IN YOUR SHOES Tips For Small Business

Online Advertising Tips

Diana Pohly

Self-Defense: Make Sure that Images and Copy You Find Online Are Safe to Use

Use these free online checkers to keep your content safe

When designing websites or marketing emails, many companies today seem to think it is permissible to “borrow” images or text from other websites. And the fact is, it’s just not safe. Here are some common assumptions that could put your company at risk of legal action:


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  • One of my business partners used an image, so I have the right to use it too.” There is no guarantee that your partner went through the proper “due diligence” steps to obtain permission. There is still the chance that the person who took the photograph or created an illustration will contact you to demand a fee for its use.
  • It is safe to use anything the government publishes, without getting permission.” Some companies assume that if they “borrow” an image from a government website, they are safe from copyright violations. That’s not always the case. There is still the chance that the person who took the photograph retains ownership of it.
  • I found this material on a website where it was used without giving credit, so it must be safe to use.” The fact that one website doesn’t display a permissions line below a photo or other material doesn’t mean that you are safe to reproduce it too.
  • As long as I give credit, I can’t get in trouble.” Other people believe that they can use any image or reprint any article, as long as they link back to its original source online, or give credit. This practice has gotten to be common in our Internet age – yet it is always safer to ask permission.

In many cases, companies will give you permission to use their articles, opinions, graphs, or other illustrations if you ask ahead of time. Getting permission doesn’t require a big commitment of time – simply email the owner of the material you want to use in your online advertising or marketing, get a reply, and be sure to keep those emails on file in case disputes later arise.

Safe steps to take before using photos, graphs, or illustrations . . .