As capacities of memory and bandwidth have increased there is been an undeniable rise in the use of image-based content. This is particularly important for online marketing as using attention-getting images on blogs, social media posts and platforms like Pinterest can greatly increase response and conversion.
As a marketer it would be foolish to ignore this growing trend, but it would also be foolish to believe that the use of images is based on ‘finders keepers’.
Too many people seem to believe that searching Google images and taking what they want is perfectly okay. However, unless you’ve created a unique image yourself, or have purchased an image together with the permission to use it in the context you are going to use it, there are some checks you should make before posting online.
It is best to assume that every image created is given a copyright. This gives the image creator the right to stop the image being copied or distributed unless they give permission.
This means if you want to use an image you have not created yourself you have to locate the creator and asked permission. However this could drastically inhibit the use of popular images so it is possible for the copyright holder to place the image into one of three categories: Fair Use, Creative Commons or Public Domain.
This gives the right to use an image only if it is to be used for educational, research, or personal use. If you are an online marketer giving away content as part of a sales funnel or other process aimed at benefiting your business it is best to assume you cannot claim the image is purely for educational purposes and therefore does not come under Fair Use.
This is where the copyright holder allows the use of the image under certain conditions. These may be, for example, that the image is not changed in any way or that the image is clearly attributed to the copyright holder. If you want to use an image under Creative Commons you will have to ensure you meet the conditions given.
Images in the public domain have no copyright restrictions. This may be because the image creator has chosen not to use the copyright on their images or because a certain period of time has elapsed since the creator’s death. This period of time varies for different countries around the world, so unless you can locate an authoritative statement that the image is in the public domain you will have to check that the appropriate period of time has elapsed.
The above is an overview and I’m not claiming to be an expert in this area. However, generally if you find an image online that you would like to use you have to either ensure it is in the public domain, purchase the image from a legitimate company, meet specific conditions if it is protected by creative commons, or gain permission from the original copyright holder.
An exception to this is if you want to use an image you find on a social media platform like Facebook or Pinterest. If an image appears on these platforms it is usually assumed, unless stated otherwise, that the image was intended to be publicly viewed and therefore it is acceptable to share it. However if the image was not originally intended to be seen by the general public you cannot assume you have permission to use it.