Can I Use This Image Online? Learn how to legally use images online without copyright infringement

In the age of social media, images are crucial for capturing the attention of your audience and telling your story. However, it’s important to remember that using someone else’s work without their permission is not only wrong, but it may also be illegal. It is important to be aware of copyright laws when using images from the internet. Every image gains copyright protection as soon as it is created, and it is your responsibility to determine if you have the legal right to use it. Violating copyright laws can result in significant penalties, including fines of up to $150,000 per infringement and potential imprisonment. Below are six types of images and guidelines for how to use them online:

Using Public Domain Images

These images are not protected by copyright and can be used freely.

Public domain images do not need attribution.

Public domain images can be found on websites such as Wikimedia Commons and Flickr Commons.

Using Creative Commons Images

Creative Commons licenses allow photographers and graphic designers to release their images to the public while still retaining control over how they are used.

When using Creative Commons images, the first question you want to ask yourself is, are you using the image for commercial use? If there is any sort of monetary compensation or commercial advantage to using the image, then your answer is likely “yes”. Make sure the image allows for commercial use if you intend to use it commercially.

Additionally, pay attention to the specific terms of the license, such as whether attribution is required and if the image can be modified. There are usually a lot of stipulations with Creative Commons licenses, so pay attention to the license terms if you decide to use that image!

Keep in mind that using images without the proper license or permission can result in copyright infringement.

Using Stock Photos

Stock photos are images that you can purchase a license for. Giving users the right to use the photo in accordance with the terms of the licensing agreement.

Stock photo sites offer a wide variety of images that can be useful for many different purposes, and the quality is generally high since the images are created by professional photographers. However, it is important to read the licensing agreement carefully, as some stock photos may have restrictions on how they can be used. A stock photo site that we recommend and use oursevles is

When using stock photos, be aware of the possibility of “editorial use only” restrictions. These types of photos can only be used for certain purposes, such as in a newsletter or blog, but cannot be used for commercial purposes such as in an ad or on a corporate website. If you come across an “editorial use only” stock photo, make sure to read the licensing agreement carefully to understand the specific terms of use. It is important to follow these restrictions in order to avoid copyright infringement.

Using Images Found on Social Media

Although it is common to see people repost or embed images from social media platforms in their own content, doing so without permission can result in legal action.

For example, the terms of service for Instagram state that the copyright of any image on the platform belongs to the poster.

As a small business, the legal fees and potential judgment from copyright infringement can be detrimental. To avoid these issues, always ask for permission from the original copyright holder before using an image from social media. You will be surprised, the copyright holder will sometimes be happy to grant permission.

Using Images You Created Yourself

If you are the creator of an image, you own the copyright and can use it as you please. You can use your own images without worrying about copyright infringement.

When we refer to images that you create yourself, we mean original images that you create from scratch. Using or modifying an existing image without permission can be considered copyright infringement. It is important to create your own original images or obtain the proper permission to use existing images in order to avoid potential legal issues.

How about GIFs? Can I use GIFs Legally Online?

While GIFs may be commonly used online, their use is not always legal. The doctrine of fair use allows for the limited use of copyrighted material in certain circumstances, such as for educational or news purposes. However, it is not clear whether the use of GIFs falls under the doctrine of fair use. In order to operate entirely without risk, you would need written releases from the copyright holders of both the original work and any individuals who appear in the GIF.

As obtaining these releases can be difficult and time-consuming, it is safer to avoid using GIFs and instead use other types of images that are not subject to copyright infringement.


In conclusion, it is important to be mindful of copyright laws when using images online. Despite the vast availability of images, it is essential to ensure that proper legal protocols are followed. As long as individuals abide by copyright laws, images on the internet can be legally used online.

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