Think you can use that photo you found on the web? Think again!

It is way too easy to find images on the web. Go onto Google images and you can links to thousands of pictures. But can you use them? Not without permission.

Many people don’t realize that even if an image does not carry a copyright mark, the right to use the image belongs to the photographer. So, you can’t grab an image off the ‘net without permission and you also can’t hotlink to an image on someone else’s site.

What about the concept of “Fair Use”

Fair Use allows copyrighted materials to be used for specific purposes. Fair Use is, however, does not provide a blanket excuse for using copyrighted work without permission and it is far more limited than many people realize.

Fair Use is covered in Section 107 of the Copyright Act.

The fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include –

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

What does that mean? Doesn’t it say materials can be used for news reporting?

Yes and no. The first factor looks the new work, created by using the copyrighted materials, and evaluates it based on whether it is used for non-profit/educational purposes or is commercial in nature (preference is given for non-commercial use); whether it is used for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research (also linked back to the commercial/non profit element) and whether the new work is transformative (giving new meaning to the work) or merely illustrative. For example, if you use a photograph as part of a product review or commentary, you have created something new.  In the case of photos used on, I suspect that the addition of the captions is considered transformative. However, if you use a photo to support an article, the copy may not have added new expression or meaning to the image.

The second factor looks at whether the materials are worthy of copyright protection. In the case of photography, that actually happens the moment the photographer presses the shutter. Even if a photograph is not marked with a copyright statement it belongs to the photographer until he sells its use.

The third factor looks at how much of the work is used. Ideally you should use as little as possible of the original work — excerpting just enough to make your point. The subfactors include evaluating the quantity, quality and importance of the work used. For example, you can quote from a speech, especially when using the quotes in a new context, but you cannot reproduce an entire book.  With a photograph, that concept is trickier.

The fourth factor considers whether the use of the material will harm the commercial value of the original material to the copyright owner.  In the example above, the website included a photograph on its site that the photographer was selling to similar sites. This has the potential to harm the copyright owner because other people might not feel the need to buy the image either. Depriving the copyright owner of income is usually an indication that the materials do not fall under the Fair Use doctrine.

If you have any concerns about your own use of copyrighted materials, use one of the Fair Use evaluator tools to help you consider your use against the four factors discussed above.

Best Practices “Fair Use” of Copyrighted Materials

If you think your use of materials is “Fair Use” then there are certain protocols that you should follow. The most obvious first step is to ask permission. Many photographers will let you use an image on your blog, especially if you are a “hobby” blog with no commercial interests. Additionally, as was discussed earlier, don’t hotlink to images on someone else’s site. You should upload the images to your own site and then provide a text link back to the source.

I found these “best practices” recommendations on the blog A Photo Editor.

  • Always include the photographer’s name and links to both the image(s) you are writing about and their portfolio in your story or in the caption to the image.
  • The destination of the anchor link for the image should be the page where the image was found (most blogging platforms have the anchor link to a larger size image so this has to be changed manually).
  • The bare minimum number of images should be used to make your point. You want to pique the readers interest so they visit the photographers site to see a full selection of images.
  • Use a screenshot of the image (instead of downloading the file used on their site) and include as much of the surrounding page as possible so it’s obvious that the image came from another website.
  • The end result should always be that readers, who find the photograph interesting, click to visit the photographer’s site.

What does this mean for you and your clients?

To keep on the right side of copyright law you should never use a photograph without paying for the use or obtaining permission to use the photograph . . . in writing.

Make sure that when you purchase the use of a photograph that you spell out all possible uses and time periods that the image will be part of your/your clients’ materials. Over the years we’ve found that once an image is incorporated into marketing materials it “pops up” in other places because internal staff doesn’t realize that buying the use for the image in a brochure doesn’t mean that it can be used for an ad, or on the website.

In fact, here’s a real-life example of how a company got caught using an image downloaded from the web — and how much it ended up costing their agency.

Legal lesson learned: Copywriter pays $4000 for $10 photo

Turn your blog into a book . . . in less than five minutes

If you’ve been blogging faithfully you’ve probably amassed quite a lot of content. That’s content you want to safeguard, save or maybe repackage it.

But, it’s trapped in WordPress or Blogger so what can you do that’s quick, easy and free? With you can turn it into a pdf file that can then be bound into a book or edited and used in other ways!

This program is way cool and, even better, it’s free. First you export your blog files (in WordPress, that’s a tool function), then you upload them onto BlogBooker. Your PDF book is ready almost instantly.

I used it to create a PDF book of the first year of posts from The book ran slightly more than 450 pages and it includes the text, the images and the comments.

Some people may be able to run with the copy just like that but I’m now editing and reorganizing the files to make them work better in a linear format.

While this is fun for your personal project, think of how it can be applied to professional or client blogs . . . it has never been easier to make your blog into a book.

Turn your Blog into a PDF Book/Archive.


Add your own images!

WordPress templates make creating a blog or a website incredibly easy. There are many choices available at and even more at (.com represents sites hosted by WordPress; .org is where you can download the platform for self-hosted sites).

However, just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean you should be lazy. A fairly high percentage of the blogs I see using WordPress still have the template header photos intact. The whole point of these templates is that you can upload your own images! Talk about making your site generic. Every person who has browsed through the WordPress templates knows what you’ve done.

One of the worst abusers I saw was a self-styled social media maven who left the lovely image of a Caribbean island as her header.  Come on. If you’re going to preach the benefits of blogging, at least learn how to upload an image. Or, if you prefer, use a template without one.

The 2009 Blogosphere – Who’s out there?

I’m a blogger. I’ve been blogging now for about 18 months on an almost daily basis. Not this blog, but rather my “hobby” blog, EquineInk.

I started blogging for fun. I wanted to write about topics that I find personally interesting. After decades of writing on assignment, that’s been enjoyable. But what I didn’t expect was how much I would learn about social networking, the power of Search Engine Optimization, and the power of such tools such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

When I launched my blog in March of 2008 I told no one about it. I wanted to see if the “If you write it, they will read” philosophy worked. The first few weeks I was lucky to get 3-4 views per day. That March I had a total of 114 views. The end of April, that had grown to 997 views. Today I get nearly 1,00o views per day. To what do I attribute my readership? Frequent content updates, topics that address the interests of my niche audience, and tapping into the SEO power of

How does my experience compare with others out there blogging? I looked at the 2009 Technorati report for comparison. Here’s where I fit in:

I am one of the 72% of respondents were Hobbyists who blog for fun. That’s me. We don’t make money by blogging, although it would nbe nice. We blog to express our “personal musings” (53%). We are pretty prolific as a group: 71% update at least weekly, while 22% update daily. I aim for 5 posts per week. Because 76% blog to speak their minds, their main success metric is personal satisfaction (76%). How true — the “stat” button on my dashboard would be worn down if it was real.

I am also one of the 15% of respondents who are Part-Timers. We are blog to supplement our income, but don’t consider it a full time job. 75% of us blog to share their expertise, while 72% blog to attract new clients for our businesses. Check, that’s me. Their business and personal motives for blogging are deeply entwined – while 61% say that they measure the success of their blog by the unique pageviews they attract, 60% say they also value personal satisfaction.

9% are Self-Employeds who”blog full time for their own company or organization.”  10%  report blogging 40 hours per week or more. 22% say that their blog is their company, while 70% say they own a company and blog about their business. Self-employeds also rank page views (63%) over personal satisfaction (53%) as a success metric, and 53% are blogging more than when they started. Finally, in a demographic (bloggers) awash with Twitter users, self-employeds are the Tweetiest of them all — 88% say they use the service.

4% are Pros. Who  “blog full-time for a company or organization” — though actually very few of them actually report spending a full 40 hours per week blogging. 46% are blogging more than they did when they started. 70% blog to share expertise; 53% blog to attract new clients for the business they work for. Accordingly, page views are the most important success metric for pros, valued by 69%, compared to 53% for personal satisfaction.

Technorati gives a profile of the typical blogger.

  • Two-thirds are male – Not true here. And, I’ve found that at least among equestrian bloggers, the majority are female. That’s certainly an accurate reflection of the riding demographic.
  • 60% are 18-44 – Nope, older than that. Many of the bloggers I read are also older than 44. It may just be that I’m not that interested in what the younger generation is writing about!
  • The majority are more affluent and educated than the general population – Probably true.
  • 75% have college degrees – Yup.
  • 40% have graduate degrees – No.
  • One in three has an annual household income of $75K+
  • One in four has an annual household income of $100K+
  • Professional and self-employed bloggers are more affluent: nearly half have an annual household income of $75,000 and one third topped the $100,000 level
  • More than half are married – Yes
  • More than half are parents – Yes
  • Half are employed full time, however ¾ of professional bloggers are employed full time.

What the report doesn’t talk about is how many communicators use their personal blogs as a way to experiment with the medium and learn how to more effectively use blogging to reach a targeted audience. Certainly what I’ve learned as a hobbyist blogger has made a huge impact into my use of blogging (and other social media) as a public relations professional. It’s changed the way I write and helped me better understand SEO techniques. In short, it’s made me a better practitioner.