Is That Photo Copyrighted?

by Patricia Bradley, @PTBradley1

How much do you know about copyright? While I am not a lawyer and nothing in this post constitutes legal aid, I have learned a few things about the subject.

Picture this scenario. You find a photo on Pinterest that fits your blog perfectly, so you right-click it to download and then insert the photo into your post. Or maybe you Google free fonts and your search takes you to a royalty free site and you find just font you’re looking for to put on your meme so you download it. Have you committed copyright infringement? (And by the way, Royalty Free does not mean free, but more on that later.)

It depends. If you’ve downloaded the photo or font from a Creative Commons site, you’re probably okay. That would be some place like or where the owner has dedicated the work in question to the public domain. If the work you wish to use isn’t in the public domain, and you’re going to use it for anything other than personal use, then you must either pay for a license or get permission from the owner.

If you put it on your blog or social media page anyway and the owner discovers that you have, then he can sue you for copyright infringement. And it’s happening more and more every day, costing the person who “borrowed” the work anywhere from $700 to thousands of dollars.

But it said Royalty Free! Doesn’t that mean it’s free for me to use?

Uh, no. It means once you’ve paid for the license you can use it multiple times, like on your blog, on a tee shirt, on a meme, on a cover, etc.

But I can’t find out who owns the photo or font.

There are several sites that will trace the ownership. 7 Free Tools to Identify a Font seems to be a good place to start with fonts. I say seems to be because I’ve never downloaded fonts. Also, will show you everywhere the photo has been used by uploading the photo in question and them clicking on the little camera icon.

Often you can trace the image back to the original owner, but if you can’t, Do.Not.Use.The.Photo. Or Font.

But I gave credit to the owner and linked back to their site. Doesn’t that count for something?

It says you’re probably a nice person, but you’ve still committed copyright infringement.

But I didn’t know any better. I thought if it was on Facebook or Pinterest, I could use it.

Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law. Either pay to use the work or ask permission—and be sure to get it in writing.

Okay, I get it. Do I need to register my photo with the US Copyright Office copyright? Or my manuscript?

You can, but you don’t have to. When you put words on paper and save it in a tangible media like a Word document, or Google Doc or a text file and save it, it is automatically copyrighted according to the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988. You don’t have to register it or put a copyright notice on it to be protected. This is true of any creative work from illustrations, to words, to photographs, to fonts.

Let’s say you see a paragraph on someone’s blog that you really like, so you copy that paragraph and paste it onto your own blog. You even give the writer credit and link back to their page. Is that copy write infringement? Like the photo and font mentioned earlier, it is if you don’t have their permission.

Is there anything that isn’t copyrighted?

Actually, there are a few things that cannot be copyrighted.

  1. Ideas
  2. Titles and names
  3. Recipes
  4. King James Version of the Bible
  5. Works by the U.S. Federal Government
  6. Telephone directories
  7. Fashion

To wrap up, if you cannot purchase a license for a photo, blog post, or font or get the owner’s permission — don’t use it.


Is That Photo Copyrighted? by Patricia Bradley (Click to Tweet)

Do you need permission before you use that photo or font?~ Patricia Bradley (Click to Tweet)

How much do you know about copyright?~ Patricia Bradley (Click to Tweet)


Available for pre-order! KILL ZONE

In an effort to get her security consulting business off the ground, Kelsey Allen has been spending a lot of time up in the air, rappelling down buildings and climbing through windows to show business owners their vulnerabilities to thieves. When she is hired to pose as a conservator at the Pink Palace Museum in order to test their security weaknesses after some artifacts go missing, she’s ecstatic. But when her investigative focus turns from theft to murder, Kelsey knows she’s out of her league–and possibly in the cross hairs. When blast-from-the-past Detective Brad Hollister is called in to investigate, Kelsey may find that he’s the biggest security threat yet . . . to her heart.

Patricia Bradley 
lives in North Mississippi with her rescue kitty Suzy and loves to write suspense with a twist of romance. Her books include the Logan Point series and two Harlequin Heartwarming romances. Justice Delayed, a Memphis Cold Case Novel, is the first book in her next series and it releases January 31, 2017. When she has time, she likes to throw mud on a wheel and see what happens.