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How do I legally use images on my website?

Finding attractive and relevant pictures for your website complements your text and can make the content more memorable – but where do you begin? It depends if you want to spend money on licensing images from other media sites or if you would rather stay with a zero or low cost solution. Here are ways to maximize the quality of your images without infringing on other copyrights.


Copyright basics

It’s important for every website owner to be familiar with the basics of international copyright laws. At one time the web an unruly place, as novice web designers created sites that borrowed photos from all over the internet without permission from copyright owners. But now web designers must be respectful of other people’s copyrights.

In general, the photographer or creator of an image is the copyright owner of their work. You must first get permission from a copyright owner to use their work on your site, otherwise it could lead to legal problems. Many copyright owners will let you use their photos and images for free, while others will expect you to pay licensing fees.


Use your own photos

The best and easiest way to steer clear of copyright issues is to take your own photos or hire someone to take pictures for you. If you have a modern smartphone, chances are it includes a high resolution camera. It’s fun and gives you complete control of your images, provided the subjects of your images approve. Usually the more ‘environmental’ a picture, the less permission you need. But you may need permission to take shots of company logos or anything that has a trademark.

By organizing your photos in folders, you will have quick and easy access to images, which will save you time in the future. Remember that you can also take screen shots on your computer from your videos. Another creative idea for building a portfolio of photos is to create different versions of photos using a photo editing program such as Photoshop.


Create original images

If you’re an artist with graphic arts skills you can create a variety of images such as portraits, landscapes, cartoons, infographics and other original artwork. If not you can hire professional artists to do the work. A work for hire project sometimes allows the buyer to own the copyright but it can also be a deal in which the creator retains the copyright.


Explore Google image search

Google Image searches provide a useful filter option. By clicking the search tools button you will be given a drop down option box for “usage rights.” This limited license allows you to display images with certain permissions. If you’re looking for images for your business website, you will need to select either “labeled for reuse” or “labeled for reuse with modification.” Charitable or non-profit organisations can choose one of the non-commercial options.


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License stock photos

Several sites offer stock photos but you need to pay attention to the terms and conditions. These sites commonly promote themselves as offering “copyright free” images that usually only offer limited use, while they make money from licensing for more extensive use. Getty Images is one of the more well known stock photo sites offering a wide library of images that work well for pop culture and media sites.

But there are many other stock photo sites you will find searching Google. There is even an excellent NZ stock image library if you requiring uniquely kiwi images.


By Aaron Enright

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