Understanding Visual Marketing and Copyright Laws

visual marketing

Visual marketing is so powerful, but when you start using it to promote your blog, it is important to learn about the laws surrounding using images. There are many misconceptions, and if any of those misunderstandings lead you to violate a copyright law (knowingly or unknowingly), it can cost a lot of money. Taking just a few extra minutes to learn about these laws in will save you even more time (and dollars) later!

Yes, You Can Be Sued!

Using a copyrighted image without permission can cost you a lot of time and money, even if you didn’t know it was a copyrighted image. For example, if you got the image from a royalty free site, and thought it was legal but it wasn’t, you’re still liable. This is why free sites are so dangerous. What’s more, even if you remove the image when told, you can still be sued due to having used the image. The fees can add up to thousands of dollars.

Visual Marketing DON’Ts:

You cannot use a picture without permission – period. (By the way, using a picture then giving the photographer credit is NOT the same as getting permission, and neither is putting a disclaimer on your blog for the image.)

You cannot change the picture and call it “fair use”; it’s not.

You cannot use the image if your website is not for commercial use.

You cannot use an image without permission, even if it’s embedded from their server.

In short, you cannot use an image for any reason without permission. And, even after you remove it when asked, you may still end up having to pay for using it, even if it was only for a few minutes. If they have proof, then you’re out of luck.


So where can I find pictures that ARE okay to use?

Creative Commons Images – Creative Commons-licensed pictures are fine to use, but make sure you read the terms, as there are restrictions on how you can use them and how you must credit the owner of the image.

Public Domain Images – No, this doesn’t mean that if the image is online, it’s in the public domain; public domain is a legal term that describes images where the original copyright has run out, and now the image is free for the public to use, but with restrictions.  When using public domain images in visual marketing, make sure you read the fine print to stay legal.

Paid Stock Photo Sites – To be the most safe when it comes to copyright of images, buy them. However, keep in mind that you still cannot use the image however you want to. You need to read all the terms of service for exactly how the pictures are to be used, and follow it precisely.

Take Your Own Images – Taking your own pictures is by far the best way to ensure that your blog has legal images on it, and now most mobile devices have perfectly good cameras for quality images you can use online. You already have photo editing software on your computer and in the cloud through various programs such as Canva.com that will work perfectly fine for your needs.

It’s always best to assume any image has a copyright of some kind. If you’re not totally sure about the state of the image, or the terms of service, don’t use the image. It’s important that everyone respects the intellectual property of others. Not just because you can be sued, but because it’s the right thing to do.  Now more than ever visual marketing is a key element in your marketing strategy, so knowing the law is vital.

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