Copyright and Online Photos

Beware Of Using Pictures Online - Blogging


Recently we were approached by a business for a logo redesign. The business sent us their logo they had been using and just wanted us to re-vamp it slightly. We asked where they got their image and it was revealed that a Google search was done and they picked it off the internet. After doing an image search myself I found the image and it belonged to another business. Therefore it could not be used, altered, or recycled it in any way due to copyright laws.

Unfortunately, the business owner wanted to proceed with a variation of the copyrighted work, and here at Chatterbox Promotions we will not infringe on others, therefore we had to cancel our business agreement with this company. Instead, we are using this opportunity to inform others about copyright laws.

Copyright laws can be difficult to understand but we are going to explain the law, the different types of image licenses and how to make sure you don’t get sued for copyright infringement.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement is the use of works protected by copyright law without permission. Infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works.(1)

What is Copyrighted?

Assume EVERYTHING is copyrighted until you review the license attached to that piece of work. Sarah Hawkins explains, “Copyright attaches at the time of creation and there is no requirement to use the “circle c”. (3) From the moment a pen touches paper, a camera captures a moment, or a song is written, all are instantly copyrighted without having to file special copyright paperwork.

Give Credit and You’re Okay

This is not necessarily true. Just because you give credit to where you got the photo, does not negate you from copyright infringement. “Copyright law gives the copyright holder the right to decide where their work is published”. (2)

Understanding Terminology

There are a few terms that you may have heard of but might not know the actual meaning. We will attempt to define these terms and clarify how they apply to copyright laws.

Fair Use

Images that are copyright but can be used for the following reasons:

  • Small excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment

  • Parodies which incorporates some elements (but not all) of the work being parodied

  • Quotations from a speech, address, or position paper in a news report 

  • Limited copying made by a student for academic work

Basically, Fair Use enables the use of works created by others to benefit the “greater good” or “for the benefit of the public.” (3)

Patent attorney Beck Tysver Evans suggests, if your not sure if an image qualifies as Fair Use, “a copyright attorney should be consulted before undertaking any significant activity which would rely on the fair use doctrine as a defense to copyright infringement.” (4)

Creative Common License

A Creative Commons (CC) license enables the distribution of otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon work that they have created. (5)

Usually, stock photo sites like Shutterstock and 123RF have images that fall under the Creative Commons license. However many stock photo sites require a fee to use an image. Just because you purchase an image, song, or piece of work does not mean you can use it commercially. This is where you have to read the licenses for each piece of work.

You can read in much more detail about CC license here.

Creative Commons Zero aka Public Domain

Creative Commons Zero, CC0, or also known as Public Domain means that pictures or pieces of work are free to use. explains what CC0 means, “others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the [copyrighted] works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law. (6) You can search the internet for Public Domain photos. Again, make sure you read the license of the picture because some sites combine pictures that carry different licenses.

Why is all this important to know?

  • You don’t want to get sued for using an image. (believe me, it’s happening, see here and here an here)
  • Have fun with stock photos and make them your own. (try free programs like these:,, or pixlr)
  • You have now know what all these terms mean and can proceed legally.

We Are Here To Help

We couldn’t just give you all this info without helping you with awesome CC0/Public Domain free sites. Check out the list below.



Negative Space


Life of Pix


IM Free

Check out these free stock photo websites, then come back and tell us which ones are your favorite. Leave a comment below.