4 Illegal Things You Need To Stop Doing With Your Graphics

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 Four illegal things you need to stop doing with your graphics.

Have you ever created a really cool quote image and then saw someone else posted your image not ten minutes later? Doesn't that just piss you off? 

Hold up, let me preface this by saying I'm not an attorney. This should not be taken as legal advice. I'm not liable for anything. I use the term "illegal" loosely since I am not an expert in the law. 

A few years ago, I did a fundraiser to support breast cancer research which is especially near and dear to me, because my besties mom is a survivor! I made a really cute pink graphic to say thank you on my  Facebook wall, it was very personal. I swear it hadn’t even finished loading by the time someone else my company posted my graphic as their own.

A lot of people think this isn’t a big deal but it is. It was a heartfelt message and someone just took it. 

I wish this was the only time someone has stolen my work, but it isn’t.

Another time, a local sign maker removed my watermark from a logo I created before the client had paid their final invoice. Another time someone took something I had made as my freebie and changed two things and then put her own logo on it and gave it away free. Please tell me you are feeling shocked. These things are not ok. Most people don’t even think twice about these things. 

When you know better, you do better.

Four common copyright mistakes you might be doing without knowing they are actually illegal.

These are the most common mistakes. 

 1- Using images or graphics from Google search on your blog or Facebook business page. 

In plain english, you cannot search on google and use the images that pop up in the image search box. The person who took the picture or created the artwork owns the rights of the photos. 

Sometimes people think if an image doesn’t have a watermark it’s free game. And the answer is still no. This is like thinking you can drive someone else’s car, just because it doesn’t have their name on it. Obviously that's not ok, and the same goes for phots and images on the internet.

2- Using artwork from a shop that has a watermark all over it.  

Even my kid’s pediatrician’s office does this. Major pet peeve. 

You cannot use an image that has a watermark all over it from a place like ShutterStock or Getty Images or anywhere for that matter. The watermark is meant to stop you from using it. It’s still against copyright laws to use a photo without permission even if it has a watermark on it. 

In this case, this is like driving a car that does have the owners name plastered all over it. It makes you look silly. 

These types of images exist so that you can preview how something will look before purchasing. In my case, I will download the previews from stock image sources to get my clients approval before I buy the photos or artwork. 

3- Taking screenshot on your phone instead of hitting the share button.

 Used to be on Facebook, if you saw something you liked you took a screenshot and reposted it. There was no share button. No one ever had a second thought about it, including myself. But, it’s not ok. 

When you see something you like, you need to use the “share” button so that the original poster gets the credit. Of course, this gets tricky if the person who you saw post didn’t share from a credible place. There’s not much you can do about that, just know that “not knowing” or accidentally using someone else’s images, doesn’t make you in the clear. 

This also covers Instagram. Even though there is not an official re-gram button, you must get permission from the original photographer to post their photo. Just send them a DM, it's not hard. Update: You can now share posts you like to your stories using the the little airplane icon, be sure to tag the person so they know you shared it out! 

If you do get permission from them to share. Give them credit! TAG THE PERSON! 

4- Putting your watermark on something you did not create or do not have permission to use. 

The one thing that is worse than using someone else’s stuff is trying to pass it off on your own. Even as I’m writing this, I’m rolling my eyes. This happens all the time. Do not do this. It’s not yours to be marking up. 

If you like a photo someone else took, ask their permission to repost and then give them a shout out in the comments! Let them know you like their stuff and you value the work they put in.  Isn't that what you would want? (It's called respect. We are all out there trying to do our best. end rant.)

And just so you know you CAN get fined for using a photo that you do not own the rights to use.

Imagine if that “free” image ends up costing you $3000 or more in legal fees.

It happens. And, it's not worth the risk. 

Ok, so what CAN you do to share pictures and create graphics? 

The best thing to do is take your own photos. This is the only way to ensure that everything you do is 100% ok. If you can’t take your own, then you could hire someone else to take photos.

The next best option is to buy your images and artwork from reputable places. In this case, if something ever was questionable you can prove where and when you bought the images. 

You can find places that have small monthly fee in exchange for images. Sometimes they have a limit per month or it can be unlimited. It seems to me that smaller companies tend offer unlimited plans at great price, like Oh Tilly. Oh Tilly is only $25 per month, which is an unbeatable price, and you have unlimited access to the photos and she even offers some freebies in her newsletters, like the photo below.


You can also buy per images or in smaller bundles on places like Creative Market or Etsy, if you don't feel like you would be able to justify the price a subscription. 

Related: Jazz Up Your Graphics With These Resources

There are places that offer photos and artwork free for commercial use or photos that have creative commons copyright. Which means the original creator has given permission for anyone to use their work. The number one thing to remember when using sites with free images is that you need to read the Terms of Use agreement. Every site has different regulations and sometimes two pictures from the same place can have different rules.

Related: Free for Commercial Use Stock Photo Website Round Up
You might also find this infographic from HubSpot to be helpful! 

Is This Copyright Infringement? What Images You Can & Can't Share [Infographic] 


Have you ever had someone else share your images without your permission? What did you do?