How To Use Images Legally (Or How To Make Use Of Images Without Pissing Someone Off)

First off let’s knock out some terms you need to know. First up Royalty Free.

Royalty Free: Does not mean free image. It means you acquired the image, usually with a payment, to use it however you want. So now you can use it on webpages, calendars, pretty much anything you can think of, sometimes there’s a limit on how many times but usually it’s a big number like 10,000 uses.

Creative Common License: Types of licensing that art can have, including images and literature. These are the different types:

  • Attribution: Lets people modify as long they credit you.
  • Attribution Share-Alike: Same as above plus all new works or derivatives carry the same license.
  • Attribution-NoDerivs: Lets people redistribute for commercial and non-commerical as long as doesn’t change and credit’s the creator.
  • Attribution-Noncommercial: This license let’s people change your artwork non-commercially and all derivatives must also be non-commercial.

Public Domain: Is something that is in use for anyone for any reason. Many forms of literature can also be obtained this way, and that’s why you find different versions of H. P. Lovecraft collection on Amazon.

Fair Use: This is the law used for critiquing, commenting, news reporting teaching etc. that has a lot of gray area, but essentially is the reason we can use book covers on a blog for reviews.

There are also a few others, which are just mixes of the ones above, but these are also used to protect your literature as well. Remember that when posting something only.

So, nothing is free unless it’s in the Public Domain. Remember that, you can’t just google and image and be like, “Sweet! That picture is awesome for my new ebook.” As cool as Ghost Rider looks, you can’t use it without permission.

Which brings us to our first and only rule: Always ask for permission.

It may take a long time to get a response, but it’s worth it. Unless you want an artist demanding payment for a book that sold pretty well. It may be worse if the book didn’t sell very well, and he demanded compensation. Afterall, how well the book sold means nothing to an artist, it’s the fact that you stole permission.

So, now, we look at websites.

DeviantArt: You’ve got incredible talent here. Some of the higher tier art are done by graphic designers and many are just artist trying to find an audience. Here, you’ll run into the CC (Commeon Creative Licenses) where deviantArt has a strong policy on thieves, they don’t police it very well but they do catch up to many, banning accounts with ease. Don’t forget to ask people for permission. A great place to buy Royalty Free images. Photographers post pictures where you can buy them for cheap prices. When you first sign up you get 10 free credits off the bat without paying anything, and can use those credits to buy different images. I use this site for my fitness blog, and the pictures are incredible. Great for blogging, and the free credits are enough to get you started.

Wikipedia: Most materials in wikipedia are under the Attribution-Sharealike licenses, which means you can use images there on your blog and other places, great place to find artwork.

Flickr: Also, uses the same license as DeviantArt, but what you’ll mostly find here are images. Make sure you ask for permission here and pay attention to the licenses attached to an image.

Appropedia: Here you’ll find a great way to search for CC licensed images and stuff on the public domain.

Amazon: Almost forgot Amazon. Sign up for an amazon associate account and you can use their images on your blog for free and earn money for referring people to the site.

There are other sites out there that provide images for a fee, and it’s not as much as you think. There are also lots of artist that would love to help you for free. Just don’t be afraid to contact them. There’s also lots of companies that will design your covers for you. I’ll cover book covers more specifically in another post. Stay tuned.

-L. Vera