When it comes to legal blogging, there are numerous pitfalls and minefields that attract the unwary and inexperienced. Stumbling into one of them can not only hurt your website’s online prominence, but can lead to financial and legal liability, as well. Perhaps nowhere is this more common than with copyright issues surrounding photos or images that you use on your legal blog. If not done properly, using photos on your blog can be dangerous, opening your firm up to legal liabilities.
Unfortunately, the safety provided by subscribing to a photo or image content provider, like Shuttershock, may be too expensive for your firm’s needs. The alternative of posting blog articles without images or pictures, however, can make your blog look uninspired and vapid. Countless attorneys and law firms choose the third option: Navigating the internet for images to use for their legal blog. After all, copyright is a legal issue and you’re a lawyer, right?
Here’s a quick refresher on the types of image licensing you are likely to encounter.
Image Licenses to Know for Your Legal Blog
A quick search for photos and images for your legal blog will reveal that there are a handful of licenses that you encounter on a regular basis. Knowing which licenses are acceptable for your legal blog will depend on whether your legal blog will be used for commercial purposes, which is determined by the exact nature of your blog. However, nearly all legal blogs are commercial, and playing it safe and assuming that yours is, as well, is a safe decision.
With that in mind, some of the licenses that you most need to pay attention to are:
Public Domain images. Whether these images have fallen into the public domain because their intellectual property rights have expired, or whether these rights have actively been forfeited by their creator, they are free to use, even for commercial purposes.
Attribution required. Many images have been made usable by their creators for any purpose, so long as they are properly attributed. Proper attribution can be specified by the creator. If it isn’t specified, then it has to be done in a reasonable manner, and cannot make it seem like the creator is endorsing its use in your blog.
Noncommercial images. Some images are licensed to allow their use in any form, except for commercial purposes. Images or photos with this tag cannot be used in your legal blog, unless your blog is not being used for your monetary advantage.
Sharealike license. Some images require that, should changes or adaptations be made to them, they retain their original license. While it will be rare for this to be a factor with the images in your legal blog, there may come a time when you will want to crop something out of an image, or brighten a picture to make it look better. If you do this and the original image was released under a sharealike license, then you have to release your new, altered image under the same license as the original.