Blogger Etiquette–Photos

Mosaic Creative Commons image

2500 Creative Commons Licenses by qthomasbower, used under Creative Commons licensing

After diving headfirst back into the blogging world after a hiatus, I’m noticing something on blogs that irks me. Okay, I don’t really care that much, but I’m much more aware about copyright infringement while taking this copyright class. Mostly, I care that my fellow bloggers are protecting themselves against lawsuits. (Well, at least the nice bloggers. The assholes can be sued.)

Stop using copyrighted pictures or content that are obviously not licensed.


Before I started taking the copyright class, I avoided posting pictures unless they were my pictures, just to avoid the tricky copyright legalese. I wasn’t sure whether Fair Use covered it or not. If you use someone’s photo without their permission, then you are likely infringing on their copyright. Always ask for permission. If you absolutely must use someone else’s photo without permission, at least credit and link back to their page, so they can get proper fame, and a small fortune off of advertising revenue. Be absolutely prepared to take down the content should they ask you.

Or you could avoid the whole copyright/permission/license problem by doing two things. 1) post a small snippet of the content, with a link to the full content. For example, if you want to share the latest Oatmeal comic, post a thumbnail-size icon of the comic, with a link to the full comic. (Or ignore icon altogether, and use only a link.) The Oatmeal master himself has had to ask numerous sites to cease and desist posting his full comics, especially those who are posting his comics WITHOUT attribution. Seriously. At the very least, attribute your photos.

What I’ve been doing about products is posting a picture of the product with a link of where my readers can buy it. In my own analysis, that falls under Fair Use since it’s actually free advertising.

If you want to use generic images on your blog in order to highlight various points in your blog (or distract from your atrocious spelling) by using photos of cute babies or barking dogs, seek out the copyright-free (usually the really old pictures whose copyright has expired) or Creative Commons photos. One of the greatest things about Flickr is that they let you search the vast photo library for Creative Commons licensing. Start here, and then check the box that says “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content.” Usually all the photographer wants is credit–make sure you include it somewhere within your post.

Another great tool for working with copyright issues is the Copyright Metro, an interactive guide to avoiding getting your pants sued off. It’s geared toward school/educational uses, so keep that in mind as you navigate it.

Finally, if you absolutely want to use copyrighted photos, use the PNAM acronym to evaluate your fair use defense.

Purpose–what are you using it for? Educational uses are good. Commercial uses are more suspect.

Nature–What is the nature of the copyrighted item you want to use? Academic, technical, factual works often get free passes. Dramatic works–this includes most photos–are riskier.

Amount–how much of the copyrighted item are you using? A small portion is better (like a thumbnail of a photo). The entire work is often a no-no. Also avoid using the “heart of the work.”

Money–Are you going to make money off of it, or does it hurt the value of the item? Then no, it’s usually not allowed. For example, by re-posting an image or whatnot, are you taking away any money the creator would make off of it? If it won’t hurt the item’s value and you won’t make money off of it, then that’s better. If you bring more traffic and more money to the creator, then that’s usually a good thing.

Your use of an item should hopefully meet 3 or 4 of the above 4 criteria.

If you meet only 2 of the above, then you should think long and hard about whether it’s worth the risk. Or you could even just adjust things so that you can meet the majority of the criteria.

If you meet 1 or fewer, it’s a no-go.

Now you that you know better, you have no excuse to use copyrighted images all willy-nilly anymore! Thank you for making the blogosphere a more copyright friendly place.

ADDENDUM: Someone reminded me that there are different levels of Creative Commons licenses, and that it affects blogs or websites with ads. I made a new post about it. The only way this affects you is if you’re going to be having some sort of commercial gain, including websites that have ads. (Even if you don’t get paid, like with ChicagoNow, it still is benefiting someone else commercially.) Fortunately, on Flickr you can look for CC pictures that allow commercial use by checking the box below the CC box, as I explained above.

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One Response to Blogger Etiquette–Photos

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