Getting Permission

Some of you send me social media love for or comment about the little photos I generally include with each blog post. Once in a while, you ask about where I get them. That actually prompted a thought in my mind that probably applies to whatever digital presence your business has.

First, let me answer the question. I source my photos from a few sites that offer royalty-free images that are donated by photographers, illustrators, and artists under a Creative Commons license. My two primary sources are and, and I highly recommend either or both to you.

Second, the question this raises for me is how many of you are aware that not every image you find via a search is OK to use? More importantly, how many of you realize that not every piece of content a user posts on their social sites or on your site is content that you have permission to use for commercial purposes? If and when you do an image search, you need to filter the results by “usage rights”, located under “Tools” on Google, for example.

I’m sure each of you read the “Terms of Use” for every site you use or every social service. Who doesn’t love a good 20-page legal document? OK, not so much, but contained in that document is some clause that might allow a service (Facebook, Instagram) to use what you post on the service for their own purposes, but that doesn’t mean that you can use something a consumer posts publicly on those services. It also means, even though you do have some permission from the user, that the user may not actually have the rights to give you if, say, they photograph your product along with several other legally-protected things or in a commercial environment (think theme park, store, etc.). If I post something you created that infringes on a third-party’s rights, I”m just as screwed as you are should they come after you.

The thing to remember is that just because something is posted in public doesn’t mean it’s free for anyone to use. Not photos, not videos, and not even reviews. You need to get permission from the creator as well as from anyone or the owner of anything in the piece of content. Overkill? Maybe, but better safe than sorry as my lawyer friends remind me. In a time when content is everywhere and being created by everyone, so too are the potential problems with using it.

BIG LOUD NOTE: This isn’t legal advice since I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on TV. However, I did spend a lot of years going after people who used copyrighted content without permission. Trust me: you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that situation. Heard?

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