How to Legally Use Images, Videos, and Other Content in Blog Posts

With hundreds of millions of blog posts uploaded to the internet every year, it’s inevitable that some will violate copyright laws. But bloggers can greatly reduce instances of infringement through some easy and available methods, tips, and tools. This post will discuss how to legally use images, videos, and other content in your blog posts, so you don’t run afoul of copyright laws and continue to respect the rights of your fellow creators.

How to Legally Use Images or Graphics in Blog Posts?

Let’s start by discussing how to legally use images in your blog post. It’s so easy to look for an image or graphic using a search engine, copy it, and then paste it into your blog. But is that legal? The answer is likely no, since you’re reproducing someone’s copyrighted work without obtaining their permission. These are some ways to lawfully use images for your blogs:

  1. Get a License from the Person Whose Image You Want to Use: You could get a license from the copyright owner or creator of the image you are interested in by reaching out directly to them.
  2. Use an Image from a Stock Photo Website: Another simple way to legally use images is to license them from websites that provide royalty free or stock images, such as iStock, Shutterstock, Getty Images and Adobe Stock.
  3. Take Your Own Photographs or Make Your Own Images: The best and easiest way to ensure that you are not infringing someone else’s rights is to use images that you have taken or created yourself.
  4. Have an Artist Create the Images: You can also choose to have a photographer or a visual artist take photographs or create images for you, but you’ll need to ensure that you are receiving all the rights you need from the original creator. Unless you’re employing the artist, the artist must give you the necessary permissions to use the images in your blog.
  5. License an Image from Search Engine Filters: Additionally, you can find licensed images for your blog by using the filter function in various search engines when you run an image search. If you search the type of image you want, click on “Tools”, “License” or “Filter,” which is usually located on the right side of the main menu, and then click “Usage Rights” or “License” which will give you the ability to filter images by different types of licenses.
  6. Use an Image from the Library of Congress’ Collection: You can also find images in the Library of Congress’ digital collection of images, which the Library set out as free for the public to use and reuse. However, for some of these images, the copyright ownership information is unknown and are accordingly labeled with rights advisories. You should double check the “Rights & Access” section beneath an image of interest to check for any applicable copyright information and restrictions so you can decide whether you want to use the image for your blog.

What Are The Different Types Of Image Licenses?

When you want to use someone else’s photograph or image there are generally two types of licenses– commercial and Creative Commons licenses. For both licenses, it is important to be aware of any other terms and conditions that might apply to the use of images you are interested in.

  • Commercial Licenses: Many images are subject to a commercial license, which usually requires a payment to use. It would also be wise to review your commercial license with the help of an attorney, if possible, since some licenses contain additional terms and conditions – for example, terms prohibiting certain modifications to or distortions of the image itself.
  • Creative Commons License: With a Creative Commons license, the copyright owner of the image typically wants to grant anyone in the world the right to use the image; so, using an image in such case is usually free of charge. However, Creative Commons licenses require giving credit to the original owner. You should also review the license to understand what type of Creative Commons license the image is subject to, as there are sometimes additional terms and conditions that may apply on top of the attribution requirement. For example, there is a type of Creative Commons license where a copyright owner requires attribution and does not allow for the image to be modified; keep in mind that those same rules would apply for anybody wanting to use or modify your blog incorporating the licensed image.

Regardless of which license you choose, before choosing an image for your blog post, make sure you have all the rights to use it for your blogging needs.

How to Legally Use Videos In Blogs?

Similar to the tips above on using images in your blogs, the surest way, from a copyright perspective, to legally incorporate videos into your blogs is to create it yourself. But, you can also decide to have a videographer/audiovisual artist create a video for you (again, you’ll want to secure permissions from the artist, unless you employed the artist or if the work was created on a work-made-for-hire basis) or you can license a video from an artist or an audiovisual stock licensing company. Again, you will want to review any license terms to make sure you can incorporate the video in your blog as necessary.

Some bloggers also incorporate videos into posts by embedding videos found on other media sites. But is embedding videos legal or does it constitute copyright infringement? This is a hot topic in the copyright world—with courts in different jurisdictions treating the act of embedding completely different. In short, it’s not clear whether embedding in a video is legal or not, so you may want to take the more cautious approach and not use embedded video until the law is clearer. If you do end up embedding, also ensure that you’re not embedding any videos that infringe on the rights of other creators – finding a video on a legitimate looking site doesn’t necessarily mean the uploader had the proper permissions themselves. If you’re still unsure whether you’re allowed to do something, you can always directly ask the copyright owner/creator for permission.

How to Use Written Text of Others In Your Blog?

Whether it’s a novel, quote, or tweet, if a written work meets the requirements for copyright protection, you should ask the copyright owner for permission to use their work, unless you think an applicable legal exception like fair use would allow for you to use the work without permission. For copyright infringement purposes, just placing quotes around someone else’s written work is not enough. You’re probably wondering: well, if I just quote the text, isn’t my use automatically a fair use? Or maybe you’re wondering: if I use a tweet or a written work to provide a review or critique, isn’t my use automatically fair use?

There is no such thing as automatic fair use, and the rules are not black and white when it comes to determining fair use, as the answer largely centers on the specific details of how you are using the other copyright owner/creator’s work for your blog. For example, considerations such as the length of the utilized quote compared to the length of the underlying written work as whole, the importance of or any “spoilers” revealed by quoted text in the context of the underlying work, and whether the blog is commenting on or criticizing any quoted text could all be relevant in determining whether use of someone else’s written work qualifies as fair use. For guidance, we provide some videos on how you can approach the fair use question.  But if you are still unsure whether your use qualifies as fair use, it is best to consult an attorney about it.

Alternatively, you can paraphrase a written work so long as the way and words you use to express the same ideas are different enough from the original work. Copyright law protects the way ideas are expressed but does not necessarily protect the idea itself. It is not copyright infringement to paraphrase an idea, so long as you sufficiently use your own, original expression to do so. The main issue with paraphrasing another creator’s written works comes down to how you paraphrase it.

It’s also important to keep in mind that when you use someone’s copyrighted work, you should make sure to also give credit to the original author, since if you do not give credit, it may be considered as plagiarism. Plagiarism is different from copyright infringement. Just because you may have the right or licensed the right to use a work it doesn’t give you the right to take credit for someone else’s work, which would likely constitute plagiarism. Although plagiarism is not illegal, it is highly unethical.

Final Thoughts

Understanding how to legally use images, videos, and content in your blog posts is essential. Whether you’re blogging for work or as a hobby, a copyright infringement issue is the last thing that you need as it may impact the overall credibility of your work – not to mention, it also weakens and affects the rights of your fellow creators.

Don’t take chances. Instead, read more about copyright law and how it pertains to you as a blogger. We encourage you to check out the Copyright Alliance’s Copyright Law Explained page, as well as our educational videos on the basics of copyright. We also have even helpful copyright law information available to you when you become a member of the Copyright Alliance. The best part? Joining the Alliance is free to all creators.

The information provided by the Copyright Alliance in this post is intended to educate you about copyright law and policy. The Copyright Alliance is not a law firm. We do not provide legal advice and this post does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please read more here.

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