With pictures being so easy to share on the Internet, many people don’t think twice about the way they use other people’s work, let alone credit them. While this is just about forgivable for students putting together a presentation, it is an absolute faux-pas for professionals using images to illustrate their website. Following our guide to correct image attribution will help you avoid making a mistake.
HOW RISKY IS IT TO USE AN IMAGE WITHOUT PERMISSION?
Just because it’s on Google doesn’t mean you can use it. Plagiarism laws also protect people’s work online, including images, and using someone’s image online without their consent is theft. Photographers and illustrators who have had enough of seeing their work being used by someone else without permission are trying to fight back. They could contact you to ask you to credit them or remove the image, get in touch with your web host and get them to remove the image, or take you to court.
It’s also worth noting that Pinterest takes Flickr’s rights attributions very seriously, so if you embed an “all rights reserved” image in a web page, it won’t pull through to Pinterest. If you’re using Flickr as your image manager and embedding on your own website, and you want people to be able to pin your content, be sure to change your usage rights to one of the Creative Commons licenses.
HOW CAN YOU CREDIT AN IMAGE’S AUTHOR?
Short of contacting the author to ask for their permission, you can use a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons licenses make it easy to find online resources – not only images but also videos and sounds – that you can use and reuse in all legitimacy. Works that are licensed under a Creative Commons license (look for the “cc” logo) can legally be used, but you still have to provide attribution.
There are six different CC licenses, here is what they mean:
– Attribution (CC BY)
This is the simplest attribution as you can use the work in any way you like. The author only requires that you credit them the way they request, without any suggestion that they are endorsing you or the use you’re making of the image. If you want to be able to use the image without crediting the author, you’ll need to get their permissions first.
– Attribution ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)
Images under a BY-SA license can be copied, distributed, displayed and modified only as long as you are distributing the modified work on the same terms.
– Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)
You can copy, distribute or display only original copies of the image. If you want to modify the image, you’ll need to get the author’s permission.
– Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)
This license means that you can modify and build upon the image but cannot use it commercially. Your new work must acknowledge the original author but the derivative works don’t have to be licensed on the same terms.
– Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)
The image can be modified and build upon but cannot be used commercially. You have to credit the original author and license new creations under the exact same terms.
– Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)
This is the most restrictive license, allowing you to share an image if you credit the author, but depriving you of any right to change the image in any way or to use it commercially.
WHAT IS THE ETIQUETTE AROUND IMAGE ATTRIBUTION?
Ideally, you should mention the title of the image, its author (with a link to their profile on the platform where you found the picture), the image source (the original page on the platform) and the license used. You’re still doing a good job if you don’t provide the title or a link to the author’s profile but still link to the original picture and mention the license. If you’re only crediting Creative Commons or the website where you found the image, it’s not a correct attribution.
Take a look at Creative Commons’ detailed guide on correct attribution for a full list of what to do and what to avoid.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND FREE STOCK IMAGES?
With many stock photo libraries offering high-quality pictures for free and even attribution-free, there’s really no excuse to use an image without permission. Here are some of the best places to look for free stock images :
Pexels: with thousands of beautiful images uploaded by talent photographers all around the world, Pexels is one of the most popular free stock photo websites out there. You can even do a color search to find images that will complement your website’s colors. All the images on Pexels are attribution-free.
Unsplash, like Pexels, offers thousands of gorgeous high-resolution photographs that you can use for free. Use the search bar or browse the collections organized around a specific theme such as workspaces, pastel or minimalism. All the images on Unsplash are attribution-free, but attribution is encouraged to help the photographers gain recognition.
Nomad Pictures‘ website is full of stunning copyright-free pictures available free of charge. You can also take a look at their premium packs if you want to support their work or find an image that no-one else is using.
Create Her Stock boasts over 1,300 images curated for female creatives, entrepreneurs, and influencers of color. All you have to do is enter your email address to access the free gallery, or create an account to go premium and enjoy unlimited downloads and special promotions.
Burst is a free stock photo site powered by Shopify to help designers, developers, bloggers and entrepreneurs create dazzling websites. You’ll also find whole collections available to download from their Business Idea section to help you kickstart your online selling business, with bonus advice on how to build your brand.
Pixabay is a great resource to find not only photos but also vector graphics and videos that you can use for free. Pixabay isn’t 100% copyright-free, however, so make sure to double check how each image is licensed before use.
Everystockphoto is a search engine for free photos sourced all over the web. Like Pixabay, Everystockphoto isn’t copyright-free but you can filter your search by type of license in the advanced search settings.
Flickr is an amazing photography resource and lets you filter search results by license type. If you’re not looking for images to use commercially or to modify, you can either select “All Creative Commons” or “No known copyright restrictions.” If applicable, make sure you’re crediting the author as requested, if applicable.
Even Google makes it easy to find pictures you can use for free: simply click on “tools” when searching for an image, and filter the results by usage rights. If you’re just looking for an image to illustrate your website that you don’t wish to modify, you can choose the filter “labeled for noncommercial reuse”. Be sure to click-through to the source site to see whether and how the author wants to be credited.
Finally, there is a non-exhaustive list of websites licensing images under the Creative Commons licenses available on CC’s own website.