Monday, August 13, 2012

GUEST POST: A Warning For Using Photos, by Author Mary Ellen Quigley

Mary Ellen Quigley

Please join me in welcoming paranormal romance author Mary Ellen Quigley, who recently weighed in on the hot issue of using images on your blog without permission from the copyright owner.

Many bloggers might have heard about, or read, Roni Loren's own shocking experience through her own article, "Bloggers Beware...", published on her blog.  Quigley has also posted an article regarding this on her blog, Mary Ellen's Musings.  It quotes from Loren's article, and then expands upon it.

We bloggers all need to be aware of this highly-important issue.  Although there are many, many blogs on the Internet, and we might think ours will never be spotted, we cannot afford to become complacent.  Newer blogs in particular might attempt to brush this off by thinking that "no one even knows my blog exists".  You just never know!

Now on to Mary Ellen's terrific article! 

"A Warning For Using Photos: You Can Be Sued!"

A few days ago, the blogging world was surprised to hear that author Roni Loren was sued for the use of a photo on her blog. She wrote a very informative blog post on how to avoid being in the same situation and asked other bloggers to help spread the word.

Most new bloggers, and some old, are guilty of posting photos without having the right to do so. It is not because they are trying to steal. It is lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, most people just don't know any better. This also means that many people, like Roni, find themselves involved in lawsuits.

Here is what Roni learned about using photos (from her blog post):

It doesn't matter:

·     if you link back to the source and list the photographer's name

·     if the picture is not full-sized

·     if you did it innocently

·     if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo

·     if you didn't claim the photo was yours

·     if you've added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post

·     if the picture is embedded and not saved on your server
·     if you have a disclaimer on your site.

·     if you immediately take down a pic if someone sends you a DMCA notice (you do have to take it down, but it doesn't absolve you.)

Unless you are using photos from the public domain or creative commons, you must have the permission of the photographer (or copyright holder) to use that photo.
You may have noticed that my blog is missing a lot of pictures. I have been aware of photo rules for a long time, but when I first started blogging, I didn't know any better. I had a ton of posts filled with pictures I didn't own. This is why my popular Tuesday Hunk posts are now gone. I found all of those through Google. The pictures that remain are ones I took myself or ones I have the right to post. Any book covers posted fall under the "Fair Use" category.

Here are some tips to help you.

For Bloggers:

You have to be absolutely 100% sure that you have the right to use any photo posted on your blog. This means that Google Images should never be an option. Why? Because you cannot prove who owns the copyright to 90% of the photos you find in the search content.

There are four good ways to find photos for your blog the legal way.

1      Public Domain - (Wikipedia's listing) These are copyright free photos that were either never eligible for copyright, have an expired copyright, or were released to the public domain by the copyright holder. You still have to give credit to the source of the work, but you are free to use the photo however you see fit.
     Creative Commons - These photos are free to use as long as you give the owner credit and link the photo to their site. There are restrictions depending on the photo you obtain. Make sure to read the license on each photo. Some owners will allow you to use the photo, but you cannot alter it. Some will let you do whatever you want. Others will only let you use it if you notify them first. Always read! I use sites like Morguefile and Stock.xchng. There are many, many more though.

3.     Stock Photos - There are several websites that sell photos for you to use. If you do a Google search for "stock photos," the list is endless. With these photos, you do not have to credit the owner and you can do whatever you want depending on the license you choose. You do have to buy the photo. The good news is that many of these photos can be bought at a very cheap price. A photo you want to alter or use for printed materials will cost much more.

4.    Use Your Own Photos - When all else fails, use your own photos. You own them and their copyright, meaning you hold all the control.
 For Self-Publishers:

Check, check, and double check that the photos used in your book covers, book trailers, and promotional items are allowed to be used on printed materials and can be altered. You need to closely read the licenses. I buy all of my photos from a stock photo site called, Fotolia. I write romance, so I need "model" type photography that is often difficult to find with Creative Commons or Public Domain works.

Fotolia allows you to buy three main types of license:

Standard - To use on websites, blogs, presentations, and documents.

High Resolution - To use on books, brochures, articles, billboards, etc.
Resale - To use on anything where the photo lends the primary value to the product, like: t-shirts, posters, calendars, etc.
Standard is the cheapest, but if you use it for a book cover, you can be sued. I also suggest making sure that you give the photographer credit. Even though you bought the license and don't have to, they should be mentioned. It is the polite thing to do.

For Photographers:

Be careful where you post your pictures. Make sure you read the guidelines and terms of use of any website you decide to upload them to.

About a year ago I posted a photo on my blog. The post was up for about a week before I was notified by the photographer to take the photo down. They also asked me to pay $200 for use of the photo. I politely took the photo down and informed them I would not be paying.

Why? Because the photo I posted was shared through Webshots.
Webshots specifically states that (from the FAQ section - #4):

"You can display any publicly available photo from the Webshots community on other websites and blogs. You can use the codes listed in the ""link to this"" section on any photo page, or you can click on the ""share on..."" icon to add the photo to Facebook, blogs and other social networking sites."
The Webshots Terms of Use say that when you upload a photo to their site, you:

"grant Webshots, its parent company AG, their affiliates and partners a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, sub licensable, royalty-free license to use, store, display, publish, transmit, transfer, distribute, reproduce, create derivative works of and publicly perform that Content on and through each of the services provided by Webshots."

In order to join Webshots, you must agree to their Community Guidelines, which say:

"It's important for all members of our community to remember that all photos stored on Webshots can be downloaded as screensaver or wallpaper to the Webshots Desktop. All photos can also be sent as Photo eCards, posted to a blog or website, and bookmarked."

My photo followed the Webshots guidelines which only required me to share it through the embed link. The embedded photo contains a link back to the photographer's page on Webshots. I was not in violation of any copyright according to Webshots, nor was I required to contact the photographer before using the photo. I don't know if this person did not read before uploading or what.

I am not in any legal trouble for using this photo. Although, I do know that this person has sued others for using the same photo. The difference is that they used the photo on printed materials, which is a complete copyright violation and is against the Webshots guidelines.

Bottom line?

Read the guidelines to any website you post your photos on. Make sure you understand what rights you are giving away and what rights you are retaining. Also, know that yes, it is considered polite to ask permission to post a photo. However, unless you specifically state that you want to be asked, most people will not. If you disagree with the terms of use and guidelines, do not post your photos.

Have you ever gotten in trouble for posting a picture on your blog? Do you have any additional tips for bloggers? 

I'd like to thank Mary Ellen Quigley for her excellent article, which helps all of us bloggers be more careful when adding images -- whether photos or clipart -- to our posts!

I have now started buying photos and images from stock image websites.  For instance, the meme buttons I'm now using are from such sites.  I'm referring to "Waiting On Wednesday", "On My Bookshelves", "Shelf Candy Saturday", and "Author Serendipity".  The "WOW" meme was created by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, while the other three are my own.  I 'inherited' "Shelf Candy Saturday" from Stephanie @ Five Alarm Book Reviews, when she decided to stop hosting it, and subsequently took down her blog (and I was so sorry to see it go...). 

I also bought the image for my little 'signature' button, which I place at the bottom of some posts -- like this one. 

Using my newly-bought images, I created the buttons with the help of the Picasa software, which enabled me to add text.

I'll be going through my older posts, too, to see what images might cause trouble, and remove them.

I'd like to wish everyone safe and happy blogging!!   

About the Author: From Her Website

Mary Ellen Quigley was born in Hammond, Indiana. She is the youngest of two children. Mary Ellen got the writing bug as a child in the fifth grade. The assignment was to write a funny story, and she has loved writing ever since.

Mary Ellen's love of writing continued when she went off to Marian University in the fall of 2000.  She graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Music. Mary Ellen also attended Calumet College of St. Joseph, in order to complete state teacher licensing requirements and graduated with honors in 2008.

Mary Ellen writes romance, and especially loves paranormal romance. Her first book, The Wild Side, was released in the summer of 2011.

 Mary Ellen is a member of the Lady Blogger’s Society. She is actively involved in the Absolute Write community

Mary Ellen Quigley's Books

(Click on the pics for more info.)



What do you think of
this issue?
Have you ever encountered
any problems yourselves?
What good stock photo
websites would you recommend?


  1. This is such an important issue! Thanks so much Mary and Maria for sharing this important issue. I was always under e impression that if you gave credit to the photographer and linked to the source all was well and good, especially if it was for non-commercial purposes. It looks like I've a great deal of revamping to do on my site!

    I painting count? I use a lot of paintings on my blog.

  2. This is really good advice! It is really good to get it all up here in one organized place. When I started blogging I had only a vague idea of the rules and laws but pretty much learned about most of the above. What seems innocent can lead to so much trouble!

  3. Hey, Risa!

    You're very welcome! I was under the very same impression you were, and am now in the process of doing my own revamping. For instance, I've been buying images for my meme buttons, and taking down the ones I had previously because I had found the images on Google. Luckily, I found two images I had previously been using without permission, on a stok site, so I bought them. Now I can use them with no trouble.

    I'm so glad Mary has helped to clear some of the confusion. That's why I felt it was important to re-publish her article.

    Thanks for commenting!! : )

  4. Hi, Brian!

    I love the way you put it: "What seems innocent can lead to so much trouble!" That's right! I was blissfully ignorant, as well...

    As I explained to Risa above, I am now in the process of taking down any images that might be copyrighted. Even my little "signature button" is copyrighted! (The image of books and vines, to which I added my name.) I had unknowingly been using it. Then I found this same image on a stock site, and bought it. Now I can use it without having to be afraid that I'll be having problems with whoever holds the copyright.

    Thanks for the comment!! : )

  5. I'm glad that everyone is enjoying the article. Thank you to Maria for sharing it.

    Risa, paintings do count. Most of the old classics fall under the Public Domain, which is why you see the Mona Lisa on so many things. The general rule is that anything created before 1923 is Public Domain. If it was created after, you need to check the copyright.

  6. Hi, Mary Ellen!

    You're very welcome for the share! And thanks to YOU, for the guest post!! I sure hope we get more bloggers spreading the word!

    Your information regarding paintings is very interesting -- I didn't know that paintings done before 1923 were in the public domain. That's GREAT news, since I remember featuring paintings in a couple of posts along the way. I found them included in Wikipedia articles, and I assumed that any images in such articles were in the public domain. If I'm wrong, please do let me know.

    Thanks for your comment, as well as for the link! I'll have to check it out PRONTO. : )


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