If You Publish An Image, You'd Better Own The License For It

in writing •  2 years ago


Unless an image is expressly tagged as “public domain,” then it belongs to somebody, and chances are, they’ll get pretty tender if they learn you’ve used it without their permission. Most images bear a copyright that is just as ironclad as the copyright for a piece of music, and most of us know what happens when you upload a video on YouTube that contains Warner Music Group property. If you don’t, try it. That’s the fastest way to get your videos muted, or banned altogether.

I’ve been blogging on Steemit for a couple weeks now, and have been active in the Peer Review and Fiction Workshop channels at the PALnet @minnowsupport Discord Group. One troubling problem that I see over and over is the use of copyrighted images by people who copied and pasted from the internet. Maybe people really don’t know that such use is an infringement and legal issue. Maybe some people don’t care. But it’s worth taking time to understand, since the owner of a copyrighted photo could potentially cause an unlicensed user some considerable grief.

Worst of all, I see watermarked images being used in Steemit posts. NO! Just. . .no. Are you that eager to end up in a lawsuit? And let me tell you—people may well be reporting you. I know some photographers who take this issue very seriously, and it matters not one bit if the photo belongs to them or not—if they see a photo online bearing a watermark without proper attribution, they know it’s a stolen photo and are very likely to cry foul on principle alone.


What is a watermarked photo? Notice the photo at right. See all those white circles and lines? They are there to prevent people from using the photograph without permission. The owner of the copyright wants to show that the photo is available for purchase or licensing, and once that transaction is completed, the buyer/licensee will receive an unstamped, high resolution copy of the photograph for specified use.

Now look at the photo on the left. Same photo, but without all those marks. How did I get rid of them? Hey, guess what—I own a license for that photo. (Otherwise I never would have posted the watermarked one.) I bought and paid for use of that image fair and square, because the photographer placed the photo on the Dreamstime website specifically for that purpose.

Not only was it my obligation to obtain licensing, I also have to cite attribution wherever that photograph is used. Dreamstime makes it incredibly easy. With one click, the website generates a properly formatted attribution clause to accompany the photo. It looks like this:

I used that photo in a compilation of many photos for the cover of my second novel, “Wingspan.” I altered it quite a bit in Photoshop, which was one of the permissions granted by my license. Here is how it looks in its final application:

Many photos were used in the creation of this book cover. I own rights to all of them.

What if you want to use a photo that isn’t for sale or licensing on one of the stock photo sites? Well, you need to contact the photographer and obtain permission. Some people simply cite the source of the photograph, especially for online application, and provide a working link to the original URL where it resides. Some photographers are okay with that because it leads interested people to their websites. But it’s a roll of the dice. I won’t use a photo unless I have express permission or licensing.

I have been remiss in earlier posts about not citing Pixabay as the source of all the images I’ve used. I’ve used personal photos, too, but mostly public domain photos that require no attribution. This is clearly indicated on the Pixabay website. In the future, I’ll include a Pixabay credit in all my posts where their images appear. For those of you who don’t know, Pixabay is one of several free websites that host thousands of public domain images. Click HERE to see what Pixabay has to offer.

Most of us here at Steemit work very hard to gain exposure for our posts, and “up the game” for social media. We can only do that if we put forth the very best effort to abide by all legal and ethical standards involving copyright. I just can’t stress enough how important this is.

To read more about copyright infringement and plagiarism involving images, check out a recent Steemit post by @gyanibilli HERE.

@steemcleaners also has information about Steemit’s guidelines HERE.

Happy Steeming!



© Pavelshlykov | Dreamstime.com - Young Woman With Headphones And Phone Photo

© Toad87 | Dreamstime.com - Navarre Pier Photo

© Julydfg | Dreamstime.com - Sea, Sky And Clouds Photo

© Mike2focus | Dreamstime.com - <a href=”https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-cessna-plane-flying-overhead-image28882586”

© Akreinick |Dreamstime.com - <a href=”https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-blue-angels-2-image16148108

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Thank you for sharing. As a photographer, ​it is very tough in general to make money theses days. And some just do photography for the fun of it, hobby or the love of the art. It is only fair to let every artist get the right credit when it is due.

I am going to think really hard on an avenue that I can maybe bring to steemit community. To have a place to go and use others images with a complete trust that everyone getting what they deserve. There has to be a way to make this better.


I have been very excited to hear about this. :-)

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Well said, good on you for spreading the information. I think lots of people legitimately don't really know. (Myself included)


Hi, @unprovoked! Yeah, it is definitely an issue. I figure before I scream and yell, I'll just try to explain how it works first. :-)

Very useful stuff. I'll avoid those watermarked images in the future. I think I may have used one or two in my posts.


I have been surprised at how few people knew about the copyright issue, @drakos . To begin with, I was going to make a post fussing. Then I realized--wow! People really need the information first.


Well one reason I didn't use watermarked pictures is because the watermark is annoying lol. But that copyright issue makes me think twice. It's difficult though to judge what pictures are copyrighted or not, especially if they're not watermarked. I mean if I look for a lion image and get a ton of results on google, I'm not going to seek all its history to find out if I can use it or not! It would be an endless loop.


Yeah, that's not really the way to go about it. Try pixabay next time. Lions, for example. There are 26 pages of lion photos to choose from. And ALL are public domain.

I get all my pictures from Pixabay except for animated GIFs and photos from celebrities for my memory series. And in that regard I am adamant. There are thousands of YouTube videos out there which make millions, based on Marvel copyright protected material. They are also being shared by thousands of fan websites around the world, which moneytize them through ads and other means. The same goes for the gaming industry. These kind of things are usually tolerated and wanted. They are merely for entertainment. I do it for education (and entertainment).

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Game-changing information.....

So far, all of the images I've posted have been original pics I took with my phone. Super professional, I know. Should I include a blurb somewhere on each post that all the images are my own? I've seen some people do that, but I feel like it goes without saying for the type of content I am writing that the pics are my own.

I'm an English major, so believe words are important and should be concise. I try to avoid any redundancies, and feel like saying "All images are my own" would be rather redundant. See what I did there? :-)