Legality of Images

Legality of Images

You’ve probably heard about images and copyright issues.

If you use an image someone else created without permission, you could be in trouble. The chances of getting caught are rare, but it does happen.

As a webmaster, I’ve seen copyright violation problems twice. One of my clients was sued and had to pay $300 for copyright violation. The amount wasn’t much, but six months of worry and appearing in court took a toll. The other case was more problematic.

If someone has donated an image to the public domain, they have given you, and everyone, permission to use it.

You can find public domain images on Wikimedia Commons,,, and dozens of other websites.

Be careful, not all images found on these sources are public domain. Make sure the images you choose are clearly marked as such.

Even then, you’re not totally off the hook. It is possible for someone to upload an image they did not create, and call it ‘public domain.’

Can you use images posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media? They are not technically public domain, so you cannot legally use them.

It is even possible that images you have created are not public domain. If you’ve sold an image to a magazine, client, website or other entity, you may have sold all rights to that image.

Can you crop a portion of a non-public domain image and use that? Sorry, no. Modify an image? Nope. Make a slideshow, video or composite from non-public domain images? You can’t do that either.

However, the good news is that there are millions of images clearly marked as public domain, and reasonably safe from copyright issues throughout the Internet.

Have fun! – Jeff Napier, webmaster, Free Writer’s Tools