I’m only guessing this, but it seems the phrase “intellectual property” is rarely used in its right sense. Perhaps the only place where the word’s meanings are non-negotiable is the courtroom – but even there it is debatable!
As a blogger and web content creator and publisher, I’d prefer you understand IP law, and how it affects your use of internet sources such as images, from your home (and not the court).
So, I’ve compiled this guide to demystify these two words in combination with blog images and visual content in general. You ask why?
Well, having come across copyright infringement cases I want to pass on my experience, lessons, and research and share it with my blogger community to create more awareness of this complex and haunting topic.
You can also check out this post I’ve written and published on ClickDo’s Blog:
IP and Copyright Law in the UK – what are legal Images?
If you’re a creator of content, this 322-page document is essential reading for you. It’s the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Then, there’s more. The following four acts also intersect with intellectual property laws in the UK.
- There’s no replacement for reading the entire activity on your own. Tedious; I totally understand.
- Nothing you read on the Internet (this guide included) can replace contextual advice from an expert attorney or IP lawyer.
- This guide is made to give you some curiosity and direction so that you can then discover the answers to your specific questions.
Given the abysmally low probability of the readership of this article consisting of legal minds, here is the “at a glance” version of UK Copyright and IP law:
- Within the UK, Copyrights are automatic in nature, which means that there is no protocol or formality needed to acquire them.
- Point number 1 also means that there is no central organization that handles the registration of your Copyrights. In short, if you are the creator of something, its copyrights will automatically rest with you.
For content publishers: as stated above, creators of images and artwork automatically receive copyright protection whether or not they apply for it, and it is also given to them whether or not they use the copyright symbol in their works or not.
[For people who use licensed images]: This translates to increased risks of copyright claims for users if they do not pay meticulous attention to what license their chosen images are billeted under (the safest license under which you can use images for your publications is the creative commons license).
Now, when it comes to creating content, in the UK, you are automatically covered.
How does the Copyright Act apply to Blog Images from the Internet?
Does copyright apply to the Internet-sourced images I use in my content? Short Answer: Yes.
To put it in simple terms, a copyright holder can release his/ her/ their works for public use with certain limitations imposed on how you can use those works.
Each limitation has a keyword, which is described below, including the restrictions it comes with. For example, a “Copying Restriction” prohibits you from copying the work in any form whatsoever, so it is for your personal use only.
The full restriction list can be found here:
|#||Imposed Limitation||What this means for you||Additional Reading|
|1||Copying||The work is for your use only, and both electronic (e.g. scanning) and manual (e.g. tracing) forms of copying the copyrighted work are prohibited,|
|2||Copying Issues To The Public||You cannot publish the work on any distributable material that you create.|
|3||Communicating The Work (To The Public)||Basically the same limitation as “Copying Issues To The Public”, but with the add-on of you not being able to use such works with the internet, radio, TV, or other such distributive publications.|
|4||Performance||You cannot use such protected works for public performance, and specifically for images, they cannot be displayed in exhibitions.|
|5||Rental, And Lending Restrictions||The thing to note with the terms “renting” and “lending” is that renting is only done for profit. Under this restriction, you cannot rent, nor lend such protected works to anyone, for any reason.||Governmental Renting And Lending: Artistic Limitations|
|6||Adaptation||You cannot translate such protected works to another language, or adapt them in any way or form whatsoever. Thus, these works are for your use, “as is”.|
Simply, under copyright law, without the owner’s permission, you cannot:
- Copy, Distribute, or Lend the work.
- Publicly display the work.
- Adapt the work.
If you want to find the owner of a copyright, you can check the British Copyright Council, but no copyright owner is obliged to register here so they still own the copyright to their work even if not listed here.
What are the Consequences of Violating the Copyright of Blog Images?
If you are found guilty of copyright infringement in a magistrate’s court, you could be fined up to 50,000 GBP, and could also be slapped with a jail term of up to six months. Yes, you read that right!
If the case reaches a Crown court, the fines are unlimited, and up to ten years in jail. I know, shocking!
Instances, where an entity pursued legal action for copyright in the UK, are:
If someone infringes upon copyrights, the administering organization/individual and/or the owner of the copyright have the right to file and pursue a claim to their copyright through the judiciary in the UK.
This often gets very expensive for the infringers, with them having to pay for the cost of using the image, their own legal fees, and the copyright owner’s legal fees, and all this can quickly amount to much more than the costs of using the image, to begin with.
To boot, infringers may also be asked to remove at their own cost all copies of the pre-licensed version of the copyrighted works from the public domain.
Exceptions To Copyright Law Protection
Under copyright law, without the owner’s permission, you can to a certain degree use the copyrighted material for
- Study (Private and/ or research) purposes.
- Performance of, copying, or lending the work for educational purposes.
- Reporting in the news (not for images though), and criticism.
- Recordings of any form of broadcast for consumption at a time more convenient to you. This entire process is formally known per pro as “Time Shifting”.
- Producing a backup or a copy for personal use (in terms of computer programs)
Where Can You Get Copyright-Free Legal Images?
This is the key question for all content creators, publishers, and bloggers and let me tell you, it’s not as easy as you think.
Stock Image Websites
Where can you get copyright-free legal images online? The most obvious answer is – stock-photo websites. But you’ll soon find out that you’re still exposed to copyright-violation lawsuits, even for using images from a stock photo website.
What are stock photo websites?
These websites are an online library of images across various genres that can be sorted via keywords and tags. Most of them have been uploaded by photographers and graphic designers.
There is a huge collection of these images online, but you may be required to pay if you exceed a certain number of free images, etc.
Some websites are 100% free, while others require you to pay per image, or for unlimited use on a time-period basis.
Stock image websites mention what their images are licensed under usually in their policies. However, there are often exceptions and it is not always easy for users to determine the copyrights on the image and the restrictions, and where and how they are applicable.
These policies are often written in legal terms and are difficult to understand. It’s therefore best to only use platforms that clearly label each image they offer for free downloads with the copyright symbols which I’ve listed further down in this post.
Always check every single image’s licensing first before using it.
Having gone through many stock image website policies, I have found that these are the clearest in their licensing:
Some licensed images on stock websites (most of them actually), will require attribution to the creator/owner of the image and it will say this where required in the license.
Note: I’ll cover different license types later in this guide.
Make your own legal Blog Images [Tool: Canva]
Seeing that copyright can become a true minefield for any blogger and content creator and publisher, I suggest creating copyright-free visuals using design tools yourself.
The prime example of such a tool would be Canva, a design tool for which all you need is a web browser and an internet connection.
You can use the design you create on Canva without worrying about copyright infringements on your published blog content, provided of course that you have not used copyrighted images or parts of copyrighted images in the design process, to begin with.
Note: This is a simplistic version of the answer to your question – whether you can use Canva’s library of free multimedia to create visuals that are copyright law-compliant. For a more detailed answer, refer to the official policy statement.
Generate legal Blog Images with AI [Tool: DALL·E 2]
You can also use Open AI’s DALL·E 2 to have artificial intelligence generate images for you.
Note: images made with DALL·E 2 are still the property of their parent company Open AI, but you are free to use (and sell) any images that you create with DALL·E 2 and keep the profits for yourself.
However, you should note that DALL·E 2 and open AI retain the rights to such images, and they may themselves choose to sell the images that you have asked the tool to create.
That said, any profit that you make from DALL·E 2, is yours to keep, without repercussion. Do check their policies, however, to be on the safe side.
Stock Photo Websites for Blog Images: Things To Remember
Which licenses let you use stock images for commercial purposes, with complete compliance with copyright laws? The answer is – a CC0 license.
- Ideally, what you are looking for is a Creative Commons license, specifically a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.
- Quite literally, CC0 licenses allow you to do whatever you want with the images, whenever you want and as frequently as you want.
- You can usually get “attribution required, free to use” or CC0-licensed images from stock websites.
- Even if the use of an image is allowed to the public, you really want to read the fine print of the license that it falls under.
- For example, “Free for non-profit” licenses are just that: free use only for nonprofit organizations.
Here is the “at a glance” information that you should know when using stock images.
- If you look at the subsections under their “information” tabs, most stock websites state that they absolve themselves from any copyright claims against images that you have gotten from their website in the first place, which is why it is super important to research the usage limitations and restrictions for photos posted on these websites. Again, it is best to look for CC0 or other creative commons licenses.
- You can also use stock images with the CC0 license to create images of your own with design tools. Just ensure you do not use copyrighted images (for which you do not have usage rights) in the designs.
- I have recently put together these content publishing guidelines for all our content creators and publishers: Content Publishing Guidelines | ClickDo™
Frequently Used Copyright Terms for Images
This section will quickly bring you up to speed on the language of copyright – it is really easy to get lost in the mix of copyright terms.
Here is a table that should help us decode the corporate jargon:
|#||Label||Symbol||Particulars of Label|
|1||Copyright||This means that the owner or holder of the copyright will reserve all rights of the copyrighted work(s) under copyright law(s) and that the copyrighted work is free for fair use.|
|2||Creative Commons||These works will have certain rights under copyright law(s) withheld, and these will be clearly communicated. These works frequently appear with the tag of “Some rights reserved”, and always require attribution to the creator. It is important to note that such licensed works can have their usage rights changed after you use the image.|
|3||Public Domain||The copyright owner has waived all his, or their rights and claims on the image, and you can modify, copy, and even distribute the work to the public domain, even if such use is intended for commercial purposes.|
|4||Fair Use||This case is exclusive of public domain image libraries, Creative Common licensed images, and stock image websites. Per the 4-factor test (purpose, nature, amount, and effect), you may find yourself able to use such images under the fair use case policy of copyrighted work(s).|
Identifying Copyright Holders of Blog Images
In the case where you cannot identify which individual holds a copyright, here are some steps you can take:
- A WHOIS search: If the image you are looking at has been posted by the owner of the website where said image appears, then a WHOIS search will reveal the contact data of the website owner, and by extension, of the copyright holder.
- You can also right-click the image, and then select “search Google for this image” in the drop-down menu. This will display a results page with all the websites that have the same image on them, possibly helping in tracing the copyright holder for that image. Bear in mind, that the copyright owner is not legally required to mark their images on the internet as copyright protected.
- You may also consult a private copyright registry, of which several are named in annex one of this report published by WIPO (The World Intellectual Property Organization).
- If you can find the owner of an image, but no contact details for the copyright holder, you could try looking up the following organizations, because there is a good chance that the copyright holder is a part of them:
- BAPLA (The British Assn. Of Picture Libraries and Agencies)
- The PLUS Registry
- DACS (The Design And Artists Copyright Society)
- If you find an image online for which you have no license information, assume that it is protected under copyright law.
Properly Attributing a Blog Image: A Guide
If you decide to use an image that requires attribution, again, ensure you have the right to use it before you credit the creator/copyright owner. Because they can easily track each image published online that is tagged with their name and identify any copyright infringement easily.
- Copy the URL (link) of the image and note the name of the creator/photographer.
- Add image attributions to the image title tag itself (wherever you use the image in your blog) as well as to image alt tags.
- Also, include the creator’s name as a caption for the image. You can also do this as a note at the end of the blog.
- It is always a sound idea to reach out to the copyright owner and tell them how you plan to use their image. You can begin the message by thanking the creator for making the image available under the creative commons license.
- To preserve the image quality, try to use embedded codes to display the image.
Terms and Conditions of Legal Images: The Fine Print
- DALL·E: The parent company, Open AI reserves the right to have works reviewed by third-party contractors, and if the service is used through labs. open, then credits bought on labs must be used within one year from the date of purchase, or else they will expire.
- Wikipedia: Wikipedia has washed its hands of any images that you find on Wikipedia by saying that “They cannot guarantee information validity”. This is why it is imperative to verify the license that even Wikimedia commons images come under before using them.
- Creative Commons 2: Even CC2.0 licenses on sites like Flickr redirect you to this page on the CC website, which basically says the images are for non-commercial usage only.
Exhausted? I know. Welcome to the legal desert that sucks you in and dries you out. But as a content creator, publisher, and blogger, you need to understand what you’re dealing with, especially if you offer your content publishing and digital PR services including images, screenshots, logos, etc. to clients. I hope this guide helps you to not become a victim of copyright infringement claims as they are not pleasant.
In my view, the internet should be a place where we can all share resources that we make publicly available sensibly. Anyone who’s not happy to have their content shared, should not publish it in the first place or ensure that it is clearly labeled or protected from copying. I, therefore, recommend every blogger and content creator create their own images, graphics, and designs where possible to save themselves from such headaches. This will also benefit your branding and make your content more unique, which will help it rank better on search engines.
More Important Resources and Useful Links if you fancy
- The UK Government’s Page On Copyrights of “Orphan Works”
- The Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society
- The UK Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA)
- The Design And Artists Copyright Society (DACS)
- BAPLA (The British Assn. Of Picture Libraries And Agencies)
- NLA Media Access (For Journalism)
- Publishers Licencing
Blogger and Educator by Passion | Senior Online Media & PR Strategist at ClickDo Ltd. | Contributor to many Education, Business & Lifestyle Blogs in the United Kingdom & Germany | Summer Course Student at the London School of Journalism and Course Instructor at the SeekaHost University.