Online Images and The Law

Individuals. Non-Profits. Entrepreneurs. Small Business

Fine Art and Graphics Design

More and more we are using stock images for Book Covers or to enhance text-based documents, Web sites and blogs. As a universal rule, most images are protected by copyright laws around the world and permission is required to use the image as is, or to adapt it.

So let’s look at The Law Surrounding Images.

The Copyright Law

The Copyright Law of the United States intends to encourage the creation of art and culture by rewarding authors and artists with a set of exclusive rights. Federal Copyright law grants authors and artists the exclusive right to make and sell copies of their works, the right to create derivative works, and the right to perform or display their works publicly. These exclusive rights are subject to a time limit, and generally, expire 70 years after the author’s death.

No Image on a “normal” website, can be used without that website’s permission (unless they have expressly granted permission). Although it may be unlikely that you would be sued, the fines and penalties for using a picture without permission could potentially be very steep.

The Solution
Hire a Designer
Since the cover is one of the best tools in your marketing arsenal. Your Designer should create something that will stop people in their tracks and evoke interest. The book cover is the hook that will help you to promote your book.

Get a Contract  that spells out in detail where the images are obtained. Because of their knowledge of the market, the best designers will buy the images after you approve them. There are also technical aspects that must be taken into consideration. This is another key reason to hire a quality designer.
But get all the services in writing and review the contract thoroughly.

Buy Stock Images.
There are tons of stock image websites on the Internet. Most allow you to browse photographs online for free, and if you find one you want to use, you can either do so with a link back to the source site crediting the photographer, or you can purchase the rights for a nominal sum. Just be sure to read the terms and conditions first so that you don’t end up inadvertently violating someone else’s copyright.
The advantage of owning your one images is you can use them in the future and you are not tied to a designer.

Stock Image Sites
Free Images: If you use a free image, you must publish an acknowledgement or credit to the site. Theses images a good for websites and making drafts leading to a final product.
Paid Images: If you purchase an image, you are not required to acknowledge credit and it should be production quality. This is what you want for High Quality Book Cover Designs.
Stock Sites:

Free Digital Photos  
Free Stock Images  
iStock Photo  
Stock Vault    
Shutter Stock

Whatever you do, don’t go around the internet stealing images. And if you hire a designer, don’t try to steal his/her hands to put on your brain. That’s like telling your surgeon how to operate on you.
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