Using Images Online


Websites, Blogs, business Facebook pages, your Instagram account etc all need great images to catch attention. As they say, “a picture paints 1000 words”.

Did you know you’re not allowed to Google images, right click, save and publish them on your own site? It’s completely illegal and even though ‘everyone else is doing it’, the action comes with a very high risk of being sued by the owner of the original image. And the scary thing is that this actually happens to small businesses all the time.

Unless you’re planning on taking all your own photos on your phone or digital camera, editing and uploading them to social media, you need to find a legal place to source great images that you have been given permission to use or paid for from a reputable source.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of research on the topic of late. My old blog/new website was first established in 2009 and contained a lot of images when I moved it over from the free Blogger platform to a paid version of WordPress. As I was sorting through the archives of old posts it dawned on me that I actually had no right to use a few of the images I had and if I wanted Ernie & Bird to be professional communication platform it needed to be legal.

You need permission to use ANY photo you didn’t take yourself

According to In Australia, the Copyright Act gives authors, publishers, journalists, visual artists and others legal rights to control certain uses of their content by others. This includes reproducing the content in various ways, making it available online, and emailing it.

Generally, if you want to copy or share someone else’s work, you are likely to need permission (also referred to as a licence) from the copyright owner unless:

With the craziness of social media you can be forgiven to think it is ‘ok’ to take a screen shot or someone’s Instagram post and repost it as your own. Everyone does it right? Hey, I’m just as equally guilty of this. The important thing here is to learn from our mistakes.

As a general rule, the first owner of copyright in a work is the creator, unless the creator has assigned copyright in advance (e.g. to a client or a publisher). You need to get written permission to use an image from the owner of the copyright.

There are quite a few ‘exceptions’ to using images without permission however I would strongly encourage you to be careful here. It’s not worth the risk of getting caught and ignorance isn’t an excuse.

So where do you get legal (and modern) images from that you can’t take yourself? These images are referred to as ‘Royalty Free’ or ‘Stock’ images. You can Google either term and find many sites that offer extensive image galleries you can purchase images from. I personally like to use CanStock Photo and purchase ‘credits’ as needed. I find it quite affordable and like their selection of photos and clipart. I generally buy 45 credits for $25 and use them to purchase images. Depending on the resolution of the image (and what I need to use it for) they are around 2-6 credits each.

This information is for guidance only. It is not legal advice.

  • Kylie says:

    Great info on this topic, Lis. Thank you for sharing! Also a great idea for people to watermark their own photos so that they can’t be used elsewhere. Will definitely check out CanStock Photo 🙂 Shutterstock is another good one but not sure how price or range compare. X

    • Lis O'Brien says:

      Hi Kylie! THank you for your feedback! It’s really encouraging! I’m hoping to post more articles like this one to assist handmade business market their products professionally online.

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