The saying goes “a picture can say a thousand words.” In business, a picture can sell a thousand products. Images are essential for creating effective branding, marketing and communications that inspire and engage customers. It can be difficult to use images with the confidence that you are not infringing on any copyright or ethical boundaries. Questions around Copyright, Fair Use, Creative Commons and Public Domain are complicated to answer, but necessary in order to use images properly.
Copyright is given immediately to the creators of original images or works. In order to use an original image, you need to gain the permission of the creator. Permission can be given through purchasing the image through a stock photography company (for example) or contacting the producer directly. If the creator of the image has released it into the public domain (which can happen by personal choice of the creator or if the creator is deceased and no one continues to own the Copyright), then they have given up copyrights and you do not need to seek permission.
Sometimes you will find images on a creative commons (such as Flickr). These images can be used by the public but are subject to very specific conditions which frequently prohibit commercial use. If you are using a creative commons for images, your top priority should be to review and understand the conditions of use so you do not get yourself into hot water.
If you are not using images for commercial gain (e.g. marketing, branding or other business generating purposes), you may be able to use copyrighted images under “Fair Use” policies. Fair Use is really quite simple, if your purpose is educational (e.g. creating a resource manual for youth), personal (e.g. Christmas craft time) or research (e.g. academic report) you are in the clear. Fair Use policy is meant to allow images to be used for public good not personal gain; think carefully about your motivation for using the image.
Even if you did create an image, you can still run into trouble if it does not qualify as ‘original.’ Make sure the image is really your concept and cannot be confused with another’s property. In some cases, you can take someones work and repurpose it in a way which allows you to use it freely. In those cases, make sure you have reworked the image so it is unrecognizable from the original or pull it completely out of context (e.g. using it for satire).
One of the most common mistakes is when people take photos from Google images. Not only do you have no right to these images, but images on the web are almost always low resolution and will not reproduce well when printed.
Images are so powerful that the laws and regulations around their use that are complicated and taken very seriously. In order to be certain that your images are truly YOUR images, you can ask your graphic designer to purchase/create images on your behalf. Pye Design can access stock images or arrange a photographer on your behalf, allowing you to breath easy and enjoy the rewards of picture power.