How To Find Out If An Image Is Copyrighted

How To Find Out If An Image Is Copyrighted

Lifting photos off the internet for personal use can be very risky. You could find yourself in some deep trouble if you breach copyright laws. You need to know if an image is copyrighted or not before use. Read on to learn how!

In today’s digital world, we’re always swimming in different digital media. This includes images. They’re everywhere – websites, blogs, online documents, social media, you name it. And I get it; some of these pictures are seriously mind-blowing. It’s so tempting to just grab them for your own stuff, whether it’s sprucing up your website, blog, PowerPoint, or whatever.

However, there is a catch: not every image you see online is up for grabs. Using someone else’s pictures without their say-so is a major no-no. I’m talking about serious violations of international standards and laws in most countries. And trust me, the consequences ain’t pretty. You could be looking at nasty lawsuits, hefty fines, or even worse punishments.

It’s absolutely essential to do your homework and verify who owns these digital assets, plus whether you’re allowed to use them. That’s why, today, I’ll show you how to find out if an image is copyrighted.

How to Find Out If An Image Is Copyrighted

How to Find Out If An Image Is Copyrighted

Figuring out who truly owns an image can be tricky, but don’t worry there are several ways to crack this mystery.

Look for Image Credits or Contact Information

When you stumble upon an image online, play detective and scour the area for any captions mentioning the creative genius behind it or the copyright holder. You might strike gold with an email address or a link to their digital wallet. Armed with this intel, you can reach out to the image owner and hash out a deal whether that’s shelling out for a license or hammering out some mutually beneficial terms.

Lookout for Watermarks

Identifying a watermark in an image is as good as seeing a ‘do not touch’ sign painted all over the image. More often than not, these sneaky stamps will usually reveal who is pulling the shots. Word to the wise: do not even consider attempting to remove that watermark with some enhanced software. This is a surefire way to land yourself in hot water.

Check the Image’s Metadata

At times, crafty image owners leave breadcrumbs right in the image’s DNA I’m talking about metadata (or EXIF data for the techies). Finding this information is straightforward for Windows users. Just give that image a right-click and hit “Properties.” As for Mac users, go to Preview, click on “Tools,”  then “Show Inspector,”  and finally the ⓘ icon. The “EXIF” tab might just spill all the juicy details, from the copyright owner’s name to a full-blown copyright manifesto.

Do a Google Reverse Image Search

Still scratching your head over who owns that elusive image? All hope is not lost. Google’s reverse image search is a great tool for unmasking the original source. Here’s how you put it to good use:

  • Head over to Google Image Search.
  • Spot that little camera icon? Give it a click!
  • Now, you’ve got two options: paste in the image’s URL or drag and drop the picture itself. This nifty trick will show you where else this image is hanging out on the web.
  • Sift through Google’s findings like a pro detective, and you should be able to piece together the ownership puzzle.

Search the U.S. Copyright Office Database

If you’ve already got some clues to work with, the public catalog of the U.S. Copyright Office Database is your next stop. It’s like a digital library for copyrighted media. You can punch in the photographer’s name or the image title, and voilà you might just stumble upon official copyright registration information. 

But know this: not finding an image here doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs. Remember, copyright protection kicks in the moment an image is born. Registering with the Copyright Office is just an extra layer of protection, sort of like insurance for creators if some sneaky Pete tries to swipe their picture. So, if your search here comes up empty, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Keep digging to track down that elusive image owner. Or, maybe it’s time to wave the proverbial white flag and find images that are not protected by copyright.

How to Legally Use Copyrighted Images

How to Legally Use Copyrighted Images

Now that we’ve learned how to spot those sneaky copyrighted images, let’s talk about how to copyright something without getting into hot water. Because, let’s face it, sometimes you just find that perfect picture and can’t imagine using anything else.

Here are some legitimate ways to use copyrighted images without risking a copyright notice, lawsuit, or angry emails from copyright holders.

Obtain Permission from the Copyright Owner

To start with, let me stress the obvious: ask for permission, especially if you are unsure of the copyright status! The principle is somewhat similar to the concept of using your neighbor’s lawn mower: a simple request will suffice.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Track down the copyright owner (hint: search those images, you know, with the help of that reverse image search that we just discussed).
  • Simply write them an email and tell them your intention of using their image.
  • State where, when, and how you will use it.
  • You then have to wait for their response or answer, while hoping for the best.

Just know that you might get a ‘NO’, and that is perfectly okay. However, they may also say ‘YES’ and even be happy you took your time to ask them for permission. Perhaps you will be gaining a new creative buddy out of the deal.

Purchase a License

If requesting free stuff is not for you or if you require free images frequently, then it is better to get a license. It’s like receiving a VIP card to the image world to explore it as much as possible!

There are loads of stock images websites out there, for instance, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, or iStock. Here’s the deal:

  • It costs a certain amount of money (a per-picture fee or a monthly or annual fee).
  • Basically, you get the right to use the image under some conditions.
  • No more worrying about pissed-off copyright holders coming to your virtual door and giving you the ‘high five’.

The only thing you need to be careful with are the do’s and don’ts in using the said licensed images. While these licenses are good to own, some may be more limiting than others, depending on how you intend to put them to use.

Maximize Creative Commons-Licensing Images

Creative Commons license, or CC license, enables an image owner to share their work in the public domain for free, albeit after putting certain requirements in place. Here’s how to use them:

  • Some of the best places to look are Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, or even Unsplash.
  • Be attentive to the images that are tagged as Creative Commons licensed.
  • Specific licenses allow certain usage, and only by reading the specific instructions can one determine what they are allowed to do.
  • Always state credits as required by the license.

Create your Own Images

You don’t have to be Picasso to come up with your own images. Plus, there are no complicated requirements you must meet to make or use your own images. Here are some ideas:

  • Take your own photos (you can now take high-quality photos with the help of a smartphone).
  • Design alluring graphics using free design tools, for example, Canva or GIMP.
  • You can also employ the services of a freelance artist for such special pieces (the prices are often far from astronomical).

The best part of the images you create independently is that you own the copyright to them. No more fretting over permissions and licenses; it’s all yours. But, can you put a copyright symbol on anything? You’ll find the answer in that post.

Breaking copyright laws isn’t child’s play; it’s a serious offense that can land you in hot water.

If you are in a business that deals with digital media, then it’s essential you learn how to identify copyright on any digital media, be it images or songs. It’s your armor against unintentional copyright infringement and its repercussions. I’m referring to hefty fines, courtroom drama, and the worst-case situation of your business grinding to a halt. So, before you even think about using an image, put on your detective hat and do your due diligence.

However, as you aim to stay on the right side of the law, you should also use the law to shield your business. That’s where the Ultimate Bundle® comes into play! It’s packed with ready-to-roll legal templates for bulletproof contracts, airtight website policies, and insurance coverage that’s got your back. Everything you need, all in one neat package!

Sam Vander Wielen Free Legal Workshop

But wait, there’s more! For your first steps, I also offer a free online training to help you learn how to legally protect and grow your online business. See you there!

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