Ethical online entrepreneurs are usually conscientious about using another person’s content – that’s clearly known as plagiarizing. But, some online marketers aren’t nearly as discerning when using photographs or images that they ‘lift’ from another site.

Photoblog 6The difference between using a photo and using someone else’s content isn’t as clear as it should be. With photos there are licensing and copyright laws that impact the use of someone else’s property. But, clarifying ownership of the photo is where the confusion arises.

For example, I you worked as a photographer for a magazine, but never signed a contract stating that the magazine had rights to the photo – is it yours to sell? You may have even used your own camera and other equipment.

You sell the photo online and it’s used by an online marketer, but it’s still unclear who owns the rights to the photo, so a problem may arise from the magazine questioning your ownership of the photo and the marketer’s right to use it online.

The legal obstacles you’ll encounter may land you in court. It’s best to know the ethical boundaries of using or selling the copyrights to stock photos before attempting to do so. It’s also in your best interest (if you’re selling photos) to have a clear understanding about who owns the photos from the beginning.


Finding Ethical Images

If you’re going to use photos or images on your site or blog, you should know how the reproduction rights work – or, know the images you are allowed to use and those that should definitely not be used.

Rather than simply lifting images from another site by using the quick, Google Images search tool, there are ways you can find out which images are suitable and can be used without the thought of repercussion from the photographer or the owner of the images.

If you think that no one will notice that you used an image that you lifted from another site – think again. Owners of images have ways to check on their copyrighted

photos to see if they’ve been used when they shouldn’t have been. Acting ethically when reproducing photos for any purpose is the best path to take.

You should know that to use a photo ethically, the owner of the image must have allotted you the express permission to use it. This can be done in one of several ways, including contacting the creator directly or you can use images that are in public domain.

There is a grey area in using public domain images that involves whether the images have been scanned or digitized in some way from a public domain site. The original image might be the one in public domain while the digitalized version is not.


Types of Images That Are Ethical to Use

High quality images that can be perfect for your website or other areas of your Internet pursuits can be found through several ethical methods. Sites that can be resources for your photos are clear about how the image can be used. If there is no reference to the image, you should assume that you have no ethical right to its use.


Here are some great sites from which you can perform searches for images you need:

  • Creative Commons – isn’t a search engine, but it is a non­profit site where you can access other search services that are available from independent organizations.

What you can achieve from Creative Commons are tools and copyright licenses that provide a simple method for creators of images to keep their copyright license while letting others use their work.

This makes using creative, scientific and educational content much easier to use on an Internet platform. The content available from Creative Commons can be edited, remixed, copied and distributed while staying well within the boundaries of the copyright law.

The site is free and easy to use and enables the creators of images to share their work without the usual hassle of dealing with complicated licensing agreements.

Creative Commons has also used the expertise of worldwide experts to be sure that the licenses on the images they offer are legally and globally accepted.

One word of caution – when using the search feature of Creative Commons, don’t assume that the results are under the umbrella of Creative Commons licensing agreements.

Always verify that by following the link provided by the image. Contact the copyright holder directly if you are confused about the licensing.

Some incredible and unique images can be found on this site and you can usually obtain license to use them if you mention the source from which they came.

  • Wiki Commons – This is a public domain site that’s connected to the popular Wikipedia, the go­to place to find information for just about anything. Wiki Commons contains various licensing agreements such as those from Creative Commons. When you choose an image from Wiki Commons, you can be fairly sure that you can use or reproduce it, since it’s also been used on Wikipedia. Each image on the site has an explanation of the exact permission you’ll need to use it.
  • Library of Congress Prints and Photographs – Historical images are especially good finds on this site and they tend to be of high quality. Be sure you check to find out if the images you want to use are in public domain. This information can be found in the image details. The Library of Congress also has a catalog from which you can purchase photos. Some of the images have not yet been digitized, so also pay close attention to the details.

  • Getty – When nothing but the best will do for your site, Getty Images can certainly provide you with the best quality and the most exclusive images available on the ‘net.


Any of the above image search methods can help you find ethical photos to use on your websites. If you pay attention to the permissions of the images, you should find more than enough that will fit your needs.

Know that it’s unethical to simply grab an image you might want to use and plop it on your site. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to using images, so take your time and do it ethically.

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