Blogging + Legal Stuff

January 17, 2014


Okay, I debated whether to write about this or not but then realized I was being crazy and decided that of course I needed to share. I recently read an article on BlogHer called, “Blogger Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Photos You Don’t Own on Your Blog” and it totally freaked me out.

If the title isn’t clear enough, here’s the reality from the author of the post herself:

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.)

NONE OF THAT releases you from liability. You are violating copyright if you have not gotten express PERMISSION from the copyright holder OR are using pics that are public domain, creative commons, etc.

For those of you who are bloggers, you may be freaking out just as much as I am right now. Over the past year I’ve made a lot of efforts to use my own photos, or snag something that is free to use whenever possible, but I admittedly used a TON of photos illegally at the beginning of my blogging career, and even still do so a bit today (hello: ombre post! Eeek!)

All this to say: DON’T USE PHOTOS YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHTS TO! I personally will be spending some time over the next few weeks deleting photos that I can’t use and replacing them with photos that are okay. Sadly, this might mean than some posts totally have to go, and for that I’m sorry—I just don’t want to get a fat bill sent to me by an angry photographer!

For those of you who have no idea where to get these said photos that are free to use, let me introduce you to Flickr Creative Commons. You can thank me later.

Bloggers: will you be making changes on your blog in light of this? Or are you already waaaay ahead of me?

P.S. From this point forward (well, okay, give me a few weeks), you can trust that any photo not given credit at the bottom of the post is either owned by me, taken by me, or explicitly allowed to be used without any credit given. I’m committed!

Photo by Craig Garner

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  • Reply Danielle Youngdale January 17, 2014 at 7:21 am

    Great to know! If you ever need some specific shots for a post you’re doing I’m always available to help!

  • Reply Jacki January 17, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Yeah, I definitely had to check myself on this topic recently, too. I haven’t yet gone back through my archives to check but about the time I started my new site I began to understand how important it is not to use photos without permission…even if I found them on a site like Tumblr or Weheartit where they’re pretty obviously NOT being used with permission. Eek. Thanks for the reminder! Since photography isn’t my strong suit, I love Death to Stock, Unsplash and Flickr Creative Commons for worry-free photos :)

  • Reply Jess January 17, 2014 at 8:41 am

    I’m part of a pro-photog group and this topic is a hot one for them. One of the biggest problems they face is their worked being displayed without permission or payment. No one likes to be used for free or without permission. Good on you!! I’m sure many a photog will be grateful for the move you’re making!

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton January 17, 2014 at 8:49 am

      Thanks Jess! Glad I could play a small role in setting things right :)

  • Reply Jennifer January 17, 2014 at 9:09 am

    I am SO glad to see you post something about this. Bloggers snag photos every day from all over the web without asking for permission. I’ve always tried to stay away from that on my blog (though, it’s a tough thing to do) and I hope other bloggers will start to realize what issues it can cause. The next step for me will be going through my Pinterest boards and getting rid of pins that don’t link back to the source. I always try to think of it this way: if I wouldn’t want someone to copy and paste my words without permission, it’s really not okay for me to use a photo without permission. Thank you so much for shining a light on this, Natalie!

  • Reply Jessaca January 17, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I’m a writer and by no means a photographer. And I’m a baby writer in the everyday crowd but have my hooks in the B2B world of writing where you can’t even mess with not having permission. But in the magazine world you have access to money and resources to get good photography. I think that bloggers like myself and baby photographers need to come together on this in a mutually agreeable plan. I’ll scratch your back if you let me use this awesome photo that exactly illustrates my point for my story. In turn we can share links. I know it’s not the same as monetary payment, but there is value in helping push each other’s businesses out into the mainstream where hopefully you can find more customers willing to open up their pocketbooks for your work or hire you for their next assignment.

  • Reply Megan @ Lush to Blush January 17, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    So glad you wrote about this! I’m working on a piece for my blog too. It’s so scary and really important for bloggers to know!!

    xo Megan, Lush to Blush

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton January 17, 2014 at 5:38 pm

      I have you to thank for passing along the article!! So scary and so important indeed.

  • Reply Lacy January 17, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Here’s a great resource that I use a lot: It still pulls from Flickr’s Creative Commons, but it somehow seems more curated (meaning way better photos). Otherwise, when I search the Creative Commons on Flickr, I often feel like I’m only finding people’s personal pictures instead of things that look professionally done and are better suited for the stock-style photography I’m wanting to accompany my posts.

  • Reply elizabeth January 18, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    I read something like that awhile back and it freaked me out too!! I just use my own pictures. It is safest that way :) it is hard when making “favorites” boards but I might just have to do that less. I wonder though if it is for products the shop is just getting free advertising (with proper links and info) and that is a good thing for them…

  • Reply Ashlee January 20, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    I have to say, as a photographer, this drives me craaaaaaaazy. Pinterest and Tumblr are the worst offenders and sadly, the easiest to abuse. I once found a maternity photo I took floating around on Pinterest with 734 repins, only instead of linking to MY blog or my photography website, it linked to some random girl’s blog who I didn’t know. I sent her an e-mail about it, politely asking where she had found the photo and why she didn’t give me credit and she responded, “Oh I just found it on Tumblr.” Ugh. Another time my friend Lauren sent me an e-mail with a link to Pinterest….a really popular blogger had pinned a photo of me and Everett, only instead of linking to my blog, it linked to a random Tumblr account. It’s frustrating on both ends, to know that your photo isn’t being properly credited, and to also know that other bloggers are reaping the rewards of extra traffic from photos that don’t belong to them. Sigh. *end rant* Related: my friend Ali started a cool (free) photo-sharing project and I think you would love their pictures! You should totally sign up if you haven’t already –

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton February 10, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Oh yes, I started using Death to the Stock Photo a while back when you first posted about it. I love it!!

  • Reply Katie Rae February 9, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Just started my web page and great fear I was thinking about today. HUGE help. Tons of thanks.

    • Reply Natalie Lynn Borton February 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      You’re welcome!! Better to learn this at the very beginning :)

  • Reply Sofea March 28, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! These are the things that I need to know. Thanks again!

  • Reply Donna May 13, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve always wondered about this. Lately, I only use photos I’ve found on other sites if the author explicitly states its alright to do so once you link back to their blog/site. It also drives me nuts when people don’t give credit where credit is due on Pinterest. I started going through all my pins and deleting those which don’t link back to the original source.

  • Reply Bob April 9, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Great article. Photo licensing rights are very confusing, the best is to search for CCO or public domain archives. Get out for thousands of public domain photos, especially good for travel and landscape photos.

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