Recently I have had a rash of blogs/websites using my coffee cup and stack of books logo for their header, to announce world book day, as a book cover, and everything from blog challenges to selling etsy products. My logo image even appears in a teaching video for second graders and an online newspaper for a small northeastern town. A student lawyer was using it ironically on her law site. Oops! The worst was a Blog Designer who designs blogs. They used my image and sold it! An online site was selling my image for book plates, gift tags, and memo pads. Another freelance designer sold my image as one they created for a Publishing PR firm. It made me sick. Now I realize coffee and books are two very awesome things and my logo is adorkable but seriously people you need to be careful when grabbing images of the web.
Searching Images for your Website
The coffee cup and books design on my website were designed exclusively for Caffeinated. I spent two weeks emailing, chasing down, and having to issue DMCA Takedown letters for eleven sites and I am still working on others. I tried reaching out to sites first privately by email and commented before I began having them removed.
It made/makes me feel ugly sending out all these emails. I got angry and yeah at one point I even cried… I even debated ditching my lovely design. I am all about spreading the love and caffeinating the world and I hated how this affected me.
Thankfully most folks responded immediately but those responses perplexed me. They made me realize how many folks are uneducated in copyright law and finding safe images for use. Responses were “I am sorry.” “My daughter is a photographer and said if there is no watermark it is free.” “But I found it on Google (Tumblr. Pinterest)” “I changed it, doesn’t that make it ok.” or the worst, “Well next time put a copyright mark on it. The only reason I used it was because it didn’t have one.” As if it were my fault they stole my image. *hangs head*
Using a copyrighted image could get your website taken down, but it could also get you sued. Ask the blogger who used an image of a green pepper. Read her post The 7, 500 Blogging Mistake. My image reflects my brand Caffeinated Book Reviewer. Using the image to cover male anatomy could adversely affect my brand. (Yep, my little books and coffee were covering male junk) Aside from a few cases which I am legally pursuing, I was happy just to get my image removed.
Is someone using your image? Easy take down forms for Blogspot, how to for WordPress.com sites for .org sites you will need to contact their host. It isn’t very hard. First use Who Is Hosting This? and find out who hosts the blog/website. Then google how to serve a DMCA take down notice to XXX host. Most have forms you can fill out. GoDaddy had a super user-friendly form, others were a little harder to find, but all took my notification seriously and acted quickly.
As much as it pains me because I truly think people are inherently good, I stopped contacting folks and just began issuing Takedown Notices. It was less stressful and far less time-consuming. I didn’t have to deal with excuses or folks asking me for a week to create a new design.*Oh yes, they did* Seriously?
Educate yourself on Images
A groovy banner is not cool if it contains stolen images.
Facts About Searching for Images:
*Some of these may seem obvious, but these were the excuses folks used for STEALING my image.
- Images found on Google are not free for use. The blog designer, got upset when I notified her of the theft. She proclaimed I didn’t steal it from your site, I got it from Google. No people! Just No. Images on Google are not copyright free. My image is out there because Google grabs images from all sites. It appears when someone shares my content.
- An image does not have to contain a watermark, copyright symbol or signature to be copyrighted. Just because there is no visible watermark or a blog name splashed all over the image doesn’t make it free for use.
- If an image has a Pinterest pin it option it DOES NOT mean you can use it for your website. I saw a comment where someone said, I only use images that have the Pinterest pin. Gads..no when it is pinned to Pinterest it links back to the source. It doesn’t mean you can download the image and use it.
- Taking an image, modifying it by remove parts or changing its color does not negate copyright infringement.
- Adding a link back or acknowledgment of image owner is not ok unless you are given permission A blogger using my image when notified tried to add a credit ” png from Caffeinated Book Reviewer.” Nope..not unless the owner has given you permission.
- Vectors fall under the same copyright laws. Photos, paintings, vectors all have copyright laws.
- Images on Wiki are not all free, although a lot fall under fair use and common law so be careful!
- If you didn’t make it, it probably was made by someone else. Do a reverse image search and find out. Click on camera and upload image.
- Using an image from Google and crediting Google Images is NOT OK. I saw churches and school newspapers with my image that had credited Google Images. What are we teaching our children?
So now you are asking me where can I get images to make my header, blog button or for a post?
Aside from my blog design, I buy most of my images through Vectorstock.com. Most images cost 1.00. I download these images and create banners and buttons using canva or picmonkey. Keep in mind these items are not exclusive, so you may see them on other blogs. Most allow you to modify them to give them your own personal twist.
You can hire someone. Cost depends on how customised it is and most designers can work within your budget. Ask around and be sure they are not using copyrighted items. Ask my friend Kristin @ Sweet Bird Design to make you a banner, button, logo. She is very talented, follows all copyright rules and is willing to work within your budget. She’ll give you lots of options.
Sites for Royal Free/Copyright Free Images:
*Some of these sites require you to credit owner for the photo. Be sure to comply.
- Free Images
- Public Domain Images
- WikiMedia Commons
- Good Free Photos
Free Vector Images:
- VectorStock (cheap and free vectors)
- 1001 Free Downloads
- Free Vector Archive
- Free Vectors
- Flat Icons
Cheap Sites to Buy Photos:
- Dollar Photo Club (pay per image or subscribe)
- 123 RF (39.00 gets you 40 credits most images for blog use would be one credit)
- DepositPhotos.com (love them)
What About Fair Use?
A lot of images such as book covers, author image, gifs from favorite shows, meme images fall under fair use laws. Since the use of most of these images draws attention to the original site, movie, book etc. While I am not a lawyer I feel comfortable using gifts of my favorite character. Do not, however, take a famous actor and modify the image to have him holding your book..this will get you sued.
Links to Other Posts on Copyright
- Stock Images? What you need to know: Book Bloggers Unite!
- Do GIFs Infringe on Copyrights?
- BOOK COVER IMAGES AND COPYRIGHT
- Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog – My Story
- How to See If Your Photos are Being Used on Another Site
- How to Protect Your Website From Image Theft
Things I learned and will do differently
My coffee and books image is not a part of my header. It floats to the side and is an image by itself. While I love the way it looks it does come with some issues. The image when copied comes with a transparent background making it very easy for folks to copy. When you share my post on social media, sites like Google+ look for the largest image to use. This is how it ended up on Google images.
Next time I redesign my blog I will
- Make image part of header or more difficult to copy
- add small signature or watermark
- run a reverse image search at least once a month
I hope my story and these guidelines help you better understand searching for images for your blog/website.
If you see my image when you are out and about please contact me. I have not granted anyone permission to use my coffee and books.Searching for Images for Your Blog/Website Don't Steal Them. Are you doing it wrong? Click To Tweet