If Emily Posted: On Blog Photos

Everything You Wanted to Know about Blog Images (But Were Afraid to Ask)

You know what I love? When one friend introduces you to their friend because they know you two have a lot in common. That’s how I met Alex from Alexandra Wrote. My friend (and past guest poster) Fadra sent us an email connecting each other. I just love her style, her photos and her fantastic knowledge! I’m excited to have Alex here today!

I began If Emily Posted, a guide to social media netiquette, because as more of my work moved from print to online, I found myself with lots of questions. My mantra has always been that rules are made to be broken, but online I found that there weren’t enough rules to begin with. It’s hard for people to know what to do or how to do it when so much is undefined. I’m a working writer, editor and photographer, and IEP is based on my experience. It’s about ethics not legalese. It’s what I learned in school, on the job, what I consult lawyers and experts on, and what I learn from talking to colleagues and friends. I started IEP for myself, a blogger trying to bring some order to this tangled web, but realized we can only succeed if we work together.

I believe that if we want to be taken seriously as bloggers, we must take blogging seriously. It begins with fundamentals that every blogger must have in their toolkit, some rules that aren’t to be broken, like how to properly source and credit images.

Whether you have a revenue-generating site or a small blog with little traffic, the same rules apply: anything you post that is non-original content needs to be treated with respect and must always be linked to the original source. Here’s a breakdown of the basics.

On Copyright

FACT: Copyright is like a birthright. The moment someone creates a photo – paid or unpaid, pro or someone just playing with Instagram – it is protected under copyright law. It’s the same online or in print.

Some people think that this sign © is equal to this one $. The most valuable part of that little © is that it gives the creator control over how and where their work is used.

Many people simply want the right to decide how their work is used online and are more than happy to share when asked. That’s what I say in the The Fine Print on my sites. I’m all for sharing, but please ask first.

Because it’s the right thing to do. The professional thing to do.

On Fair Use

FACT: Fair use is terribly misunderstood in the blogosphere. As a result, many people misuse it.

The basic idea behind fair use is that using parts of a work that is copyrighted may be legal if you’re using it for criticism, parody or as commentary. But there are the four factors that determine if something falls under fair use. These include how much of the original work is reproduced and whether what is copied will in any way be devalued as a result of your using it. Honestly, I see very few examples where photos used on blogs can meet fair use criteria. Please read about fair use to form your own opinions, but I don’t recommend you use it to justify using an image that belongs to someone else.

On Creative Commons

FACT: Crediting an image is not the same as having permission to use it.

That said, it’s important to figure out what you do and don’t have permission to use.

Creative Commons licenses make copyrighted material easier to share online. They eliminate the need to contact the creator for permission, but it also means the creator gives up a lot of control. There are six types of licenses, plus one for works in the public domain. This link explains the six types of Creative Commons licenses thoroughly (I’d bookmark this somewhere so you can always find it).

When you see a CC icon on a site, you can click through to find out exactly how you’re allowed to use their content. CC’s are pretty straightforward and easy to understand. When in doubt, email the creator.

There are search engines to find images that fall under Creative Commons, but in the fine print they all tell you to double-check any image and be sure of the permissions. The responsibility will always fall on you. That’s why it’s important to check your sources.

On Permission

Just today I emailed a blogger asking if her content was permitted for pinning on Pinterest. She wrote right back and gave me the OK. I am constantly emailing bloggers to get the OK to share their work in various ways.

FACT: You can always contact a blogger and ask for permission to use their work. Some will say yes. Some will say no, and that’s OK, too. We have to respect how people choose to share online.

This is critical. We have to respect how creators choose to share their Intellectual Property (IP).

Some people are of the opinion that if you put anything online you should expect to have it taken. I disagree. Totally disagree.

A photographer/artist/blogger has every right to post their images online and choose where else they can be viewed. It;’s no different than the family photos many people post online. No one should be able to take your family photos off of your blog and then sell them as stock photos or have them printed as cards. Just because they’re online, they don’t belong to the world. Those photos are your property. You choose where they can be published. We need to apply the same respect to all intellectual property.

Above all, it’s about being kind and respectful of one another in this community. I’m part of an organization called LINKwithlove, where we believe in the power of these words by Maya Angelou:

“When you know better, you do better.”

We can make the blogosphere better, I know we can.

If you’d like more information on copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons, as well as information on Creative Commons Search Engines, please visit the IEP Resource Pages on my site. And please feel free to email me with questions anytime!

Alex Asher Sears (@alexandrawrote) loves telling stories – as a screenwriter, journalist, editor, and photographer. She began writing via dial-up in 1999, creating content for AOL’s Digital City. A decade later, she was Managing Editor of CinemaEditor magazine. Leaving the magazine to pursue new writing opportunities on and offline, she began blogging at Alexandra Wrote, home of If Emily Posted, a style guide for social media netiquette. Official photographer of BlogHer ’11, Alex’s photos have been published by Simon & Schuster, Hot Moms Club, Babble, and People magazine. She returns for BlogHer ’12 as a speaker on social media.

Alex writes about film, family, fashion, Frenchies, food allergies – and those are just the f-words. 

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  1. says

    Awesome!!! I love this post SO much. I have a very good friend who started a blog recently and she keeps litering her posts with pics she’s taken from Google images. I will be sending her this link for sure. Thanks for sharing!!

    • says

      It’s an awkward situation, watching people use images we know they’ve simply right clicked and saved. Hopefully this will give your friend the tools to start sourcing images properly. :)

  2. says

    I have a question that I want to ask, but I don’t know if this is the place to ask it.

    Let’s say I’m discussing Brad Pitt.
    I do not have personal access to Brad Pitt, in order to take a photo of Brad Pitt.
    I know. It’s a pity.
    What is the proper way for me to go about having a photo of Brad Pitt on my blog? And is there a way to do this for FREE?

  3. says

    I don’t know, nobody on pinterest has the time to go around emailing every source of every photo, asking for permissions.

    Some of my photos of my work got displayed on some HUGE interior design websites, and nobody ever asked my permission. I don’t mind, that’s why I posted pictures in the first place, because having my work all over pinterest and the design websites is what actually drives my traffic.

    If I repost someone’s pictures I always credit with a link, and I don’t use pictures that aren’t “right clickable”. That said, I’m always baffled by ppl who posted huge streams of their pictures on flickr but then won’t allow them to be shared (with link) on pinterest, etc.

  4. says

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a week now…and realised that I have no idea about blogging…so it’s nice to see what I can or can’t do in any case scenario 😀

    Thanks :)
    best regards from Slovenia