Thursday, April 17, 2014

Can I Use That Picture?

First of all, I must preface this by saying that this post in no way constitutes legal advice in any way, shape or form. I'm just passing along some hopefully helpful information that I've come across :-)

I write a lot of blog posts. In addition to this blog, I'm also a part of 3 other group blogs (Scene 13, Embracing Romance, and The Naked Hero), as well as my personal blogs (my author blog, and Oven Mitts and Other Bits). And as we all know, a good picture spruces up a post very nicely.

But how do you know if it's okay to use a particular picture?

I always try to use pics that I know for sure are free to use. I carefully read the licensing agreements on the sites where I find my pictures and I always try to link to the source of picture, even if it's free to use and doesn't require a link. And for the most part, if I can't find a picture on a site that I know for sure is free and safe to use, or that I've purchased the rights to, I won't use a picture for that post.

Occasionally I'll write a post like the one I just did for The Naked Hero on Comic Book Heroes, that really could use a good picture. But using one nowadays when you don't own the copyright is scary. So I did some googling and found this post on Navigating Copyright and Fair Use Online. Be sure to visit the site and read the post in its entirety; it's got some great info.

But this is the gist I gleaned from it:

  • If you are using the photo as part of a discussion or review on the item/person pictured - for instance, if you are reviewing a product and include a picture of that product - that is most likely okay.
  • If you are using the picture in an abstract way (the post used the example of using a portion of the Dumb and Dumber movie poster to discuss dumb actions, but nothing in the post was actually discussing the movie) then that is not okay.

In other words, if you are using the image to physically identify what you are discussing in your post, you are probably okay. Again, can't stress this enough, this is just my understanding and I'm sure there are instances when this is not true.

So, for my post on Comic Book Heroes, in which I discussed various heroes from the current comic book movies, I used pictures of those heroes. To further cover my butt, I used the promotional movie posters instead of stills from the movie, my thinking being that since those are created to promote the movies, there would be less objection of them being spread around. Kind of like sharing a book cover. I'd love to see my covers plastered all over the place ;-)

Am I certain I'm in the clear? No...which is why I very, very rarely use pictures like this :-) I also keep a few credits going on sites like,,, etc. I can usually find a great photo for one credit and then I know for sure I am okay because I've purchased the right to use the picture.

Bottom line, if you want to be sure you are safe to use a picture, don't use one unless there is express written permission specifically giving others the right to use the picture, or unless you've contacted the artist to gain permission.


  1. And, it's also the perfect excuse for people to start taking their own pictures more often (says the photographer). See a funny sign? Take a picture, and you might be able to use it later. For a previous post on crossroads, I went out and took a picture of an actual crossroads--rather literal, but a different way to jazz up a post.

    1. Very true. I've started taking a lot more pictures for that exact reason :)

  2. Excellent post and thank you for the website. It is scary when deciding what to use and not use in blog postings. We all want them to be "glamorized" but don't really want to get nailed for using photos we shouldn't be touching.

    Michelle :)


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