How to Stay Legal while Posting Pictures Online

Oct 30

Images that you have not taken

This article gives an overview of which laws do you need to know when you’re posting pictures on blogs. Obviously, the law is a tricky subject (if it wasn’t, why are most judges only appointed by the time everyone else is retiring!), and laws vary from country to country. However without quoting the specific statute that applies in each case, there are some practices that are likely to get you into trouble if you don’t pay heed. That could be commercial trouble, or even in extreme cases serious criminal trouble.

Firstly, if you are not taking your own images, or if you want to supplement yours with one or two from the new, beware! It’s so tempting to copy a Google image but under modern copyright law, virtually every image you find on the Web is copyrighted. This means that someone, somewhere, owns the rights to that image and can enforce their rights at any time. Admittedly most of the time the copyright holder won’t notice or won’t take action, and even if they do it may be a “cease and desist” notice asking you to remove the image and don’t “borrow” any others. Some will go further if it keeps happening and will look at using an infringement lawyer like or speak to a local firm, so they can get this sorted through the courts if this is something that is continuous.

The way to avoid potential grief is to use images you have created, images you’ve licensed. That is you have made an agreement with Shutterstock or some such other company to use their images. This usually means paying a licence fee and/or paying for each image you put on your site. The final way is called “Images used under fair use”- although this can be risky. Company logos when you have mentioned the firm in your blog or article are usually ok, as are screenshots of other websites. Finally, there are some free photo libraries out there- but don’t expect the best pictures or a wide and diverse range!

Images that you have taken

Things get a whole lot easier if you’ve taken the pictures yourself! First off check your privacy settings. Facebook and Twitter and most other social networking sites give picture posters options when it comes to who can view their photos and personal information. For example, on Facebook, users can specify that they want only their “friends” to view their photos, or friends of friends, or they can keep them to themselves.

Stop and think before you post any photos that are, or could be construed as, sexual in nature, pornographic, distasteful, offensive, abusive, racist, anti-gay or could be regarded as inciting terrorism, riotous behaviour or similar. It may seem funny at the time- but consider what the consequences may be if someone in authority views it and takes proceedings against you. With facial recognition technology on the rise, it’s possible that photos posted now will be searchable online. A good test is this; would you be happy to put a large poster-sized picture of whatever you are posting online, in the window of your home? Also, it’s not just about you. What effect could the picture have on your friends and family? Children are very au fait with how the internet works- would you be happy for them to stumble across your photos by accident? The bottom line has to be if in doubt blow it out, and don’t post!

Finally if there’s a picture you are particularly proud of, then use a watermark with your name and copyright details. Bloggers are increasingly turning to watermarks, which imprint their photos with their name or blog title and make it harder for anyone to misappropriate the image. Put the watermark near the centre of the photo so that it can’t be successfully cropped out. You can learn more about photos and cameras here:

In conclusion, be careful out there in online land. A moment of silliness could lead to unpleasant circumstances. Stay safe and secure, and have fun!