All original works have a copyright the minute an individual creates the work, and this ownership does not require an official registration to be recognized. Copyright applies to all mediums, including print and digital, and protects the interests of the originator by preventing others from using their work without permission. Material posted on the Internet is equally covered by copyright, and therefore can’t be used without the creator’s permission.
Under U.S. copyright law, a copyright owner can reproduce, distribute, sell, rent, lend, perform, display, communicate and/or adapt the work, and can authorize others to do the same. However, aside from specific circumstances, performing any of these acts without the copyright holder’s permission is an illegal infringement on their rights. This publication explains the basics.
The doctrine of “fair use” permits restricted use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission under these established, specific circumstances: If the reproduction is used for comment, criticism, news reporting, scholarship, teaching, or research. Use of screenshots to guide the reader through an educational tutorial posted on your blog should fall under this exception. If your intention is to profit from a screenshot or any other reproduction of a copyrighted image, you are breaking the law.
Although many of us have casually used a Google search to locate and grab images to use in our posts, when we do this we are using copyrighted material illegally, whether we’re aware of the laws or not. Time to drop the habit. Don’t shy away from using images completely, however. Art, screenshots, and photographs help keep readers interested by providing visual breaks in the copy. Here are a few great image sources that won’t get you in legal hot water.
If you don’t have the pre-installed Accessories program “Paint” on your computer, you can also use the free online editing software Pixlr to perform basics like cropping photos.
Create your own art
I use InDesign to create simple images (although I’m not an expert with the software), but any graphics program will work. The file can be exported to .pdf, then opened in Photoshop (yeah, no, I’m definitely not a Photoshop aficionado, but I can crop an image and save it as a .jpg.) You could potentially also use Word’s Publisher or a Word doc to create an image or design, then export the file to .pdf. Then you’ll need to find a way to save the .pdf as a .jpg or .png file, whatever your blog will allow you to upload.
Need more ideas about how to convert a .pdf to a .jpg? Refer to this article, 6 Ways To Convert A PDF To A JPG Image. The online application Zamzar is mentioned there – I haven’t tried it. Somebody please test it out and tell us what you think.
Use screen shots
Screen shots can be especially helpful in how-to posts. To make a proper screen shot, follow the instructions here: How do I take a screenshot? OR, use the online software, Snagit. Readers, how do you use screen shots to enhance a blog post? Please leave a comment and share!
Free Digital Photos.net
Free Digital Photos.net is an an online photo resource that MAY be free IF you include an attribution. Per the site, “Download free and premium stock photos and illustrations for websites, advertising materials, newspapers, magazines, ebooks, book covers and pages, music artwork, software applications and much more. All our free images are of high quality, produced by our community of professional stock photographers and digital illustrators. Royalty free photos for corporate and personal use.”
If you use one of their images, you must publish an acknowledgement on the same page or screen where the image is used. If you are unable to publish an acknowledgement, you must purchase the image to use it legally. Don’t take my word as gospel here! For more information, refer to their Acknowledgement page.
Important Note: I am not an expert on the use of photos from this website – do your own research. In other words, be accountable!
Use Creative Commons images available for “commercial use”
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. Creative Commons images have been made available by the originator for others to use. You can search for images using their webpage, or find them using Flickr’s search page. For more information, read The Passive Guy’s post, Using Creative Commons to Find Photos You Can Use.
Purchase inexpensive images online from photo and clip art sites
You can purchase low-cost, royalty-free stock images online from well known websites such as Graphic River, Fotosearch and my favorite, iStockphoto. I find that iStock is among the least expensive and has an extensive image library, so I registered for a pay-as-you-go account that allows me to purchase images as I need them. It’s fun and simple!
That’s all I’ve got! But I know you readers also have great suggestions about image sources and resources you can share. What’s your go-to resource for legal blog, book cover and newsletter images?
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