I have a dear friend who is starting up a yoga business. She’s been sharing her yoga class schedule on social media, posting about yoga, etc. Today I noticed that the image she was using was a little cut off and I sent a message and offered to help her with her social media images. She was happy with that idea.

Here is our exchange:

Don't steal images

Yeah, so that’s not okay. It’s really not okay. People seem to have a lot of trouble understanding this because they think if it’s there, they can use it and who’s going to know, right? But you wouldn’t go to the Disney website and take their logo and use it on your website, right? Most people understand that’s not okay and could result in litigation. The same goes for anyone’s images. And trust me, if you think they won’t find you for whatever reason, you may be kidding yourself.

Let me share a few stories. Back when my daughter was a baby, she had a condition called infant torticollis. It’s an issue with the muscles where essentially some of the muscles are too tight causing a tilted neck. Hers was pretty minor, some stretch exercises and she was fine. And she was pretty cute with her little head tilt. I wrote about this on the Internet and shared her photo, because that’s what new moms do.

And that’s how my daughter became the poster child for infant torticollis. There was a time that if you did a Google image search for “infant torticollis,” my daughter’s face was the #1 result. But I started to notice it wasn’t just from my site. It was showing up on all kinds of websites. As more people found my blog post, they started pulling that image and using it on their own websites. Mostly websites from physical therapists talking about this condition. And not a single one of them asked my permission to use my daughter’s face on their website.

I had to request that at least five different websites take down her photo. And every single one was shocked that I had found them. It’s really not that hard to do. And at the time, I wasn’t working in the tech industry, I was just a mom with a blog.

Story #2 is from a client. They have a very active blog with many authors. One author found a fantastic photo online and thought it went well with their blog post, so they used it on their blog. Turns out, the photo they found (which really was a great photo) was taken by a professional photographer who does photos for major publications like the New York Times. That photographer found that photo on their blog and sent them a bill for using it. For $500.

The lesson learned here is simple: you can’t just use an image because you like it and found it online unless it specifically says it is available and free to use by anyone.

If you are just writing a blog and need some good imagery, check out Lots of stock photos that are totally free to use for personal or commercial use.

There are other sites where photos can be bought for as low as $1 each. You can usually find a good photo pretty cheap. Yes, there are other sites that charge more and some photos are just much more expensive. But it’s not worth it to steal images off the Internet. Just don’t do it.

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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