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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > January 2016 > Think twice before using others’ images online

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Think twice before using others’ images online

The Internet has made communication faster and easier. However, that does not mean it is harmless to use someone else’s photos, graphics, or other content.

If you or an organization you belong to maintain a website, blog, social media account, or other online presence, be careful when selecting content, such as graphics and images.

One of the greatest challenges when choosing content is figuring out whether it is safe and legal to use. That often comes down to knowing whether the image or photo is protected by federal copyright law. Unfortunately, that is not always a simple task.

Copyright violation is what is called a “strict liability offense.” It does not matter whether you know the photo, image, or other content is protected. All that matters is that the image is used without permission. Although there are some defenses to an allegation of copyright infringement, those justifications do not automatically protect consumers or their organization from being sued.

That is why Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is urging consumers, businesses, and nonprofit groups to exercise due diligence when selecting content to use online and in print.

Attorney General DeWine offers the following tips for protecting consumers from allegations of copyright infringement.
  • Know where the image or picture comes from before you use it. If you cannot find who created the image and get their permission to use it, look for alternative images you have the right to use.
  • Keep in mind that the public availability of a graphic or other content does not mean you have the right to use it.
  • Understand there is no requirement that an image show a copyright mark, trademark notice, or statement of ownership to be protected under federal law.
  • Consider obtaining images and photos from websites and services that offer use of their content free of charge and without attribution (crediting the image’s creator by name).
  • If you or your organization needs specific types of images, consider entering into a contract with a company that provides access to stock photos and images. An Internet search for “stock photos” can provide a good starting point.
  • Remember that paying a small, upfront fee to use an image may save a lot of money down the road compared to the consequences of using an unlicensed or copyrighted image.
If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515, or visiting