Image Usage Rights – A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Image Usage Rights – A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Explaining Copyright in Respect to the Social Media Realm

Do you think you can pick and share whichever image you seem to like on your social media handles or any other internet space? Are you sure you have full authority to use that image in whatever capacity you want to? Do you have the right to do that? These questions automatically follow once you start exploring image usage rights. To understand which image you can use to your advantage and how to do so while being an internet user, you should go through this article attentively.

Once you start publishing content online through different social media platforms and websites or blogs, you face various issues while uploading graphic images and real-time photos. To solve this and to address the common problems associated with picture usage rights that you may face as an internet user, you must understand image copyright in detail.

There are a plethora of pictures available online and photos galore everywhere on social media. The number of images available on IG accounts alone may boggle your mind. However, have you ever wondered what are the image usage rights linked with each of those images? Each photo taken by a camera or personal handheld device has a legal right associated with the person capturing that photo. Image usage rights are constantly at work when you talk about using images online or in print.

We will be talking about photo usage rights in this blog according to the U.S. legal rights perspective. As a standardized reference to the legal requirements in the United States, knowing your image usage rights can let you be at ease while using content rightfully.


What is a copyright?

Oxford English Dictionary explains the comprehensive meaning of the term copyright as “The exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.”

When you reserve the copyright of a creative work it automatically becomes protected by legal means. Law-binding policies are at work once you create your content without having to get it registered specifically. The U.S. copyright office gives you added protection to save your work from being pirated or plagiarized. If you spot or sense a plagiarism offense you can file a complaint and claim for copyright protection. This is why people often mention credits or state referential sources under the content that they have taken from somewhere and haven’t created on their own.

According to section 106 of U.S. copyright law, the rights of creative owners are protected. Following clauses mentioning key rights are included in the law for owners’ benefit:

  • The owner of the work has the right to “reproduce the copyrighted work in copies”
  • The owner of the work has the right to “prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work”.
  • The owner of the work has the right to “distribute copies… of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership…”
  • In the case of performing arts, the owner of the work has the right to “perform the copyrighted work publicly”.
  • The owner of the work has the right to “display the work to the public”.

Trivia: The U.S. Copyright Office was formed in 1807 as a separate entity by the Congress Library to create and record public deposits, registrations, actions, and other records. It has been funded by Congress since its formation and plays a key role in legal copyright protection. Since then, it has had more than 30 million cases recorded for copyright infringement.

Three Most Important Conditions Associated with Your Copyright Claim

Before claiming the copyright of your creative work, your content must fulfill these three conditions. If these three factors apply to your work it becomes eligible for an authentic copyright protection claim in a legal way.

1. Fixed

The created work must be recorded in a permanent, tangible i.e. viewable or audible medium. For instance, a car racing on the road is not recorded on a fixed medium so there is no copyright associated with it yet. However, once it gets recorded as a film or photograph, then those media files will be copyright protected.

2. Original

Original work always has a unique owner and thus copyright claims sound reasonable. This is why when you claim the copyright of your work, it must be unique and original. If the content has nothing new to offer it could be very much inspired by other available content online. It could be consciously or unconsciously resembling other work and can raise plagiarism doubts.

For example, if you have taken a picture from some other site and it’s not created or captured by you, you cannot claim image usage rights. The work must not be stolen and should be your own to get copyright protection. More on this will be discussed in the Fair Usage topic section in this blog.

3. Creative

The work should be creative but the standards of creativity are very subjective. According to the U.S. Supreme Court stated, “The level of creativity is relatively low and even the slightest nuance of creativity in the claimed work would suffice for copyright protection. No matter how obvious, humble, or crude any content seems to be, as long as it projects some level of creativity, it becomes automatically eligible for copyright protection.  

Who is the Owner of the Copyright?

The question arises of copyright ownership when a work is in progress and when it is completed. So, who owns the copyright of the work created?

If we look at the photography arena, the captured photographs, documentaries, motion pictures, footage, etc. are owned by the one who captures and records them i.e. the photographer. In some exceptional cases, however, the copyright of images or films may be claimed by a third party if the owner has sold his image usage rights or he is an employee of an organization. This will happen when ownership has been transferred and the photo usage rights have been given to someone else by a legal agreement.

Copyright remains yours until you transfer the rights. Even if you sell your work, the copyright will continue to be yours as long as the work was created by you.

Outsourced or Hired Work

If you have created content while being an employee of an organization, then it automatically belongs to the company owner or your direct employer. The copyright of that work would also possibly belong to the employer. However, some recruitment policies and job agreements do let you retain the image usage rights once a job is completed because of your value as an original creator.

Transfer of Copyrights to Another Party

You can not only transfer your copyright protection to someone else through an agreement but also sell it for the sake of monetization. This mostly happens when you create a work that needs to be published in volumes and various editions and thus the publisher buys the copyright to maintain it.

Creative Work without a Copyright Protection

The works having no copyright fall into the public domain category. Certain works protected by the federal government are not directly owned by anyone and thus have no possible copyright infringement issues.

Some copyrighted works may have become old enough to get their copyright protection period expired. In other cases, the original owner also often waives the copyright so that image usage rights become publicly available. Such as the royalty-free stock images, etc. This means that adhering to the exclusivity of picture usage rights is no longer an issue permitting people to use these images freely.

How Can You Know Who is the Rightful Owner of the Copyright?

The works that have been created and registered post-1975 can be found by visiting the link hosting data related to the Copyright Office.

The creative authority owning the work can be looked up in the official database and you can reach out to him directly to discuss and negotiate about copyright agreement and image usage rights transfer.

Nike’s Logo – The Swoosh Copyright Case

Carolyn Davidson created Nike’s logo in 1971 and it was named “the swoosh”. Nike bought this logo and its copyright and paid a minimal amount of $35. As the patented license was not made at the time of the agreement, picture usage rights were transferred smoothly. Due to this, Nike was able to use the logo rightfully anywhere they wanted.

As time passed and Nike expanded business, “the swoosh” became one of the most renowned logos globally. After the initial purchase, the original creator, Carolyn Davidson couldn’t retain any rights to the logo except the nominal $35 that Nike had bought it for. However, later the company appreciated the amazing creativity of the designer and gave her some shares acknowledging her efforts. Nike did this out of genuine appreciation and was not legally obligated to do so.

Copyright Expiration — How and When?

Does the copyright expire? Yes, but it’s nothing to worry about as long as it is associated with work created post-1977. It will expire after 70 years following the owner’s demise. So there is a long way to go. Moreover, if the work has been created by more than one person and has multiple ownership then the copyright will last until the last owner dies.

Therefore, all the Harry Potter series fans out there, have some patience. You will have to wait 70 years following the author, J.K. Rowling’s demise before it goes all public. As the Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations Act of 1995 suggests

According to the Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations Act of 1995, generally, the works created after January 1978, are protected till the author dies and an additional 70 years duration.

Fun fact: Mark Twain, a renowned American writer recommended passing the law for protecting the copyright of an author’s work till he survives plus 50 years following his death.

During a hearing of Congress in Dec 1906, a longer-term length was suggested as he presented the argument. In the years following the congressional hearing, a shorter term of 28 years plus 28 years upon renewal was provided. However, now the current law has established lifetime protection along with 50 years post demise as per Twain’s suggestion.

Copyright Protection before the 1920s

As of the 20th-century policy you have free image usage rights for the works created before Jan 1924. This is because the works created ages ago have expired copyright and have been shifted to the public domain.

The © Symbol Representing Copyright

The presence of the symbol for copyright i.e. © is not necessarily a condition for copyright protection. Your work, even without a clear symbol depicting it, is automatically protected by copyright law. The presence of it these days, however, provides a formal way of portraying your work with a “mine” tag and emphasizing ownership.

Before 1977, for authors, the symbol for copyright was mandatory to proclaim a certain work as their own. In the absence of it, the work would be considered public property. However, as of 1989, it is no longer a requirement for claiming copyright protection.

What Sort of Content Doesn’t Count as Copyright Protected?

Small phrases and sentences or paragraphs are not considered copyright-protected work. In some cases, an organization can fix a trademark on a particular phrase or claim it as an official slogan to provide additional protection and avoid plagiarism. However, still, these phrases won’t count as protected by copyright.

Some facts have a universal meaning but are worded in exclusive phrases so even if they demonstrate common knowledge known by the public, the wordings might be protected by copyright due to their uniqueness.

However, if the words are also commonly used by people and aren’t a particular person’s unique statement then they won’t be eligible for copyright.

The exact phrase of an author can be copyrighted even if it states a common fact. Or if the creative work depicts a universal truth yet is designed by a person as a painting or worded as a poem etc., it will be copyrighted under that person’s ownership. This is because he has represented a fact from his perspective and some level of personal creativity is involved.

For instance, the Earth is round is a universal truth and everyone knows this as common knowledge. However, if an artist paints a picture demonstrating the earth as round, the painting would gain copyright protection and picture usage rights will be reserved by the artist.

Ideas are not tangible things and if they haven’t materialized as a fixed medium, they can’t be protected. The copyright claim would be considered legit when the ideas are executed. For instance, an idea about a TV show focusing on American teenage school life and coming of age relationships is just a thought and copyright protection doesn’t apply to it. These sorts of ideas get executed numerous times yet each time the way of execution is different.

Thus, ideas are not protected yet each of them after a unique execution process gets individual copyright protection.

Works under the public domain are not protected by intellectual property laws and include certain creative or official materials such as public data, dates, book titles and old films, federal documents and codes, etc. including the ones related to the federal government such as a country’s emblem, national anthem, federal tax code, etc. However, if there is a trademark policy associated with a government logo then it could be copyrighted.

Public Domain Works

Any space where works are not restricted by an intellectual property claim is considered public domain. The copyright doesn’t exist in public domain text or images and people can use them without acquiring image usage rights. Public domain works are free to use and these documents don’t require any special licensing or patent rights.

The images in the public domain are also royalty-free and can act as a basis to modify and create newer pictures without applying for picture usage rights. Startup brands often use these images for their initial logos and basic graphics.

Licensing Copyrighted Images

If you don’t possess the copyright of a particular image and you would like to use that image anywhere, you will require a license permitting you to do so. The licensing agreement may not transfer image usage rights completely but can grant permission to use the images conditionally. A mutual agreement can be created to deal with the picture usage rights problem to avoid copyright infringement afterward.

A licensing agreement can mention specific clauses and usage types for images to suit both parties. Before you license a photo or picture you should know the photo usage rights and copyright policy. As there are various types of uses for a picture and different rights reserved for it, you should also keep in mind your usage requirements so that you can state them in the agreement clearly.

Types of Rights for Images

Rights for Digital Images

Images in the digital space have rights associated with the digital capacity of the copyright policies. Exchanging images digitally would involve a sender sending an image file not in print but virtually from one end and the receiver at another end.

If you have image usage rights reserved for a digital image or photo, it means you can distribute it digitally across cyberspace without having to be involved in its printed version. Therefore, you cannot use it commercially for print ads unless you acquire commercial photo usage rights for it as well.

Picture Usage Rights for Printed Images

Unlike digital images, print pictures are physical, hard copies of an image and are subject to print release rights. These rights include reproduction rights as well so that the publisher can reproduce it for personal use or in any other creative project. However, for commercial marketing use or mass production, they would require additional commercial rights.

Although print rights grant you permission to use and photocopy images in print form yet you cannot sell them. Even if you can make copies of a picture 100 times and use it as your wallpaper you cannot sell it as a wallpaper to anyone else. Because for that purpose you will require additional rights reserved for commercial use.

Rights for Editorial Purposes

Editorial rights are often used in an educational capacity. For images used for informational purposes, editorial rights are required. Magazine editors and bloggers often reserve picture usage rights to publish their content without copyright infringement issues.

For this reason, they acquire special editorial licenses to secure image usage rights for educational resources and journalistic publications. Due to their informative nature, these publications are considered a non-commercial type of resource. That is why these rights cannot be used commercially.

Editorials are quite different from advertorials as the latter promote a specific brand by publishing a persuasive copy. Therefore, even advertorials won’t be included in image usage rights for editorial purposes.

Rights for Commercial Purposes

Commercial images are used for monetary gains. While publicizing your brand, photo usage rights for commercial banners and posters are required. Paid ads, marketing campaigns, and website copy for business promotion are all part of the commercial photo copyright act.

Influencers on social media create content and brands often require commercial image usage rights to use that content rightfully for revenue generation.

Images for the promotion of a brand cannot be published unless you have acquired commercial rights and once you do, a wide spectrum of uses will be covered in that.

From product packaging and office supplies to email newsletters and corporate ads, and from brand awareness social media posts to a business infographic, all commercially use these images.

Image Usage Rights for Retail or Personal Purpose

Retail rights are sold to customers buying pictures for personal use such as family photos, portraits, school festival pictures, yearbook photos, etc. Circulating these pictures requires retail picture usage rights.

When you acquire retail rights for a photograph it doesn’t mean you can claim the photographer’s work as your own. You have to give credits and mention picture courtesy when using those pictures. To use those photos commercially or educationally, you have to settle an agreement for additional photo usage rights.

Image Usage Rights within Social Media Capacity

Social media handles are used for not only personal interaction but brand endorsement and education. Therefore, in the digital realm, social media picture usage rights are considered a commercial type of copyright. With the evolution of the internet, everything has become global and brand promotions are a part of the digital-commercial scene.

When you have access to the commercial image usage rights, you can repost and edit the images on social media and use them as per the need. However, for editing and alterations, the owner of the work should be approached and an agreement should be negotiated. A photo used for personal purposes will also require social rights.

Mentionable Clauses in a Licensing Agreement

Once your usage needs are worded and represented as proper clauses in a licensing agreement, you can easily rightfully use images.

Attribution in Copyright Law & Image Usage Rights

According to copyright law when you credit an image source properly and mention the original creator of a picture then this acknowledgment is known as “attribution“. When we look at influencer marketing, giving credits is an inevitable part of it. When an influencer uses an image to promote a brand, attribution is in order. Even when you quote sections of an author’s literary work, you have to acknowledge the author who has written it.

If you have to provide attribution for work, you must be specific so that precise tags and links, etc. are mentioned promptly on the social media platforms. If someone requires attribution, they should also specify the type. For example, specifying a username, website link, profile page, or Social Media handle.

Copyright Royalties & Image Usage Rights

Royalties are legal payments binding an individual or an organization to keep on using their assets after paying some fixed fee each time. Owners of royalty-free image websites and galleries often pay some fee to the original creator of pictures and buy the copyright for those images.

Image usage rights then become reserved and they can use these images on an ongoing basis. However, if the images are not royalty free, they have to pay each time the image is being used regardless of the initial flat fee.

For instance, if a business site has bought commercial rights for an image and is creating 100 flyers portraying that image, then the site has to pay the royalty fee 100 times to the copyright owner of that image. The royalty fee can be a percentage of the revenue generated by the image publishing.

Royalty-free images, on the other hand, have been paid in full initially so they are free to use each time after signing a licensing agreement.

Commercial and Non Commercial Image Usage

Apart from promotional purposes, the images used for general, and educational purposes require noncommercial image usage rights. Opting for a noncommercial image usage license agreement will let you use the images personally or editorially. However, the license agreement type that businesses mostly need is commercial.

Image Usage Rights Reservation Duration

The time till which your picture usage rights remain reserved is specified in licensing agreements. Weekly, monthly, bimonthly, or perpetually i.e. using an image forever, all-time specifications are mentioned in detail if you choose to do so. However, fixing and mentioning a time limit is not mandatory.

Most of the time-sensitive proportional content requires using an image or statement a couple of times. After that time window, the news or content would no longer be worth publishing.

Time constraints are needed when you gain exclusive photo usage rights for stock photos, etc. We will discuss and cover it in the next section.

Exclusive and Non Exclusive Image Usage Rights for One or More People

A copyright can be restricted to one or more people. When an owner of work grants permission for an image to be used by multiple people then they would give them nonexclusive image usage rights. However, if they have given license to only one individual then the rights would be exclusive. Brands having exclusive photo usage rights hold the license to use that photo or image and no one else can use the same photo in that time duration as listed in the agreement.

If you have exclusive picture usage rights for a certain image then it means you can ensure that it’s only published by you and no one else online. The brand having license of that image can continue to use it exclusively as their trademark and it becomes their identity. The website aesthetics and signature look can be maintained by acquiring exclusive rights to identity pictures specifically depicting your business. This also helps maintain uniqueness and unique ideas always stand out from the crowd by eliminating major competition.

Image Usage Rights for Domain Owners

The chosen publishing space for an image is called a domain. It can be a website, social profile page, business flyer, etc. When an image licensing agreement is signed, the medium for image publishing should be mentioned. For instance, if you have mentioned your website as the medium for that image to be published then that does not necessarily mean you can use that image on your social media profile as well.

As each place is an individual domain, you have to list it clearly in the agreement. Even though digital image usage rights include a group of digital spaces as targeted domains for image publication, clearly stating the domain places will help you share images fearlessly. Although the internet is considered a digital space collectively, clear expectations can be set by listing down each place where you aim to publish the image separately in the license.

License Transfer or Sub-licensing

Upon signing the license agreement the owner can mention whether the copyright can be transferred to anyone else. Similarly, if an organization or brand owns the copyright to creative work that they no longer require they can sell it or transfer the rights to another party.

Sublicense means subdividing the image usage rights to a third party. Copyright owners often sublicense their work to other business stakeholders or co-working entities so that they may have some specified rights or uses for any creative work such as a product image, brand name, or logo.

Most creative owners would not like to share their rights with the third party but the opposite party signing the copyright agreement may want to give access to other colleagues or shareholders. Therefore, sublicensing is a common practice in the business world.

Alteration or Editing of Original Images

When we talk about image usage rights, the question often arises whether the images used can be altered or edited in some way or the other.

Can you change the background color or apply filters to a copyrighted image?

Can you crop and frame a photo that has its rights reserved?

Can you play around with the image and Photoshop it?

These questions have one simple answer. If the agreement specifies additional modification rights, then well and good. Or else, you cannot edit an original piece without permission.

Resizing an image is not counted as modification though. However, anything altering the aesthetics and visual persona of an image count as editing or modification that requires editing rights.

The copyright holder retains approval rights as well. He has the privilege of not only granting editing permission but also giving specific approval for a certain modification that took place. He can approve each alteration before it is shared in public by the company.

Marked as Sensitive

Avoiding controversy is important and sharing images in sensitive domains requires special permission. Licenses prohibit the use of sensitive images triggering controversies unless asked for.

Sometimes, a sensitive subject or topic requires the use of images to endorse and leverage that topic. Therefore, people ask for additional permission to be mentioned in licensing agreements.

If an ambiguous agreement is signed without specifying any image usage rights clearly, you can’t assume that you have the rights transferred to you. You have to revisit and clarify the agreement clauses to understand the usage rights that belong to you.

Licensing Agreements Example

American Society of Media Photographers or ASMP is a platform for imaging professionals and photojournalists to showcase their credentials and profile their work. They can acquire copyright protection and properly license their photos and images to earn a living.

ASMP advocates that each creative work, orphan or not, must be licensed and used rightfully to provide due protection to the copyright holders. License requirements while collaborating with ASMP can be set by the photographer himself.

Other examples may include Creative Commons where content creators can negotiate license requirements,, Docracy, RocketLawyer, etc.

Fair Use Doctrine in Copyright Law

This doctrine suggests the use of an image in special circumstances without getting usage permission from the copyright holder. The purposes for which fair use can be used are research, teaching and education, satire, criticism, journalistic reporting, etc.

As mentioned in the Oxford English Dictionary, fair use is “the doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.”

Ironically, this quote itself qualifies as fair use as it is quoted here to educate readers the dictionary definition of “fair use”.

Not only does fair use allow selected excerpts from copyrighted materials to be used for educational purposes, but it also lets businesses and industries use parts of copyright-protected content upon need.

How Do I Know if Fair Use Applies?

To take advantage of the fair use policy, you have to meet some conditions as it does not apply to every image and type of usage.

Fair Use can be benefited from if:

  • The copyrighted material you are taking excerpts from is used for commenting on educational forums, critical analysis, literature guides, news reporting, scholarship research, satirical parody, etc.
    For instance, the satirical news show, The Daily Show delivers news parodies and uses portions of copyrighted content by way of the fair use doctrine. Their purpose is to educate and entertain people by criticizing real scenarios and mimicking original news.
  • The content is for educating people and not for commercial gains.
  • The amount of content borrowed is just a fraction of the original and not the entire work itself. Such as copying an entire 5K words book as a long quote is not considered fair use.
  • It should not lower the market value of the original content and should not harm the revenue generation of the deserving creator. If it affects them in any way and they prove it to you, then you can’t take advantage of this policy.

According to the Supreme Court stated, in the above fair use eligibility criteria, the point about not affecting the market value of the original work is the most fundamental condition in enabling fair use.

Determining Whether the Work is Transformative or Not

Derivative work means a work that’s based on older work and presented in a completely new manner. This sort of work is called transformative. Transformative work was added as a new dimension to the fair use doctrine in 1994 when the supreme court declared a borrowed copyright material case to be fair use based on its transformation. The decision was based on the fact that as per the four factors affecting fair use, the purpose and character of the material were transformative.

Derivative work is considered to be copyright protected if it becomes transformative i.e. presented in a new way with some level of creativity involved instead of just copying an image. That is why images used in online comments and conversations are not considered transformative and thus are not protected under the fair use doctrine.

However, in some cases using images with comments as criticism may count as transformative and can be protected by fair use. Richard Prince uses selfies of social media influencers with critical comments and exhibits new work as portraits were declared as fair use.

Copyrighted materials incorporated in altered settings and new artwork with small nuances taken from older work may fall under fair use but it’s better to take permission still. This is because avoiding copyright infringement is always better and the fair use doctrine is just a defense against that. If the work doesn’t count as fair use by any chance then you are suddenly considered an infringer.

Social Media Images

How Can I Benefit from Image Usage Rights While Posting on Social Media?

Just like other digital spaces, social media images also fall under the same general copyright laws. However, due to the social nature of these platforms, holding conversations, posting stories, and updating profile status may involve image sharing quite differently. Therefore, image usage rights and copyright law enforcement should be studied carefully before posting on these platforms.

While posting your original photo on social media, you retain the copyright of that photo. However, the social site may automatically reserve the right to display the photo on their platform once you have posted it. This is due to the agreement you may have signed with them as a user when you signed up for the social account.

Sharing Other User’s Content – Do Social Media Platforms Allow That?

Mostly, user agreements signed by the social media account holders let them share content and interact with each other on the same platform without copyright infringement claims. However, inter-sharing between different platforms may violate copyright agreements. For example, sharing a photo on your Facebook profile may be allowed under the Facebook user agreement, but exporting the same photo to Pinterest may lead to copyright infringement.

Some platforms allow sharing other people’s stories and reposting statuses and other content such as Instagram. It has built-in features to enable mutual sharing and resharing of content among the users.

For the safe side, before sharing other users’ copyrighted content on social media platforms, you can ask for permission from the platform authorities to get legal protection.

Why Brands Require Image Usage Rights

Brands use images constantly and the visuals are an active part of their content marketing strategy. To prevent legal complications, acquiring permission to use the images is very important. That is where image licensing comes into the picture.

Luckily, nowadays, so many photo collection sites and gallery resources are available online to provide businesses with royalty-free images and stock pictures.

Creative Commons – A Free Picture Resource or Image Licensing Giant?

Being a nonprofit organization established to provide access to creative works globally, Creative Commons specializes in granting CC licenses as well. A CC license is a public copyright license dedicated to facilitating the free circulation of creative work or images.

Photos having little or no royalty along with public domain pictures are available through the Creative Commons platform. Creators can upload their images and acquire CC licensing for their work. The license agreement terms are set by the creator and it’s upon him to grant image sharing or usage permission to other people.

Creators can submit their work to Creative Commons and assign a license so that brands and other people can use the images according to the terms set by the creator.

Creative Commons provides free open source tools to help people find royalty-free images and publish their work as well. It has a standardized licensing system to protect the photo usage rights of the creator. It proves to be a useful resource for businesses and individuals alike.

How to Use Stock Images for My Brand?

Stock images are very useful for incorporating a visually aesthetic touch to your brand endorsement ads and banners. The content blogs and company posts are also complimented by these images if used correctly.

Some popular stock image resources where you can find these images are listed below:

  • Shutterstock
  • Pixabay
  • Pexels
  • Flickr
  • iStock
  • Vecteezy
  • Unsplash
  • Burst by Shopify
  • Stocksnap

Sites hosting stock photos have their license agreement reserving photo usage rights. As each site’s agreement is different you can label the folder of the downloaded images by the site name to remember their agreement and revisit it if needed.

The usage type for each picture can be explained by these agreements so that you can be aware of where you can use which image. Either it can appear on social media or your brand website or your company blog as per the licensing agreement.

How Do I Report Copyright Infringement?

Reporting copyright Infringement helps capture the content thief and protects your images from getting stolen. To know whether your images are being misused or not follow these steps.

Look Up Your Images Online

Some sites help you track your images and where they have been used online. Google image search also helps you lookup for a particular image or popular content and where it’s been published. To protect yourself from copyright infringement, run these searches regularly.

Tracking the Publisher

The moment you seem to know about your images being misused, reach out to the person uploading and sharing them. Request a removal gently, mostly they would oblige, and sometimes they could have violated the copyright unknowingly. However, if they prove to be stubborn, make them know that the photo belongs to you. You can also opt for much quicker less aggressive options such as sending a polite email, etc.

Report It

Most social media account settings have reporting options for copyright Infringement. You just have to fill up a form and social sites will help you claim your copyrighted image. Social media moderators can intervene and resolve this issue by taking down the reported content.

Seeking Legal Help

If the problem persists even after applying the above-mentioned solutions, seek legal help. Visit a lawyer specializing in copyright law enforcement and discuss actionable options available to you by copyright law.

If you face copyright infringement issues, register your work within 3 months of publication in the U.S. Copyright Office.


Your authority as a social media influencer, domain owner, and the authentic brand endorser is established further by using licensed images. By knowing your image usage rights clearly, you can avoid copyright infringement and use the creative work legally.

As a creative work owner, licensing agreements can help you collaborate with brands and advertisers in a professional, legal way without worrying about plagiarism claims, etc.

In a nutshell, all the discussion above narrows down to the simple fact that copyrighted images should be used with the owner’s permission. If you have picture usage rights reserved or transferred to your name by the original copyright holder, you are eligible to use those pictures rightfully.

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