This is probably the most common thing I hear as an editor and it is incorrect. The hippy, free-love days of the internet are long over (if they ever existed). Using an image from the internet without seeking permission is really no different than stealing it off the wall at the photographer's exhibit.
The first thing to remember is that the author of the website or blog may have asked permission to use the image on their site. The second thing to remember is that many people are using images without proper permissions. The CEO of PicScout, a global leader in image tracking, stated in 2011 that over 85% of images used online are subject of copyright infringement.
At its core copyright is easy, either you took a picture and then it belongs to you or you didn’t take the picture and then you need to ask permission to use it. Of course, there are exceptions.
- Does your photo contain an object protected by copyright?
- Is there a trademarked item in your photo?
- Are you using a photo of a person for commercial benefit?
Similarly, your cover photo has a corporate logo featured prominently; you could be suggesting that the corporation endorses your project or is somehow affiliated.
You have a photo of your friends skiing that you want to use as the cover image. Suddenly, your friends have become models and their permission must be requested. People have a right to profit, and exclude someone else from profiting on their photograph or likeness.
Remember, you have not violated copyright by taking the picture but you could violate copyright if you publish the picture.
“But I am not making money from my blog, book, etc.” Copyright is violated by using information not by profiting from it.
More copyright thoughts to come in future posts.