How to do Awesome Social Media Without Stealing Pictures!

Oh, you aren’t stealing you say? Well this is one of those situations where “everybody does it” and “I didn’t know that was wrong”, comes into play. We will give you a free pass this one time, because the truth is, the law hasn’t caught up with technology and most people just don’t understand copyright law to begin with. So we will explain it simply.

Here’s an example:


You are a food blogger. You create a recipe about the perfect lasagna. You cook it, photograph it and put it on your blog. Then someone who owns a restaurant comes along and needs a picture of lasagna - they search in Google Images and see your picture. They download it to their computer and post it to their Facebook page advertising their new special. They get lots of customers and make lots of money. Did the person who took the photo get any money? No. Because this is stealing. Don’t do this.

Things you should know:

Creative Commons:  “If you’re looking for content that you can freely and legally use, there is a giant pool of Creative Commons-licensed creativity available to you. There are hundreds of millions of works — from songs and videos to scientific and academic material — available to the public for free and legal use under the terms of their copyright licenses, with more being contributed every day.” 

Fair Use: “Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances”

Criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—are examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.

What is a stock photo?

Stock photography is a supply of photographs that are available to be licensed out for specific uses. It is often cheaper to license a photo than it is to hire a photographer, models, etc. Different licenses give different permissions. On a free stock photo website, a photographer is giving their photo for free, and will list out the allowed uses. For example some photos might be allowed for commerical use, and some only for personal use. 

On a paid stock photo website, photographers are compensated from the company to have their photos available to their customers. The licenses and uses allowed are explained for each website. The main use is commercial, as many design firms, ad agencies, etc. use stock photos in their work.


(be sure to read the license rules for each site)


Ok so what about Social Media?

1. Create original content using properly sourced images as explained above.

2. Piggy back off of other people’s content. Here’s how you can do it without stealing!


Share posts from other sources. For example, if you want to share a recipe from a blogger, share the post from that person’s Facebook Page. Don’t just steal the image. This way you are giving them credit. 


You can screenshot and re-post someone else’s picture, however, you should ask for permission first, and you should tag them in the post. 

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

This is probably one of our biggest pet-peeves on Instagram. People steal photos from other users and post them on their own account without giving credit to the original creator. People will think that YOU took that photo. You are taking credit for something you didn’t create. Not cool. Always tag the person or business that took the photo. At the end of your caption just write: photo credit: @awesomeperson. That’s it, not that hard, right? 

To Sum It All Up

  • The easiest way to not get into a copyright mess is to create your own original content! Take your own pictures, write your own articles, etc.

  • When you do use something - license it legally (as in an image) or if you share someone else’s work - always give credit. 

  • Understand the other point of view. If you created something that you worked really hard on, and someone just stole it and took credit for it and profited from it - wouldn’t you feel horrible? upset? Yes.


So let’s keep things clean, honest and legal, shall we?

Happy creating!


*disclaimer - we aren't copyright lawyers. These are only some good tips to follow, but if you have legal questions about copyright law, you should see a copyright lawyer.