Graphics, Photos & Copyrights

The days when you could grab an image off a website and use it in your marketing materials is gone. Even if you purchase a usage license for graphics these days, you need to read the fine print carefully. Most modern graphics licenses have a “use it or lose it” policy where you can only use an image within the first year of its purchase. If you post it on a website in that first year then it can stay indefinitely, but you can’t buy it and keep it for use years down the road.

Companies like Getty Images DO actively work to protect their licenses, and it’s easier than ever to find unlicensed images on the internet. If you don’t believe it, pick an image on your hard drive. Then do a Reverse Image Lookup on Google and you’ll see search engine results for every other website using that image. (If you don’t know how to do a reverse image lookup, you can Google for directions, or download the app.) Even if you alter the image, most image recognition algorithms these days will detect it.

Concerns about legal usage of graphics extends beyond your website. Google can read PDFs, too. And if you send out e-newsletters, there’s usually an option to read this newsletter online – which means there’s a copy of your newsletter stored somewhere on the internet, graphics and all.
Fortunately, it’s easy to use graphics legally. Here are a couple tips:

  1. Find and buy. There are lots of graphics sources that only charge $4-$5 for an image. And searching through an online photo directory’s image archives is easier than ever. You can buy an unlimited license download agreement for as little as $88/year from companies like
  2. Embed images. Getty Images was developing a bad reputation for suing little guys who were using their images without authorization. A few years ago, they started allowing you to embed their images free of charge, as long as you use their code snipped to make sure credit is given where due.
  3. Find free images. You can filter your image searches on Google and Bing by usage rights. That’s an easy way to search only for images with unlimited usage rights. (Even so, most sites will ask you to somehow credit the image provider.)

 Again, it’s important to read the license policy carefully when using images, and document the origins of each image just in case you’re ever challenged.




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