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Pairing images with marketing messages is an important marketing strategy tactic. It increases retweets on Twitter by 150% and boosts Facebook engagement 2.3x over posts without pictures.

Unless you’re a photographer with a substantial portfolio, at some point, you will need to use an image that was created by someone else. Paying for a picture to go with every marketing message can be quite costly. Unknowingly, many businesses go to the Internet to search for images for just this purpose. They find relevant images on sites like Google and then proceed to download and use them. While this sounds innocent enough, the risk of being caught and facing copyright infringement penalties are hefty.

Copyright is a United States federal law that protects the original works of authorship. Grabbing images off of the Internet, whether by accident or on purpose, in most cases, is a copyright violation. The fair use doctrine muddies the waters of understanding for many a marketer even further. Fair use is an exception to copyright laws that allows reproduction for the public good, such as in classroom use and news reporting. There is no black and white when it comes to fair use, so it is better to err on the side of caution and never use another’s image without permission to do so.

In the world of royalty and royalty free stock images, it is important to understand the rules of using stock photography in marketing. Here are three tips to keep your stock photography use on the right side of the law.

Three Tips for Using Stock Images

  1. Never download images from sites like Google without first doing your homework. You can do an advanced image search on Google and select to display only images that can be used and shared commercially. It is still important to verify the license usage on the actual page the image is stored to ensure it will work for your purposes. If you are in need of a free stock image without having to do a lot of extra work, (and who doesn’t want to save time?), there are some free stock image sites from which to choose. We like Pexels and Stocksnap.
  2. When purchasing an image from a stock photography company such as iStock or Shutterstock, be sure to choose the correct license. Depending on how you intend to use the image (print, personal use, online use, etc.) you may require an enhanced license. Review the license guidelines to ensure you purchase the best option based on your needs.
  3. Don’t assume that by giving attribution or linking back to the photographer’s site you are not at risk of copyright infringement. Always, always check the usage guidelines on the stock image before using.

always verify usage permissions in stock images

The power of an image can transform your marketing message, reinforcing your message and making it more memorable. Take the time to properly research usage guidelines for any downloaded stock images to ensure you do not risk violating copyright laws.

Want more marketing tips? Check out our blog here.