Use Images Carefully - They May be Copyrighted and You Could be Sued

By Karen Cioffi

It’s funny, a couple of months ago I accidentally deleted a lot of my images in GooglePlus. Because of this accident, the images in the blog posts at Writers on the Move were deleted. The grey generic circle took their place.

At the time, I was annoyed with myself and warned everyone to be careful when deleting photos in their Google+ accounts. Using images is an effective way to make our blog posts more engaging. It’s an effective marketing tool.

Well, I recently read two SCARY articles from bloggers, one a PR company, who were sued for using copyrighted images in their blogs without permission. In both cases, it wasn’t done intentionally, but none the less they were sued for a significant amount of money and had to pay.

I don’t copy images off the internet to post on my blogs, at least not that I can remember doing. For years, I’ve used image services like, and buy images when needed. I also use Microsoft Word’s Clipart. And, lately, I’ve been creating my own images, like the one above. I bought the image of the rabbit holding a sign then added the "Be Aware" and background color.

Going back to the articles I read, it was mentioned that even Pinterest could be problematic. Comments mentioned that Pinterest protects itself and if you are caught repinning an image you don’t have the copyright to, you’ll be on your own.

I haven’t read the fine print on the site, so don’t know for sure. It’d be interesting to find out though. I’m thinking of eliminating my boards that could be a problem, like my Around the World and One Day. I love the images on them, but they’re not worth possibly being sued over.

So, should this concern ordinary, run-of-the-mill bloggers?


This isn’t just a scenario heavy-hitter sites need to worry about. It’s something anyone blogging with images needs to be concerned about, unless your 100% sure your images are safe.

I’m including the links to both articles because I think everyone should be warned about this. Ignorance of copyright laws won’t save you. Adding attribution or taking the image down won’t save you. It’s time to rethink image use before it’s too late.

You’ll learn a whole lot more from these articles:

"Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog - My Story"
(Read the comments also for tips on safe images)

"How using Google Images can cost you $8,000"

I love to know what you think of this using images in your posts. And, it'd be great if you share where you get your images from.


Kathleen Moulton said...

Karen, I've been using

"We host over 190 million free Creative Commons images from many online sources .. "

So important to pay attention when you google an image when it says "this photo may be subject to copyright".

Thanks so much for this article and the links. I will spread the word!

Karen Cioffi said...

Kathleen, this is actually a serious matter and one that can be extremely costly. Everyone needs to be aware of this. Thanks for passing the word around.

D. Jean Quarles said...

As an amateur photographer myself and author I'm very careful about copyright issues. On my personal blog I only post photos I (or if I'm the subject, a family member) have taken. I'm not great about signing my photos and know someone could come by and take them. I request they don't but I'm not going to police it. Personally I feel blogging is a written and visual media - so you might as well learn how to take your own photos and edit to create what you need. For editing my photos I use pic monkey.

Margaret Fieland said...

Kathleen, this is one of the reasons I'm so fond of using my own images. I know I won't sue myself :-)

Magdalena Ball said...

Wow - this is scary stuff. I had a publisher once just take an image off the internet (which they claimed was in the public domain) and use it as a cover for my book (translated into a foreign language). They told me they had permission and when I write to the artist to thank her, she got very angry and said that the picture was used illegally. I kicked up a fuss with the publisher and forbade them to publish the book until they changed the image to a legal one, which I then checked thoroughly, but I was flabbergasted that they were so clueless with respect to copyright. I always use 'freely available' images in my blog posts, but I worry that sometimes you can't trust those sites either - they may say freely available but some of the images are still subject to restriction? Is it okay to use Microsoft Word images on blogs?

Karen Cioffi said...

Jean, wise move. I now only use images I create or ones I buy from reputable services, like

Karen Cioffi said...

Margaret, are you sure? :) As I mentioned, I am now using my own images, but I do worry about older images on Writers on the Move and my other sites. Scary.

Karen Cioffi said...

Unbelievable! You'd think you're safe with a publisher. Go figure. Ultimately, it's the author's or blogger's responsibility to make sure the images are safe to use.

This is good to know, so other authors can be aware. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great post Karen. I try and be careful about the photos I use, but the repinning on pinterest is worrisome. It's hard enough making sure images I use are not infringing on copyright issues, I don't have the time to check with things I re-pin. I may have to re-think pinterest.

Honoring Your Voice

As a writer, your voice is one of your most powerful assets. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, novels, screenplays, marketing copy, y...