September 7, 2012

The Danger of Using Images Online


Image credit: Nemo

How’s my writing going ? I haven’t given an update in a while. Truth, I have no idea. If you’d asked me Friday (seven days and six thousand years ago), I’d have rattled off a five-hundred word progress report.

Today, after the weekend I went through, my brain is frazzled, my head is pounding, my neck hurts and the last thing I want to do is wrap my shriveled creativity around where the H**** my novel is.

Let me explain.

I started Saturday morning like I always do–reviewing email from the night before in preparation for updating my seven blogs for the week ahead. I do twenty-or-so posts in one day, schedule them for release throughout the week, and then I can devote myself to my WIP for six fays. At 7:02, I stumbled across Roni Lauren’s post about images and copyrights. and my world exploded. She unknowingly hadn’t followed the correct procedure for using someone else’s work product–an image–on a blog post, received a take-down notice from the owner and immediately complied, apologized, felt awful about it. That wasn’t good enough for the owner. He wanted compensation–a lot. And sued her.

Before you say, it’s her fault for not being more careful, or that won’t happen to me–Roni’s a published author with a robust following–here’s what she learned about ‘being careful’ (I’ve copied these from her blog):


  • if you link back to the source and list the photographer’s name
  • if the picture is not full-sized [thumbnail size is okay, which I didn’t know]
  • if you did it innocently
  • if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
  • if you didn’t claim the photo was yours
  • if you’ve added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
  • if the picture is embedded and not saved on your server
  • if you have a disclaimer on your site (something like “THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.”)
  • if you immediately take down a pic if someone sends you a DMCA notice (you do have to take it down, but it doesn’t absolve you.)

How many of you read this list and thought, That’s what I do. Like I did. Yes, I try to be careful. I use free image websites:

…but not always. Google Images is so easy and fast, and I couldn’t put my pen to Bible and swear I never cut corners. I decided before I rest on the mantra that ‘it won’t happen to me’, I’d go through all of my three thousand-ish posts on my six blogs. Trust, but verify.

And I lost 36 hours. Which was the time I’d planned to work on an article for you-all about how my writing is going. Most were fine. I create a lot of my own images with Photoshop and Creative Commons pieces, but I had to bring them up, check each image for attrition (I clicked to be sure it worked right). Some, I found I’d linked to a subsidiary site rather than the original and had to follow back to the beginning. Some, I’d missed the link entirely thinking the Creative Commons license would protect me (forgetting it requires a link-back). Then, I had to either find that original picture (nearly impossible) or replace it. A lot of website/individuals will give permission if you link back to them, but some want a link that takes viewers to their website. As an author who’s trying to build a brand, I understand that more than I did a couple of years ago. and in truth, what I published back in 2009 is where most of my 36 hours went.

So I have just a teaspoon of energy remaining to share with you-all how my writing is doing: It’s fine. I’m working through my agent’s changes, love what it’s doing to my story (He sees things after six months I didn’t see after two years. Thank goodness.).

So how do you-all handle images? Do you avoid them or use your own only or use some other method? I might mention, if you’re interested, Roni got over 350 comments on her post. Those are fascinating reading. One of the commentors shared how artists can see where their images have been used on the internet:

  • go to
  • drag and drop your image into the search bar (sounds odd, but it opens up an image drop box)
  • it populates a list of all places on the internet using that image


Jacqui Murray is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

Follow me.