Feb 04

Visual Spaces – The Copyright Zone

DSCN2669Social media and the Internet in general has been moving away from a text driven environment. Those online spaces have become a much more visual experience.  Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ are huge examples of this trend.  Images are becoming more and more popular. It is absolutely a form of social media suicide not to be using them.  Oh course, using images can come with a whole slew of copyright issues that can get you in some hot water if you are careless with where you are acquiring your source images.   You have to be mindful of copyright.  So just how do you create a rich visual experience without infringing on copyright?

There are four main ways to accomplish this:

  • Take or create your own images.
  • Use images that are public domain.
  • Purchase images from a stock site.
  • Request permission to use the image from the copyright’s holder.

My favorite option is to take or create my own images.  A half decent camera with a little practice and you will be great taking pictures in no time.  These will be the pictures that you can use for your social media presence.  If you do not currently have a camera, I suggest that you invest in one or at the very least get a smart phone with a built in camera.  My iPhone, takes pretty good pictures and I have used some them right here on this blog.

Here are a few pictures I have taken with my iPhone to use right here in my blog:




In addition to a camera, it is a good idea to invest in some software to help you manipulate your photos.  Photoshop is a great choice though it can be expensive.  There are cheaper options and even some free options such as GIMP and paint.net which can give you some really great photo editing capabilities. Even some of the filters in Instagram can provide some great enhancements to your images.

Untitled-1Public domain images are a great option for images that perhaps you can’t get a picture of yourself.  For example, if you need a picture of a giraffe and live in a small town in Ireland, you probably will need to find a public domain version of that image.  I also find public domain images very good for finding pictures of great people in history such as Martin Luther King Jr.

There are also stock photos which you will have to usually pay for.  Some sites are as inexpensive as $1.00 per photo.  Some stock sites charge a monthly fee and let you use as many pictures as you need.  Most often, these shots will be exceptional and they can spruce up your website or blog. The fourth option is to request permission from the copyright holder and in most cases if you provide them with the credit for their work and you are not making money from their picture, they tend to be agreeable.

A very small number of you may be tempted to just use whatever pictures you find and not worry about copyright.  Please don’t do this.  It is much easier to catch people today than it has ever been.  If the copyright holder suspects a particular picture is being used without permission, they can simply do an image search and find the person using their picture.  If you have a reputable image in your field and it comes out that you are breaking copyright with the images you are using, it will tarnish your reputation.  It could even cost business.

Here are some of the common tricks copyright infringers try:

  • Horizontally flipping the picture.
  • Cropping
  • Adding something to the image or removing something with a clone brush
  • Altering brightness or adding a tint

Let me assure you, these techniques may make you feel like you have pulled a fast one over on the copyright holder, but you haven’t.  There is information encoded in the pictures that you cannot change.  This information can be used to prove you doctored the picture.

In conclusion, respect copyright and always take the high road when it comes to creating your visual spaces.  Buy a camera, it is the absolute best way to deal with copyright and it is a lot of fun at the same time.

-Candace Mountain


  1. jimwirshing

    Thanks for holding the standard high, Candace. There is no excuse for intentional copyright infringement.

  2. fasigwrites

    You are 100% correct and although I don’t use a camera I do create 3D graphics. I have been fortunate enough to not have anyone try infringing on the copyrights, yet. But I can and have done some images for other people. All that is required in most cases is credit for the work and a request for the image including anything particular that is desired in that image.

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