I’ve mentioned this a couple of times here, but after reading Roni Loren’s guest post at Pub Rants, I’ll say it again — anyone who regularly blogs and uses images on their site needs to think about creating an account with a royalty-free stock photo site (I use Fotolia often, but also Shutterstock and iStockphoto), or use images that have a Creative Commons license (you can search for these at sites like Flickr) or that are in the public domain (and it’s not a good idea to assume something is.)
If you go back a few years in my blog posts, you’ll see that I wasn’t always the most conscientious person regarding where I grabbed stuff from, and it’s true that there are a few things I still grab from the internet — for example, images of products from the official sites (so if I want to post a picture of a new Starbucks drink, I go to their site rather than taking my own picture.) It’s also then a good idea to use a thumbnail version and to directly reference the product in your post, so that it will likely be covered under fair use.
I’m also guilty of making screencaps of TV shows and movies now and then — usually in reference to a movie that I’m posting about, or to illustrate a point. This likely falls under fair use (though a long excerpt of a movie on YouTube probably would not) but maybe not.
But lately I’ve been super-careful not to re-post images of artwork that I find on the web unless the artist gives permission to re-post, and not using photographs that aren’t clearly marked Creative Commons or that I’ve licensed through a stock photo site — that link to Roni Loren’s post above gives one reason not to do this (being sued is never fun) but there is a more pressing reason for me: I would feel pretty hypocritical to care about my own copyright and then post copyrighted images without permission and/or paying for their use.
Like writers, photographers and artists are trying to make a living, too, and the way that they do that is by controlling the licensing of their images. Some photographers license those images for free; others don’t. So before you post, please stop for a second and actually make certain that you have the right to do it.