Photos add interest to your blog. They grab the reader’s attention and make the blog more visually appealing. So, if you’re writing a blog, you’ll probably want to add pictures. If you do so, make sure you’re observing basic copyright laws.
Even though the Internet makes it easy for you to save and copy images from other websites, it’s probably not legal for you to add pictures you acquire that way to your blog. You can only use pictures that are in the public domain or that you have permission from the copyright holder to use (or that you take yourself). And that’s true whether you put the picture on a real estate blog, on your Facebook page, or on a blog you just write for fun and that’s not intended to ever bring you income or clients.
Photos and works of art created before 1923 are in the public domain and can be copied, used freely, and even used to create derivative works. Photos published after 1923 are likely to be copyright protected, although there are many post-1923 works that have lost their copyright protection because the artist failed to take the necessary steps to protect it. But without the help of an intellectual property specialist, you’re not likely to know which post-1923 photos are in the public domain and which are not. If you don’t know for sure, you probably shouldn’t use it.
For pictures published these days, the rules are fairly straightforward. If someone takes a picture, they own the rights to it and they don’t have to do anything special to establish or maintain that right. What that means to you as a blogger is that you probably can’t use photos others have uploaded to the Internet unless they give you permission. So, where are you going to get pictures for your blog?
One solution is to take them yourself. Many bloggers do. Teresa Boardman, one of the best known real estate bloggers, annotates her blogs with photographs she takes of St. Paul and the Twin Cities area. She shoots buildings, street scenes, and out of the way places, and in so doing gives her readers a feel for life in St. Paul.
Be aware that you should obtain a written model release if you use another person’s likeness in a photo you post to your blog—even if you take the picture yourself.
Another solution is to look for photos with a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons is a non-profit organization which has created a widely recognized set of standards that lets artists give others permission to use their works. The Creative Commons website explains the various license categories. Because the popular photography website Flickr makes it easy to search for photos which have been assigned a Creative Commons license, you may be able to find photos there that you can use on your website.
Finally, there are dozens of photography websites that make photos available for bloggers and others to use. On some of these site, photographers upload their images, and the site specifies allowable uses. Other sites only offer photos that are in the public domain. Some sites offer photos for free. Others charge a modest fee—sometimes as little as $1.
Research any site you use to learn where it obtains its photos and be sure to observe all rules regarding the allowable use of pictures from the site. Some sites to try include: