Is This Copyright Infringement? What Images You Can & Can’t Share

Sharing is caring, right?

Well, yes … but when it comes to sharing other people’s images, there are a few restrictions.

When someone creates an original image, they automatically own rights to that image. And when one of the rights to that image is used without the creator’s consent, that’s called copyright infringement — and it’s a big deal.

On the other hand, there are certain circumstances under which you can share images on your blog without asking permission under what’s called the Fair Use Doctrine.

… So what does that all mean? What exactly are the rights people have to the images they create? When is it okay and not okay to use other people’s images without permission? And where are good places to look for pre-approved images? 

To learn the answers to these questions and more, check out the infographic below from Vound and Intella in partnership with Ghergich & Co.

Things to Know About Protecting Your Images Online

It is the digital age and therefore vitally important to have a presence on the internet. Photographers, both professional and novice, are using the internet more than ever to showcase their skill.
Photo by Maja Petric
Photo by Maja Petric

This is imperative from a business and marketing standpoint, but with every great tool comes those who exploit it. Photographers are stuck between marketing themselves in the most essential way available and putting their products at risk to be stolen online.
Other than keeping photos off the internet completely, the options for keeping our property entirely safe are limited. Here are the things you should know about protecting your images online before clicking the “upload” button.

Social Media

From a marketing standpoint, social media presence is imperative for business growth. Sharing your photos with visitors on Flickr, Facebook and Pinterest can offer a boost in sales or audience that you wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise.
Even if you take photos as a hobby and not a career, chances are that you’re sharing them with your friends on your personal social media sites.
Many have speculated about social media sites and their Terms of Service that state they have certain rights to your content. Most of these have been disputed and the sites have assured users that their content rights belong to them. Facebook’s Terms of Service, for instance, state that you are granting them a license to use that content to display to the audience you’ve shared it with. In other words, you aren’t granting them a license to use your photos as they see fit.
By Dominik Schröder
By Dominik Schröder

The bigger issue with social media is the privacy settings. Your page may be completely private as far as the settings go, but you still have a profile picture and you can still find your photo via hashtag search.
The main point to keep in mind is that your photos on social media are not safe, regardless of your privacy settings. Also keep your photo content in mind. Environmental shots being stolen and portraits being stolen are equally illegal but have different ramifications for the subject and photographer.

Imitation is NOT the Sincerest Form of Flattery

There are many articles out there about image sharing and photographers being grateful if their image is shared without regard for crediting or copyright. This is the idea that image theft is flattering and talent validating; if someone goes through the trouble to steal your photo it must be a great shot.
This logic has too many holes to discuss all them. The bottom line is that using a photo without permission or crediting the source is theft. For many photographers their photos are their livelihood and stealing their work is taking money directly from them. And depending on the license, attribution isn’t enough to use the photo.
By Jeremy Ricketts
By Jeremy Ricketts

Consider where your photos are being used. If you aren’t trying to protect your photos in some way, you are opening up your photography to a variety of thieves. You may not be affected negatively if your photo is stolen and used for a T-shirt print or a blog article, but what if your photo is used in an advertisement for an adult film site?
This is a very real risk and has happened many times, especially with photos shared on social media. Do not allow your photos to be used without your consent whether it be personal or professional photography. The risk of stolen photos is not just damaging from a fiscal standpoint.

Copyrights and Credits

The good news is that your photos are automatically copyrighted. The second the shutter closes copyright is already attached to your photo. Unfortunately, registration is required in order to enforce your rights, usually it must be within the first three months it was created, and it requires a fee.
Because of this, you can contact anyone who has used your photo and demand they stop using it. Photographers might need to jump through some hoops if the case goes to court, but luckily the automatic copyright will force them to stop using the photo. Compensation, on the other hand, might be a different story if you haven’t registered your work.
By Breno Machado
By Breno Machado
For those who aren’t as concerned about redistribution for their photography, there are six different Creative Commons licenses that will inform those using your photos what is allowed and what isn’t.
The important thing is to be clear on how you want your photos to be used so users are aware if you want to be attributed or if you don’t allow your photo to be used whatsoever. This is an important distinction to make for professional photographers especially.

Tips to Help

There are many ways to help combat photo theft online. Some popular options are watermarking photos, only uploading low-resolution photos, splicing photos, disabling right-click functions, or layering images. Try using software that is easily downloaded and can protect your photos in bulk.
It will help by automatically adding watermarks, copyright disclaimers, invisible disclaimers or reduce image quality to the photos you would like to put online. All of these options require the thief to work harder for the photo, but doesn’t protect it completely. Altering the photo on an online platform is at least a way to advertise your product without giving it away, unless the thief wants to work hard for it.
by Chelsea Francis
by Chelsea Francis

You can also consider the platform that you put your photos on. Creating a website that requires a log-in to view photos or payment to download full-resolution photos might be a better option than putting photos on Flickr where some users assume a Creative Commons license when you might prefer a stricter copyright license.
Putting photos on a personal blog and not on a social media site can help keep your photos on a smaller stage where they aren’t in such a big search pool for thieves seeking personal photos.
Uploading your photos online is great for marketing your photography, showcasing your skill to other photographers, sharing personal photos with friends and family, or getting your name out there as a photographer.
The digital age is both a blessing for the creative world and a curse because of the ease at which someone can steal your work, but luckily there are a variety of different ways to protect yourself.
Being aware of the power of social media, what can happen with stolen photos, copyright rules, and how to keep your photos safe will better prepare you for the online world and how it relates to your photography. What has your experience been with online image theft?

How to Add a Watermark to an Image in Photoshop

With the rise of digital photography, more and more of us are sharing our images on the internet. This is a great way to get advice, improve your technique, and meet likeminded people, but it does have a downside – copyright theft.
It’s becoming increasingly important to protect your images and prevent (or at least dissuade) unscrupulous people from using them without your permission. Adding a watermark to your photos is the ideal way to do this.
Applying a watermark in Photoshop is quick and easy. You can add a simple text watermark or one based around a logo or image; I’ll describe each in turn. For this tutorial I’ll be using the following image – feel free to download it and follow along.
The image we'll be watermarking
This is the image we’re going to be watermarking.

Creating a Text Watermark

A text watermark is the most straightforward type to create. It can consist of words (such as your name, website, or image title), and special symbols like the copyright symbol.

1. Create a New Layer

Start by opening your picture in Photoshop. Create a new layer by selecting Layer > New > Layer, name it “Watermark”, and click OK.
Adding a new layer to hold the watermark
Add a new layer to hold the watermark

2. Enter Your Text

With the new layer selected, choose the Text tool. Click anywhere on the image and type your copyright notice. Don’t worry about the font, size, position, or colour for now; we’ll change all of these in a minute.
Adding text to the watermark layer
Add your copyright notice to the image.
If you’d like to add any special characters (such as the copyright symbol), you can insert these using the Windows Character Map (Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Character Map) or Mac OS X’s Character Pallette (Edit > Special Characters). As a shortcut, the copyright symbol (©) can be inserted in Windows by holding Alt and typing “0169” on the numeric keypad, and in Mac OS X by pressing Option+G.

3. Tweak the Font

Select the Text tool and highlight your copyright notice. Use the toolbar to change the font face and colour to suit your personal tastes. You can also play around with the font size, although we’ll be resizing the watermark in the next step anyway.
Choose a colour for your text. Plain, neutral colours look best, so I tend to choose either pure white or black depending on what stands out more. You might also like to try a 50% gray (RGB 128, 128, 128).
Adjusting the watermark's font
Adjust the font to something more suitable.

4. Position the Watermark

Next you need to choose where your watermark is going to go. I like to put mine on an area of roughly even colour where it isn’t obscuring the main subject of the shot, usually near a corner. You might like to make yours more prominent, so do whatever you prefer.
Choose a position for your watermark
Choose a position for your watermark.
If you want to resize or rotate your watermark, use the Free Transform tool (Ctrl+T in Windows, Cmd+T on Mac). When resizing, remember to hold down Shift to constrain the text’s proportions and stop it getting stretched out of shape.

5. Finishing Touches

The watermark is ok as it stands, but it’s not particularly subtle and really draws the eye. This can be quickly corrected by adjusting the layer’s opacity – somewhere between 30% and 50% tends to work well.
The final text watermark
Play around with opacity and effects to finish your watermark off.
You might want to jazz the text up a bit by adding some effects to it. The Bevel and Emboss effect can look good and is useful for separating the watermark from the background on some images. Don’t go overboard though – a simple watermark is easier to read and less distracting.

Who Owns a Photo Once It’s Put Online? – Understanding Copyright

Who actually owns a photo once you upload it to the internet? This fantastic photography cheat sheet compiled by Clifton Cameras answers some of the key questions about copyright for photographers.
From cases like David Slater’s famed monkey self-portrait to social media ownership to how to protect your photos online, this handy infographic should set you on the right path.
Who owns a photo once it's put online: free cheat sheet to understanding copyright