Using Images On A Website Legally

A picture is worth a thousand words” or was it “A picture is worth ten thousand words” or maybe “A timely deed is worth ten thousand words”, whatever the origination of the phrase it is commonly understood that pictures/images are more visually pleasing to the eye than a page full of boring old text.

It is also a crucial element of webmasters the world over to attract an audience to their blog using a compelling image.
But is it ok to just go find an image you fancy and plonk it straight on your website?

No, it is definitely not.

Any image or photo that you see online belongs to someone somewhere, and albeit there are some very nice people around that don’t mind you using their work, there are others that take umbrage at it.

So apart from the use of someone else’s work on your site having the implications of damaging your rankings in the search engines,  it is also illegal.
Even if you decide to use an image to create your own, thereby altering the concept on the image in some way, still doesn’t make it yours.

Although the Copyright law goes back centuries, the same laws still hold true to the fast-growing digital world we know today.
The US Copyright law may differ slightly from the UK Copyright law but the basic principles are the same, you can’t use someone else’s material without prior permission.
Be aware that works created since 1989 don’t require a copyright notice, so not seeing a © the copyright symbol shouldn’t be taken as no copyright in place.

If you are using a web designer double check that the images used are copyright free, just because you get someone else to do the work doesn’t mean you get off scot-free.
It’s your website, you are the owner, you are liable.

Follow These Rules To Stay Safe.

As longs as you have produced the material yourself in as much that you took the photo, or you created the image, and it doesn’t relate to a Work For Hire agreement, then you own the material and are at liberty to use it as you wish.

Copy and Pasting.

Copying and Pasting someone else’s work (Plagiarism) doesn’t have the same implications as a Copyright Infringement.
Although Plagiarism is considered stealing another’s property it isn’t actually illegal, but of course, can have a detrimental effect on the website in ranking terms. While Plagiarism can be got around by attribution Copyright Infringement is totally illegal and has no excuses, not even attribution.

In both cases of use (Copyright and Copy and Paste), there is always a chance that if approached in a timely manner, the author may even agree to you using the material on your site after making sure the placement is relevant to their work.
But the decision is theirs and theirs alone.

If you are caught using either of these practices you are liable to receive a Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), and if you don’t comply things could start getting nasty, so play safe and only use images that are for public use in the ……

Public Domain Images

public domain imagesBelieve it or not but there are millions of images that can be used legally and not covered by copyright.

Maybe you are under the illusion that free images are of low-quality and would only degrade your website by using them.
This is not true.
Search the internet for “Free Public Domain Images” and you will get a host of results.
Some that come to mind and that I have used are:





It’s always best to check the T’s and C’s of any site you use to make sure that attribution is not required but in most cases, it is not.

Creative Commons License 

creative commons licenseA Creative Commons License allows the distribution of work to the public for free under license.

Creative Commons (CClicense is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created. CC provides an author flexibility (for example, they might choose to allow only non-commercial uses of their own work) and protects the people who use or redistribute an author’s work from concerns of copyright infringement as long as they abide by the conditions that are specified in the license by which the author distributes the work.    Read the full article from Wikipedia here

When it comes to using real photos for your website, you are very lucky in the knowledge that there are many websites that actually encourage authors to download their images for free use but under license.
Which means that you get to use really good quality images for free as long as you stick to the rules.
There are about 16 licenses that come under the Umbrella of Creative Commons, but if you just familiarise your self with the 3 that would probably cover use within a website you should be good to go. (All 16 are covered in the article from Wikipedia).
The 3 main categories are:

Creative Commons No restrictionsFreeing content globally without restrictions CC0


Creative Commons by Attribution aloneCC-BY   Attribution alone BY


Creative Commons Attribution and Share alikeCC-BY-SA   Attribution + ShareAlike BY-SA


It is also advisable to note that the owner of any image that you use, may decide to change the license to incorporate different rules.
So be aware that if you get a request for removal it is probably down to a change in circumstances, so either go along with the changes or remove the image.

Just because you have been allowed to use the image on your website doesn’t necessarily mean that you can go plastering that image all over social media.
In the case of the above options that wouldn’t be a problem, but if the author has another portion of a license attached to their work it may not allow such distribution.
Always check the small print before using the image ad hoc.

Using Images from your Affiliate Programs

If you are in the Affiliate marketing business and you have signed up to an Affiliate, it is still not allowed to use the images they provide on their website without using your Affiliate link.
If for argument sake you see an image of a baby’s pushchair that you want to use within an article you are writing, and you download that image using the “Save as” option, you are in violation of the Affiliate companies rules, and every possibility that your account could be revoked.
Those images are licensed to your Affiliate company for their use and can only be used in conjunction with your Affiliate ID.
Every image you use from their site, which includes any banners or advertising material carries your Affiliate ID, and therefore any sales produced through those images are assigned to you.
The main reason that they do not allow the unlawful use of images is that at any given time the product could change, could be slightly different in feature or be discontinued.
By using the link your item is automatically updated, and sent to the new item, by using a downloaded image you could be showing an older version which could be detrimental to the company.

This is a list of 29 free and royalty free images websites for your perusal.
This list was given to me by Loes a very good member of Wealthy Affiliate a community that I belong to and I have to thank her for her input into this article for me.

This is Loes’s own website: http://freeimages.siterubix.com  that gives you  Free Images, Photos, Cliparts, Editors, Gifs, Graphics In her own words these pictures were taken by her husband and also sent to her by other photographers.

Other websites:


How do you use images for your website? would love to hear your options or whether you have ever been slapped with a DCMA.

Please leave your comments below, would love to converse with you.

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