Australian Social Media Marketing Network

One Essential Rule to Avoid Breaking Image Copyright Laws

Websites, social media and blogging have made copyright issues downright confusing.

It is so easy to copy, download and share images off the web that you do it without thinking. But just because you can, does not mean you’re allowed.

Copyright imagesWhat is copyright?

Copyright means having the legal right to reproduce and to communicate your work. As soon as you snap or create an original image, you have automatic copyright of that work, whether you stamp it with a little © or not. No-one else can use it without your permission (except Facebook of course!)

Hence the majority of all sharing, pinning, retweeting and posting of images (including memes) undertaken on the internet and social media in Australia today, technically breaks copyright law. The fact that we are not all before the court on copyright infringements is due to the costly and complex process of laying charges. (And not to mention the web is a rather large place to police)

Respect copyright ownership

Since marketers and business owners use the internet for commercial purposes, we bear both a legal and moral responsibility to respect copyright law. Do not assume by simply acknowledging the original artist it releases you from violations. You are actually using someone else’s material for your commercial gain (does the word stealing strike a chord here?).

Copyright owners are now going to greater lengths to protect their rights. Major image libraries are using sophisticated image-matching robots to crawl the web to identify where their images are being used without permission!!


The number one rule to ensure your legal safety with the use of images is simple – create your own. But then be mindful that:

  • You own the copyright, not a contractor
  • You have model release (if there is a person in the photo)
  • You have not taken a photo of a substantial part of a literary or artistic work

What if you can’t create your own? Then you must assume every other photo in existence is copyrighted by someone else. To legally use other artist’s images, you have several options:

  • Ask permission of the owner
  • Wait til copyright duration has expired and the work is in the public domain
  • Use images with Creative Commons licenses (must attribute creator) or “clip art”
  • You acknowledge the owner and use of the image would fall under the legal category “fair dealing” (when used in your school assignment or for reporting facts and news)
  • Join a stock photo site but ensure you check the sites’ terms of use


So in laymen’s terms DO NOT

  • Copy and paste images from the internet and use them for your business
  • Remove watermarks
  • Add your logo to someone else’s images

I also then hear you ask – Can I take a photograph in public that contains images of people I don’t know? Short answer yes, long answer and exceptions read here

I emphasise that this article is not legal advice and I am not a lawyer. I am a business owner who has joined a stock photo site to respect the rights of artists (term used loosely).

Rae Brindley, 2Ear Solutions,

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Rae Brindley

Social Media Manager at 2Ear Solutions
Rae Brindley is a passionate and committed professional with experience in sports promotion, event management and education and training. A previous small business owner herself she is excited at the boundless opportunities social media provides for work, rest and play!
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