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Photography and Copyright

Updated on July 20, 2011
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.

 Much discussion has taken place in various forums about using photographs from the internet to illustrate one’s writing. It is so easy to right click and copy, then paste a photo into your own computer and use at will that many are surprised to learn this is not legal in most cases.

"When in doubt, do without"

“When I doubt, do without” should be our mantra when considering doing this. If the website does not specifically state a photograph is in the public domain then it is not up for grabs; it is under copyright protection. This means you cannot use the photograph without the permission of the owner of the copyright. Copyright law gives authors and artists the ability to control the reproduction and use of their creative expressions that have been fixed in tangible form such as literary, graphic, photographic, audio, visual and musical works.

There are websites online that offer photographs to the public for use. Some such as stock companies offer the use for a fee. Photographers can extend various rights for publication for free or for a fee. Some of those rights include: one-time rights, first rights, serial rights, exclusive rights, promotion rights, work for hire and all rights.

Public domain means the copyright has expired and not been renewed and the work can be freely used without the permission of the former owner. Knowing when and if the copyright has expired will require research. Generally works created or published after January 1, 1978 are protected for the life of the copyright holder plus seventy years.

For a complete guide to everything about copyright law to the US Copyright Office website.


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      useful article. When I've tried to download public domain photos, they download quickly but take forever to upload into hubpages, that I just give up

    • profile image

      \Brenda Scully 

      10 years ago

      Those photos are really beautiful, I am new to this site and trying to learn.......

      Thanks for your kindness, I am going to read through more of your hubs, maybe I will write one just so I can use your pictures....

    • shibashake profile image


      10 years ago

      These are lovely photos. I especially love the third one. Amazon is a good source of photos for me. Does not take much work and you get a product plug out of it :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      You are 100% correct. I also like your mantra, "When in doubt, do without." It is unfortunate many people do not abide by this and even worse, many large companies don't either.

    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      10 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Me, too. Of course that doesn't keep anyone from using them on a website since that doesn't take high res.

    • GiftedGrandma profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      Nice photos...I always try to reduce my resolution on photos when I am concerned with them being stolen(have my senior moments and forget though) Great hub post!


    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      10 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Thanks, Rochelle;o)

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      I think a lot of people are unclear on this.

      (Nice photos; you have come a long way in a short time.)


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