How to Legally Use Photos for Your Website and Social Media
We live in a visual age. You’re savvy enough to know that the best way to advertise your services, videos are key. Second to videos are images.
You know when you’re at a stoplight and notice that poster board sign pegged into the ground–you know the one that, in black sharpie scribble, tells you that you can make $20,000 per month selling real estate and leaves a phone number. Without an image on the poster, have you ever been tempted to call that number? Have you ever wondered why a business that can make 20K per month can’t afford better advertising?
But seriously, images are key and sometimes there is some confusion about what images you can legally use on your website and your social media posts. As soon as an image is created, the creator obtains a copyright in the image and your violation of that right could subject you to steep fines and even jail time. Services like this one make it easy for them to find you and make a claim. There are rumors that some photographers purposefully plant their photos on the internet so that some unknowing blogger finds it on a google search just so that they can make a claim. That’s how they make money.
So what are you to do?
You could use stock photos–meaning that you pay for the right to use the photo. Many of the photos you see on my website are from my VIB Memberships with Ivory Mix–a membership that has paid for itself over and over. The amount of value Kayla gives her members is amazing and goes above and beyond just stock photos. I highly recommend it.
You can search for photos in the public domain, such as here and here. Type “woman laptop” or “desk flatlay” into the search bar of either of those sites and you get some pretty decent images. But, when using either stock photos or photos from these creative commons/public domain, make sure you are purchasing and/or have the right to use the photo for commercial purposes. If you’re even indirectly using the photo for your own monetary gain, you need to have the right to use it for commercial purpose.
Unsplash is a popular place to find copyright free photos and if you’re using WordPress, they’ve developed a new plugin that will make it easy to easy add the photo to your website with all of the correct attributions.
You can, of course, just use your own photos. If you’re using photos of your own events or coaching sessions, it’s a really really good idea to have a photo or model release of anyone who could be in that photo–such as your clients or group participants. When you have them sign a liability waiver (and you do that, right?), have them sign a separate documents (and I recommend it be separate) that says something like:
“I grant [name of your business], its representatives and employees, the right to take photographs and videos of me and my property in connection with the services outlined above. I authorize [name of your business], its assigns and transferees to copyright, use and publish the same in print and/or electronically. I agree that [name of your business] may use such photographs and videos of me with or without my name and for any lawful purpose, including but not limited to such purposes as publicity, illustration, advertising, and Web content. I hereby waive the right to receive any payment for signing this release and waive the right to receive any payment for [name of your business]’s use of any of the material described above for any of the purposes authorized by this release.”
And now let’s talk about social media–Instagram, Facebook, etc. I know it seems like it’s common–to just take a screen shot of someone else’s really funny post and post it to your own feed–or the really funny GIFs and memes, or to use a celebrity’s image. I know it seems like everyone else is doing it, but you’re taking a big risk. If using someone else’s image, send them a DM and ask for their permission before using the image. Like using photos on your website, simply giving credit to where you found something is not enough. If it’s not your creation, it’s someone else’s. And they can sue you. Be careful. I know it’s like everyone is doing it but….don’t jump off the cliff.
**The information in this post is for general information purposes only. It is not intended or meant to be legal, financial or other professional advice. Neither Megan Green nor Megan Green LLC is intending to create and attorney-client relationship with you. You are encouraged to seek out the advice of legal counsel or other professional advice before acting or refraining from acting based on the content contained on the Site. Megan Green LLC assumes no responsibility for errors or omission in the contents on the Site.
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