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How To Use Images On The Internet Legally

When you see an attractive image on Google that would fit your blog like a ring, how many times have you wondered if you can use it or not?

Having a website, especially if you carry out your activity from the European Union, entails a series of legal obligations and you must carry out. So much so, that they have even developed a set of tools to adapt your website to this legality.

Within the various legal facets of a website, the legality of the use of images on the Internet is one of the most doubts generated and, indeed, gives much of itself. Knowing some fundamental pillars and putting them into practice will leave you feeling calmer.

If you take care to inform yourself about what is right, instead of worrying, you will not have to keep thinking to what extent you have done it right or wrong.

So you will erase, once and for all, that “Cricket Pepe” that whispers in your ear: do I have everything right in my blog? Will someone claim me for using their image without an authorization? Will I be using protected images?

Throughout this post, we will travel along a conceptual path that will allow you to clarify any of your questions and obtain more tools to provide, day after day, a more professional image to your users.

The Law that protects the use of images

The images considered works under the protection of Intellectual Property find general legal protection in Royal Decree 1/1996, of April 12, which approves the consolidated text of the Intellectual Property Law, regularizing, clarifying and harmonizing the provisions legal regulations on the subject.

The LPI establishes that the making available to the public by third parties of any image, photographic work or mere photograph, periodically disclosed or on the website, will be subject to the author’s authorization.

The Law thus protects the authors for the sole purpose of creation. It grants them exclusive rights over the use, disposition and exploitation of the work, provided that the limitations outlined in the Law of exploitation are respected.

The LPI establishes two cases where the use of the images is authorized without the authorization of its author :

  • For teaching or research purposes: as long as they refer to works already disclosed and their inclusion is established through citations, comments or critical judgment. The source and name of the author of the work must be indicated.
  • Parody: the author’s consent will not be required if the transformation of the work does not create a risk of confusion or damage to the original work.

The LPI mentioned above makes a differentiation between photographic or design work and mere photography. The protection they receive is different in each case:

  • Graphic or design work: they are those that imply the originality and personality of their creator. These works are protected throughout the life of their author and up to 60 years after his death.
  • Mere photography: it is the one that results only from the capture of an image, at a given time, without any creative intention. These photographs are only protected for 25 years, counted from the year following its completion.

Copyright vs Copyright

There is a controversy about the terms copyright and copyright:

  • The Royal Spanish Academy of Language equates copyright to copyright. The copyright is granted to the creators of any literary, artistic, musical, scientific or didactic work, whether or not published, also recognizing moral and economic rights.
  • The doctrinal controversy is debated among those who consider that copyright originates through the French Roman law system, where the author holds rights over his work. There is an identity between the creation and its creator, while the copyright comes from Anglo-Saxon law known as “common law” and only protects the work itself, not taking into account the moral rights of the author with his work.

The use of Licenses for the legal protection of images

Before explaining some of the types of existing licenses, it is essential to understand what a license is. A license is the set of rules that determine how and under what conditions an author authorizes his work to be exploited.

Therefore, depending on the type of license granted by the author, you will have greater or lesser permissibility. Thus the author may authorize the copy, public communication, distribution and modification of his work.

Currently, many types of licenses could be used, but the most recognized and used are Creative Commons and Copyleft.

1. What are Creative Commons (CC) licenses?

Creative Commons (CC) licenses are born from a non-profit organization, whose purpose is the development of licensing models that allow an enormous scope of culture, using new technologies, oppressing the obstacles presented by copyright and protecting rights from the authors to the conservation of their original work.

With these licenses, the author can define the uses that can be given to his work, such as: if it will allow the total or partial reproduction, its modification or its use for commercial purposes.

Creative Commons licenses not only protect the content of the work but allows a great promotion of it.

The use of these licenses is free, and they have international legal guarantees. The owner of the work will always retain his rights as an author.

Do you want to know how to identify Creative Commons licenses?

There are six types of CC licenses, created from the combinations of four conditions. These conditions are as follows:

  • Recognition: in any exploitation of the work authorized through the license, recognition of its authorship will be mandatory.
  • Non-Commercial: the exploitation of the work will be limited to non-commercial uses.
  • Without derivative works: the authorization for the exploitation of the work will not include its modification for the creation of a derivative work.
  • Share the same: the authorized exploitation will include the creation of derivative works as long as they maintain the same license at the time of its disclosure.

With these conditions, the six CC type licenses are generated :

  1. Recognition: This license allows others to distribute, mix, adjust and build from work; It also allows commercial purposes as long as the authorship of the original creation is recognized. Of all the planned licenses, this is the most necessary license. It is recommended for maximum dissemination and use of the materials dependent on a license.
  2. Recognition – Share the same: With this license, others can remix, modify and develop on the original work even for commercial purposes, but they must always attribute the credit to their author and license their works under the same terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” and “open source” software licenses. This means that any new work based on an original will be under the same license so that derivative works will also be allowed for commercial use.
  3. Recognition – No Derivative Work: This license allows commercial and non-commercial redistribution, as long as the work is not modified and is transmitted in its entirety acknowledging its authorship.
  4. Recognition – Non-Commercial: This license allows others to mix, adjust and build from the original work for non-commercial purposes, however, although new creations must recognize authorship and cannot be used commercially, they do not have to Be under a license with the same terms.
  5. Recognition – Non Commercial – Share the same. This license allows others to mix, adjust and build from their work for non-commercial purposes, as long as they recognize the authorship and their new creations are under a license with the same terms.
  6. Recognition – Non-Commercial – No Derivative Work: This is the most restrictive license of the six main licenses; it only allows others to download the works and share it with others, but as long as the authorship of the work is recognized, without any modification in it, nor its commercial use.

2. What is Copyleft?

Copyleft is a practice that involves the exercise of copyright, allowing the free distribution of copies and varied versions of a work, requiring that the same rights be preserved for the changes created.

It is governed by the rules of each country, although it is usually used primarily for computer programs, works of art, or any type of creative work that is protected by copyright.

It arises in the field of computer programming with the concept of free software, with the idea that any user can access said software and even modify or develop it freely, as well as its distribution. All Copyleft type software is free software, but not all free software is Copyleft.

The Copyleft license makes it possible to make work independent by selecting a free license for its use, copying, modification, redistribution and in parallel to guarantee that the same freedoms are maintained for other recipients of a copy or a derived version. In this way, the will of the work will always be respected.

Fair use and its application

The term Fair use comes from Anglo-Saxon law or also known as “common law.” It is generally translated as “legitimate use” or “reasonable use”, although it is not a definitive concept and applies equally in all countries.

Fair use restricts the rights of the owners over their rights in work and allows others to use a fragment without authorization and mediating a series of conditions such as:

  • For research, educational, critical or satirical purposes.
  • When the fragment size used is minimal.
  • If there is no revealing economic impact on the potential market of the work.

YouTube controversies about Fair use


It is widespread that you submit complaints to YouTubers for infringing the copyright rules when videos and movie reviews have been uploaded to your channel based on fragments of movies or other materials.

When this occurs, the first immediate consequence is the closure of the YouTube channel, which is considered guilty until proven otherwise. There are many cases in which these complaints are unfounded or false, and no action is taken with their complainants.

YouTube implemented automated systems, intending to speed up the verification of the original videos uploaded by users. But this system allows any user to censor videos based on fair use.

However, in many cases, the result is not the desired one, since videos have been censored that does not violate the author’s rights.

Therefore, there are weaknesses in these types of systems due to the lack of human interaction so that that creator can defend their works. Another weakness is the lack of information about what Fair use is and its value in freedom of expression.

When will YouTube be a safe space for creators who rely on Fair use? There should be a secure solution for critical and satirical assessments, in addition to a change in automated video checking systems.

Consequences of illegitimate use of an image

When you make inappropriate use of images or use them without any type of license and authorization of the author, you run the risk that at least you can imagine it, they knock on your door and claim you

They can send you communication via email or burofax demanding the immediate withdrawal of the image from your website or blog, warning you of the legal consequences of not complying with these requirements.

Also, if the matter reaches the courts, it could entail the closure of your page and the payment of an economical amount consisting of the price that had to be paid and compensation for damages.

Without talking about how a matter of copyright infringement affects your professional reputation. In a second you can go by land all hours, days, months and years of dedication to your blog. Your followers will lose confidence in you, and your income will plummet. Will be worth? Do you think it is necessary to reach this?

Don’t you think it’s always better to be safe than sorry to regret a wrong step?

Safe image options for your blog


Let’s look at some guidelines to avoid unnecessary risks.

1. Be the author of the images you use in your blog

With this, on the one hand, you will say goodbye to your concerns on the issue of the legality of the images you use and, on the other hand, you will be able to print your personal and unique stamp.

2. Use images with a Creative Commons license

If the image has a Creative Commons license, be sure to comply with its conditions. And describe them in your blog

3. Check the image banks

In these image banks you can find, in an orderly way and with high quality, the image you are looking for.

Currently, the prices of image banks are quite low. With your purchase, you can certify that you are making legal use of these images.

There are numerous portals on the market, here are some of them:

Free image banks:

  1. Flickr creative commons: Image bank under the various types of Creative Commons.
  2. Pixabay: Bank of images and videos published free of copyright, under the Creative Commons CC0 license.
  3. Unsplash: Bank of images published free of copyright, under the Creative Commons CC0 license.

Banks of payment images:

  1. Fotolia
  2. Istockphoto
  3. Foter

Icons:

  1. Iconfinder
  2. Flat icon

5 Typical questions about the use of pictures on the Internet


And to top it off, I want to close this post with answers to some of the most frequent questions that people ask me about this topic.

1. Can I use Google images?

On many occasions, I find cases where images taken directly from Google are included without checking their nature, believing that the Internet is a source of public access.

Without further ado, the other day conducting an initial audit, to see the status of a client’s blog, I asked: “Where did you get the images contained in your blog?”; to which he replied: “Some are my own, but most of them have been downloaded from Google” to which I replied: “Do you think you can use these downloaded images without the consent of the author?” and he replied: “I think so; I have always understood that the Internet is a source of public access and therefore consent is not required.”

At this point, we clarify the term “source of access to the public.” According to article 3 of the Organic Law on data protection 15-1999, they are considered public access sources, exclusively, the promotional census, telephone repertoires in the terms provided by their specific regulations and the lists of people belonging to groups of professionals that contain only the data of name, title, profession, activity, academic degree, address and indication of their group membership. Likewise, they have the character of sources of public access, the Official Diaries and Newsletters and the media.

Therefore the Internet is not a source of access to the public and the consent of the owner of the image is required for its use, as with the express consent required by the new European Data Protection Law.

2. Have you used Google images on your blog and don’t know if you should delete them?


When you see an image on Google, even if you try to track it, you will not know who owns the copyright for this image. The person who uploaded it may not be the author of this image.

Given the uncertainty or insecurity of the way forward, go for the safe and look for the image you need with the highest quality in image banks such as Fotolia, Istockphoto or Foter, among others.

3. Can you use images made by you for your blog?

You can use the images you have considered, but you must be careful with what you include in their content.

For example, these situations can occur:

  • That is the image a close-up of a person who is not you appears. In this case, you must have their consent for publication.
  • You should also be very careful if the image shows a recognized brand, a private area, the license plate of a car or, in short, any element that can identify the person or be identifiable.

4. What would happen if you use photos of famous personalities without their consent for commercial purposes?

The right to publicity is recognized in many countries, contrary to the right to privacy.

The right to publicity is generally linked to celebrities, who often avoid being photographed for the sale of their image for commercial purposes because at times they are attentive to their right to privacy. With which, eye! If you picture a famous person and want to obtain commercial benefits from that image, this use without proper authorization can lead to lawsuits.

5. Can I use images where minors appear?

As I have indicated previously, in general, the use of images where people appear without having previously stated their authorization would not be appropriate.

If you do, you would be violating the right to the image, a right protected by the Intellectual Property Law and that we all have. And in the case of minors, even harder. For the use of the image of a minor or an image where minors appear, the express authorization of their parents or legal guardians is required.

Some Conclusions

Every creator of a work, image, literary work, musical or audiovisual work has the right to have their rights as authors recognized and protected.

If you wish to use, modify, reproduce and disseminate an image or work of another author, you must request their consent.

The fact that you pay attention and make sure that the images you use in your blog, web, e-commerce, podcast, email marketing campaign, etc., comply with the legal requirements will give you great peace of mind and allow you to maintain your online reputation, how much it cost you to get.

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