Images play an important role for brands. We’ve all been horrified by some of the stock photos out there, but it can be even scarier to get caught using an image you don’t have the rights to use. Whether you are using an image for your website or posts on social media, you need to know how to go about it without getting a call from someone’s lawyer.

Businesses that don’t follow copyright and fair use laws pay the price in fines down the road, and the last thing a company needs right now is another price increase. Follow BadCat’s tips to keep your business safe.

How to Get Proper Licensing

The easiest way to guarantee that you’re using images legally is to get proper licensing. If you create the photo yourself or license an image online, you can rest easy knowing that you have permission to use it. But don’t take that as a suggestion to go combing through your vacation pics.

There are many image databases you can use, like Shutterstock, Getty, and Envato. For a monthly fee, you can license almost any image in their library and use it for anything. Some services even offer free image licensing, which allows you to access high-quality images while ads compensate artists for their work.

Asking for Permission

If an image you want to use isn’t available for licensing, you can always reach out to the creator for permission. Make sure to get documented authorization, that way it won’t keep you up at night.

You can usually send a letter or email with your request and save the response. If you need a more formal document, you can search the internet for a Permission to Reproduce Images form.

It can be challenging to track down the original creator of an image, but you can always use Google Lens to find the first post and reach out to the person behind the curtain. Using Google Lens is even easier on Chrome. You simply right-click on the photo and select “Search Images with Google Lens.”

What the Heck is Fair Use?

Fair use is a complex concept, but it can offer more images for you to use. It’s important to know that commercial uses are less likely to qualify as fair use. Even if a work is transformative, fair use doesn’t automatically apply to your business. Anything used for profit falls under special rules and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  

To determine if an image generally qualifies as fair use, run it through this handy-dandy list of qualifications:

  • Is the use transformative? – The content you produce with the image must add new expression or meaning to the original. Posting the same image as the original does not count as fair use.
  • What is the nature of the copyrighted work? – An image is more likely to qualify under fair use protections if it’s factual or general knowledge. For example, if you create a custom graphic that utilizes public knowledge, you won’t have to worry about violating copyright law.
  • Will it impact the original piece? – If your use of an image harms the original owner’s ability to profit from the piece, then your image is less likely to qualify for fair use protections.

Consider these points before using an image. Fair use is tricky for the average businessowner to navigate, so it’s best either to obtain a license or written permission from the creator.  

BadCat helps brands stand out with stunning imagery. We design eye-catching, custom images for websites, blogs, and social posts. To transform your business’  camera roll, contact us to get started.