doubt of using any image found on the web, do not take the risk of using it. There are many free licensed images available which may not be the best but that’s the compromise you’ll have make for using images for free.



About the Author
Andy Harrison is a writer for UK toner cartridges which is an online printer ink and office supplies E-retailer. Andy is handles social media for the company’s website and is in charge of new product launches such as printer toner cartridges and bringing them to the marketplace. He has been in business blogging and Journalism writing for the past 8 years, working with various organisations.

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