Can I Use that Picture? (infographic)

I found this infographic via Lifehacker, shared by

Knowing the copyright laws for using images can be a bit tricky. Follow this series of questions to know if you can use a picture for your purposes or not.
TIP: click on the image to see the readable version.

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Mistaken beliefs about copyright

2013.11 Copyright-medEntrepreneur magazine has a great article on the myths business owners believe about copyright. Most notable:

1. “I can use a small amount of the song or text without a problem.”

3. “Since I’m not making money off the song/image/story, it’s fair use.”

5. “I tried to find the author/photographer, but couldn’t, so I can just go ahead and use the work.”

7. “The woman in the photo isn’t a celebrity, therefore I can use her picture.”

In case the title didn’t clue you in, these are myths. As in these are incorrect.

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More legal guidelines and resources for bloggers

More recommended reading in our legal series:


Free images on the web

Two posts to help you find, and manage, free images on the web.

Common Creativity: Understanding the Rules and Rights Around “Free” Images on the Web

“No matter how small the risk of your getting caught may seem (depending, of course, on how flagrant you are with what you have “stolen”), the simple fact is that improper use of protected works is a crime and is actually prosecuted more often than you might think. “

The essentials for finding and using images online” recommends:

  • Google Images.
  • Flickr Creative Commons.
  • PhotoPin.

I personally use Flickr Creative Commons. What do you use?


Fair Use

When using someone else’s work there’s a thing called fair use:

Fair use is a copyright principle based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism.

Basically, it’s what gives you permission to use small quantities of someone else’s work, legally. But, what constitutes fair use?

Unfortunately, the only way to get a definitive answer on whether a particular use is a fair use is to have it resolved in federal court. Judges use four factors to resolve fair use disputes, as discussed in detail below. It’s important to understand that these factors are only guidelines that courts are free to adapt to particular situations on a case‑by‑case basis. In other words, a judge has a great deal of freedom when making a fair use determination, so the outcome in any given case can be hard to predict.

The four factors judges consider are:

  • the purpose and character of your use
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market.

I won’t pretend to understand this completely, but I’m going to start compiling resources on copyright to help clarify this for myself and others. If you have something to share, please add a comment.