Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blogging and Image Copyright

Whilst casually looking through some blogs I follow the other day, I stumbled across one where the blogger in question had clearly copied and pasted the front cover of an image of a book cover from Amazon. How could I tell? Quite simple really: there was a 'click to look inside' graphic on the book cover!

You can't just go to Google Images and plunder images without permission or due acknowledgement folks. It's illegal.

So how to get around this? Flickr is one notably good option. Now, when I use pictures I'm sure to acknowledge my source. But I don't have to for this one:

Ah what a pretty picture. It's High Force waterfall in County Durham in case you were wondering. Why haven't I had to acknowledge it? Because I took it, duh. It's on my Flickr photostream, so I can use it no questions asked. If you haven't got a Flickr account, you might want to consider setting one up.
If you want to use the above photo, or indeed any photos on my photostream, then you need to say where you got it from. BUT only if the person in question has put the photo under a Creative Commons licence, which means they allow you to use their work. They'll normally ask for you to give them credit for the photo, which is fair enough. So this I how I do it:
 Photo courtesy of schammond
SC Hammond is a friend of mine in both Flickr and real life, and I chose this because she and I have the same favourite book: Catch-22. It's up to you how you acknowledge your Flickr source, of course. But giving a link that will take you to the relevant person's Flickr account is always good in a you-scratch-my-blogging-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours-way.
When it comes to book covers, which can be harder to find on Flickr, be sure to provide a link to the author's website (where you should be able to source the image from), or it's Goodreads profile. Once again, as well as ensuring legality, the author will be grateful for the traffic you direct to their website. Even if you trash their book...maybe.
Oh and if you want to use my photos from my Flickr photostream go right ahead. Just be sure I've given you the permission to do so!
(Yes, this is one of mine)



  1. Yikes - I hope that wasn't me, Foggy. Actually I do use Amazon images on my blog but that's because I'm promoting the books (and they're not my books LOL). When I'm preparing the post I right-click on the Amazon site's image, copy URL and then paste that into my blog post. Therefore when the readers place their mouse over the image the cursor turns into a link which takes the reader straight to the Amazon site I took the image from, giving the readers the possibility of buying the book if they want to. I don't think Amazon, or the author, will be upset with that.
    Another free image site is morguefile.

  2. It is an interesting one - and you really do have to be careful with some images. If you accidentally use an image that belongs to Getty Images, they are liable to throw legal might at you to extract around £1,000, even if you take the image down right away.

    However, there's one thing I'm not sure you're right about Foggy - I think it is accepted that you can use an image of a book cover to accompany a review etc without permission. Amazon doesn't own the rights, the publisher does.

  3. You don't have to ask for permission for a book cover for a review, no, but you do most definitely have to acknowledge where you pulled the image from unless you produced it yourself. I.e. 'due acknowledgement'. Sorry for my awkward phrasing!

    Think of it along the same lines as compiling a bibliography, so as to avoid plagiarism. If you attempted to pass someone else's text off as your own then you'd be taken to task. The image of a book is not yours, unless you took the picture yourself, so just say where you got the image from in the same way.

    Accidentally using photos from websites like Getty is indeed a minefield Brian. That's why I'm careful to use Flickr: the creative commons photos on there (and indeed all of them) you can be absolutely sure don't belong to such places!

    Sue - Don't think it was you, no. And you do have the link to the website embedded within, so don't think it'll be an issue: I just make sure I'm as explicit as I can be when acknowledging a photo! Thanks for the free image site tip as well :-)

  4. Very few book cover images are photographs. The publishers will likely use an image provide in the original artwork file and other people are much more likely to scan the book cover than to photograph it. It's much less hassle than faffing around with a tripod and fill lighting to get a nice even image. I can't see how I would have any sort of copyright claim on a book cover scan, and publishers produce their images for promotional purposes and thus are very happy for them to be circulated (unless the image is abused or exploited in some way, of course).

  5. Images are subjected to copyright every bit as much as photographs are. I'm sure in many cases publishers are happy to let people use images of their books willy-nilly for promotional purposes, but you just never know. It's better to be absolutely safe than sorry.

  6. Of course publishers are happy about it - it's free promotion. They certainly would not be happy if every blogger posting book cover images with their reviews/articles started contacting them to ask if it was okay.

    There's also what's known as Fair Dealing in the UK (Fair Use in the USA), which allows the use of copyrighted materials for the purposes of review, criticism, private study, and various other purposes.

  7. Yeah all right, you win! Probably. All the same, I tend to err on the side of caution on all things copyright. Maybe I shouldn't have used the book example to kick the blog off: the point about people using stuff they get after a quick Google Image search is the main one.

  8. I think the book cover issue is so particular that it's obscuring your wider point. Of course as a general rule one should not rip off other people's photographs, but promotional images like book covers are a different kettle of fish, particularly where they are accompanying a review or article of some sort about the book or its author (which they almost always are). Copyright for the cover belongs to the publisher and that's already effectively acknowledged in the thing itself. Crediting it would be an exercise in tautology. I usually link book covers to either the relevant publisher's page or to the book's Amazon page, though I do this for the convenience of interested readers rather than to fulfil any perceived copyright obligation.

    If someone grabs a cover image from, say, Amazon then there's really no reason to credit Amazon for it - Amazon doesn't own the copyright and the image will have been provided by the publisher in the first place. Providing a link or reference to whoever happened to be hosting the image you grabbed doesn't necessarily mean that you have credited the copyright owner, so in itself it's not very useful.

  9. Thank you for the informative post. I've stumbled across a lot of blog posts recently where bloggers are warning of the dangers of using copyrighted material. I take all my own photos for my blog, but still it's good knowledge to have in the back of my mind.

  10. You make very good points Crowe, but there's still too many grey areas in copyright for me. What you say in the last paragraph for instance: if you pull an image of a book from a third party website that's reproducing an image, are you using the original publisher's copyrighted image or that website's version of it? The 'look inside' image from an Amazon book that I mentioned had certainly been 'doctored' and is Amazon's version of the book cover, in aesthetic terms at least. So how can you know for sure? Maybe you can't, and so acknowledging the website you reproduce the image from is the way to declare you've used this particular website's image of the book cover, and thus ensure your backside is definitely covered.

    I can see that this is going to turn in to a lengthy debate if we carry on, so if you do respond (feel free to do so) then I'm not going to reply. Like I said before, you probably win. But this blogger is going to continue to err on the side of caution, tautological or not.

  11. Good for you, Solari: wish I was a skilled enough photographer to take all my own pics for my blog! I'm just glad Flickr's Creative Commons exists :-)

  12. Well, not to continue this "debate" but if a publishing company was pathetic enough to start chasing copyright breaches of this sort on its covers then declaring that you've used a particular website's image of a book cover certainly would not cover your backside. Only the copyright holder can grant permission, or licence others to do so. Just sayin' because if you really want to err on the side of caution then you'll need to err quite a bit further.

    Happy erring. G'night.

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