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Sunday, September 27, 2015

No, You Can't Use That Image: Don't Be A Thief!

In Emily Snow’s “Devoured” Sienna Jensen starts working for Lucas Wolfe, a rock star and in several instances she tries to ask him questions about himself in an effort to get to know him better. Every time his reply is the same “Google is your friend”. She was a bit baffled and taken aback. However, he was basically telling her that she could find the answers to her questions on the Internet via Google. She finally got the hint and looked him up. I LOVE that line and have used it SEVERAL times! I mean, it’s the truth! You can basically find out information for just about anything.

This also means searching for images! However, Google IS NOT a stock image site. This isn’t the place for you to grab images for your posts, graphic teasers, book covers, or ads etc. You can utilize Google to FIND the images from their original sources. You can use Google to compare prices for stock images as well. This is also a great time to compare the licenses between the stock sites. However, you DO NOT use the image by copy/pasting or downloading it FROM Google or from the site you found it from.

Images have copyrights, and if you use an image without the proper permission you are in violation of that copyright. Basically you’re stealing! NO, it’s not ‘borrowing’, it’s not ‘inspired by’, and it’s not anything other than STEALING. There is no way around it.

So doing a search for let’s say “Sexy guy with long hair”, will get you the following on Google:

a.) careful, sometimes, these searches can be “interesting” and NSFW
b.) will give you A LOT of eye candy
c.) yield many options that are NOT stock images NOTE – this could be good because it will help you figure out what look you may be looking for if you already didn’t know (i.e. blonde vs. red head, long hair vs. short, jeans vs. slacks, tats vs. none, etc.)

Sites you’ll also see plenty on a Google search that are NOT stock sites:

  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • DeviantArt
  • Tumblr
  • Flickr 
  • Photobucket 
Sites you will see plenty of that ARE Stock sites:

  • Stutterstock.com
  • Dreamstime.com
  • 123rf.com
  • GraphicStock.com 

These are just a few. Promise we'll go over the different sites and what the perks are for each at a later date!

Now, I’ve mentioned Google not being a Stock site. Another place where people tend to ‘get’ images where they shouldn’t is PINTEREST. In fact, there have been many issues with copyright infringement because people can “upload” images to this site without crediting the owners or getting permission from the owners and then it gets “repinned” meaning shared and the original source and owner may never be credited. I know a photographer friend of mine, Jenn LeBlanc had one of her images stolen and uploaded onto Pinterest. The image was one that was inside of one of her books! A person took a screenshot of the image and then uploaded it and posted it on Pinterest, which was shared many times. All this WITHOUT Jenn’s permission!  Jenn is not only the photographer of the image (thus owns the copyrights) but also the AUTHOR of the book (own copyrights there too) where the image was in. To add insult to injury, this same image that was screenshot and uploaded onto Pinterest was then used for a meme for a DIFFERENT author! Can we say WTF?

Here is some AWESOME information about copyright that you should read!

“Copyright” describes the rights given to creators for their literary and artistic works.

Copyright is an automatic right and does not require the author to file special paperwork, as is the case for trademark and patent. Registration is required to enforce the rights, but as a matter of right, an author is not required to register anything to get the right to use the “circle c,” showing the work is copyrighted.*

Okay… let’s take a second here and did you read/notice that it says it’s “automatic right” and doesn’t require the author/creator/designer to file special paperwork. HOWEVER, registration is required to enforce the right. So for those who say or think that because an image or design or artwork doesn’t have the © or watermarks, it doesn’t work that way.

The copyright owner has the right to do four things (called exclusive rights):

Reproduce the copyrighted work;
Display the copyrighted work publicly;
Prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work; and
Distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale, rental or lending, and/or to display the image.
Source: 17 USC Section 106.

Understanding Photographic Copyright **

Things to remember about copyright:

  • Copyright is a property right.
  • Just because you buy a print does not mean you have purchased the copyright.
  • Professional photographers are the smallest of small copyright holders.
  • Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, photographs are protected by copyright from the moment of creation.
  • Photographers have the exclusive right to reproduce their photographs (right to control the making of copies). Copyright
  • Unless you have permission from the photographer, you can’t copy, distribute (no scanning and sending them to others), publicly display (no putting them online), or create derivative works from photographs.
  • A photographer can easily create over 20,000 separate pieces of intellectual property annually.
  • Professional photographers are dependent on their ability to control the reproduction of the photographs they create.
  • It affects their income and the livelihood of their families.
  • Even small levels of infringement—copying a photo without permission—can have a devastating impact on a photographer’s ability to make a living.
  • Copyright infringements—reproducing photos without permission—can result in civil and criminal penalties.

Check out the links provided below for additional information about copyright.
*Social Media Examiner
**Professional Photographers of America, Inc.

Check out the link provided as it even gives you information about how to get legal copies of professional photographs!

By now I hope it’s been established that though “Google is your friend” (truly love that line) it’s not your stock image site. Make sure you take the time to LEARN about copyright for not only content but also images (artwork and photography). Learn about the differences in the licenses for the stock images (i.e. private use vs. commercial use) as well. Remember that Authors (and Bloggers, PR companies, Assistants, etc.) are just as responsible as the graphic designers they hire to do work for them when copyright infringements occur. Personally, I think they are actually more responsible because they are the ones doing the hiring (meaning they should have done the necessary research i.e. reputable individual/company) and in the end and long run, it’s their name that will forever be associated with stealing artwork or images from the artist. They, the individual doing the hiring (i.e. Author, Blogger, PR Company, etc.) need to hire reputable graphic designers vs. those that claim to be “cheap but quality” or “no need to pay a lot for…” or “inexpensive”! Allow me to lay it out for those who may still not understand the way and give you a reality check - you get what you paid for! In this case, it could mean getting sued for copyright infringement which is the worst case scenario or being asked by the owner of the image to remove the book (for the author) from all the vendors and not only does the author lose potential sales, but they lost the money they paid for that cover originally, time spent for the original cover and now having to get a new one (and this also means more money spent) and now they are forever known as the author who used a stolen image for their book cover. Shame really.  The excuse, and it truly is an excuse, of “Oh, I didn’t know!” or “But I hired a company to do all the PR which included the graphic design work!” or “How was I supposed to know it was stolen, they didn’t put a watermark on it!” is a bunch of bull. It needs to stop. Truly! Authors get upset when their books get pirated. You get upset when your things get stolen. How and why would this be any different? It isn’t.

Now… time for Q&A… if you have any questions…. Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them and if I don’t have the answer… I’ll help direct you to where you can find one. Check out the two links I included above as resources because they do provide A LOT of information as well. Please know that I am NOT a lawyer. I am NOT an expert in copyright law, however, I do know enough about the subject because I work in the industry and work as a graphic designer. I’d also LOVE to hear your thoughts on the topic!


  1. Interesting article Viviana I've seen a lot of cover artists watermark their work lately

    1. Yes, more have been because more have had their work stolen :( Shame really. I hope this article helps people understand that it's stealing.... even if it's on the "internet" and not a physical item.

  2. Great post. I'm sure I lot of people don't realize the rules.

    1. Thanks Melanie! Appreciate it! That's what this is about... educating! I rather believe people don't know rather than "don't care and do it anyways" or are 'fine with stealing". Appreciate it!! More to come!