What images am I allowed to add to my website?

There are a great deal of factors in what images you are permitted to use on your site. To avoid issues, you should only use images that you have the rights to use. Public Domain, Stock photos, and photos you own are acceptable. Stock photo sources such as BigStock have guidelines on how you are allowed to use their images. It is very important to cite the sources for all public domain images as well. Copyright law is complex and requires great attention to detail in order to avoid violations.

Use Public Domain Images

Using Public Domain or “no copyright” images may have no copyright protection for multiple reasons.

  • The copyright has expired.
  • The work never had copyright to begin with.
  • The copyright holder released the work into the public domain.
  • The image is a U.S. work published before January 1, 1924.

Some Images may never have had a copyright to begin with this is frequently enacted by CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) which give creators the option to waive copyright and Database Protection. CC0 can be considered as the “no rights reserved” alternative to Creative Commons License.

Use Stock Photos

Stock photos are photos that artists license out to anyone willing to pay the license fee. You are able to use it any way approved by the licensing agreement. One advantage of using stock photos is the variety available. An important thing to note is that some photos have stipulations certain photos are used for “editorial use only” in these instances, you can use the photo for a publication like a newsletter or a blog, but you can’t use the photo for an ad or a home page.

Use Your Own Photos

Using your own photos means no concern for copyright as you own your photos. Having your own content also adds to the originality of your website.

Using Images Without Permissions

Using images without the license permissions can result in copyright infringement, resulting in fines that could result in fines as high as $150,000 should the case go to court, the guilty party can be expected to pay all court and attorney fees, the content containing the infringing images may also be seized.


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