biz ladiesLife & Business

how to credit? just check the poster…

by Grace Bonney

Poster by Pia, Erin and Yvette

It’s hard to describe how excited I was to see some of my blogging colleagues become as passionate about blogging ethics and etiquette as I was. For the last year or so I’ve been quietly talking to blogging friends to see if they were as itchy as I was to create some sort of conversation about what we will and won’t stand for in terms of the way we behave and the way other people behave toward us. It was the reason I created the Blogging Etiquette panel at Alt this year and the reason I decided to write the longest three Biz Ladies posts of my life two months ago.

One of the major issues I covered was crediting (when, how and why you should do it) and I was thrilled to see that Pia and Erin took that idea one step further and created this playful (but helpful and practical) poster with artist Yvette Boven that will help anyone interested in crediting issues get some clarification. I’m a firm believer that rising tides raise all ships, and I’m so happy to see more people taking their blogs seriously. I really believe it will help everyone in our community and aid in the cause of mainstream media taking us a bit more seriously. Congrats to these ladies on their hard work and this great poster. xo, grace

UPDATE: the poster above has been changed to reflect the typo/legal notes brought up in conversations online today.

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  • Fantastic! I work in advertising & there are clear rules in traditional media, but I have found in new media, lines have seemed blurred. Kudos to you for raising the issue & I have read and past on all your posts concerning this issue. And loving the poster!! Will pass it on!

    • leslie

      agreed. i think the lines are pretty clear, but they’re just not enforced, followed or widely known by most people. so i’m thrilled to see this issue really taken off and not being written off as “too serious” for bloggers. i think we’d all benefit from people taking us more seriously, and things like this will really help. not to mention raise the bar on quality of content and improve relationships between bloggers. win win :)


  • bravo. omg. genius.
    thank you for offering this awareness.
    i hope it motivates the etiquette we know bloggers are capable of.
    *high five* to grace, pia, erin, & yvette.

  • This is great, and I really appreciate the effort you’ve been making to draw more attention to this issue, Grace (and everyone who’s written the Biz Ladies posts and created this poster!).

    I hope (hope!) that folks truly are taking notice and addressing this on their blogs going forward—and maybe even going backward, too. I cringe every time I see uncredited, unsourced images on blogs…which is every single day. That’s a lot of cringing!

  • This is fantastic and I’m so glad you’ve taken up this issue to discuss, Grace! Someone had to! I see people post photos that are not their own without correct credit all the time and it bugs me so much!

    Even just taking credit for finding something and not linking where you originally found it is, in my opinion, quite rude.

  • This is really wonderful..a great set of guidelines for bloggers everywhere…loving the poster too…a little complicated but i’m working on it!! thanks for this very useful post, Grace…do stop by my blog to answer a fun question today!!! xx meenal

  • thank you so much, grace! it’s been such an inspiration to see you and other bloggers pave the way for online etiquette, so thank YOU. you’ve been a steadfast pioneer and a wonderful example for the rest of us. :)

  • Hate to be a pain but…

    You should ask the creator for permission before posting – period. Just because it’s up on the internet doesn’t mean it’s fair game. Copyright doesn’t get absolved just because it’s online and you’re not making any money off of it. If you want to be respected as a creator you need to repect other creators.

  • Love this. When I joined the blogging community I was sooo confused as to what the “rules” were. I didn’t want to do anything unethical so I tried to look at other people’s blogs that I respected to see how they handled credits, etc. I like this ;)

  • Yes, I hate when I see an image I love and can’t find the original source! It just seems so common sense to me to note where you found it.

    (Does the poster say “Pininterest” though? Should it be Pinterest?)

  • Check out wylio.com . You can search for images (available via CC licenses on Flickr) and insert them on your website quickly and easily, while automatically crediting the artist.

    Not sufficient for all purposes, but a heck of a lot better than what most people do.

  • I wish it were big enough for me to read. I followed links from Yvette’s site to Flickr, but it is still too small.

    What is the point of making it if it cannot be used? Why is it locked up by copyright and “all rights reserved”?

    If you want to spread this message, then set it free.

    • hi mindy

      the original image is 700 pixels wide, which was clear enough for me to see on my computer. is it reading smaller on yours?

      also, there’s a difference between copyrighting something and not sharing it. these girls are clearly sharing this around, but would appreciate being credited for their work. if they don’t copyright it the individual design could be replicated elsewhere for commercial purposes and they’d have no legal rights.


  • This is AWESOME. From someone who educates folks on copyright law at least once a week, I appreciate you fine folks putting this together. I’ll be sure to point people to this page.

  • Cute fun way to bring this up. Love it, and as a photographer I totally appreciate it. I love it when people use my work and post links. More exposure, more love, I have even discovered new blogs and people this way. Only the occasional old school photographer would get mad for posting a photo with a link and no payment per use…like they do in ads.

    Thanks for this post.


  • Where might one purchase a copy of this? I’d love to have it up in my office as a funky reminder for my team.

  • It’s really cute, but the second “credit” was left out of “Give credit where credit is due,” right? Am I crazy?

  • The fashion bloggers repost each others photos all the time. It’s like, if I’m looking at your site odds are I’m also looking at 20 other similar blogs. Takes a lot of effort to create original content these days.

    • mobeta

      it certainly does- and that’s why those of us that do it protect our content carefully. i think the trend of re-blogging everything everywhere will start to die out soon and be relegated to more personal blogs. photographers are going to start enforcing copyrights more and more so i think we’ll see that die down a bit in the next 1-2 years.


  • Thanks so much for this! Almost everything I post is from Etsy or another online shop so I always provide a link, and I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with exposure, but the former student in me still feels weird.

  • HELLO! Jackie is right! You don’t have permission to post anything WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE CREATOR OF THE IMAGE. PERIOD. CREDITED OR NOT. It’s against the law. And everything any artist/writer/photographer creates is AUTOMATICALLY copyrighted to the creator.

  • I have a Pinterest account, but make sure all sources are mentioned.

    In my own blog I publish only my own photos. I have noted some of my photos in other blogs an dhave immdly sent a friendly, but firm comment informing that I have the copyright to the photo and should have been asked permission to use it.

    Nowadays I mostly publish collages in my blog that people are less willing to copy to their blogs.

  • This is great. I agree with you that somehow giving credit has become lax. I think there are a handful of reasons why though. I think there are a lot of situations where outside designers are working with a clients’ internal marketing people who haven’t ever worked in an creative agency setting. And they don’t want to pay for images, which is a separate issue, but I think that mindset has to infiltrate the overall thinking about the value of an artist/ photographers image. It’s not to say agencies and designers are free from sin, and that all internal marketing people are to blame. But I think when people think that despite a lack of training, talent, coupled with their ability to buy design software packages that somehow that makes them a designer, then they don’t know the rules to start with and they don’t care about them either. And as a creative, one of the most basic rules is to give credit/payment where it is due, end of story/

    I didn’t realize there were sources to track down an image, that is great. I look on fffound.com and find it so frustrating when I can’t find an artist or photographer’s name. I love that as a way of viewing peoples work and being able to buy prints from them. Or just be inspired and keep up with them. So it is frustrating when you like something on there and other sites and hit a dead end. Thanks for posting the reverse look up.

    • peacay

      fair use is actually far from what most people do when they “borrow” images. fair use doesn’t mean that you can use any image you want for any purpose. most people use that as a blank check to do whatever they want without full investigating what “fair use” actually means.


  • I 100% agree with the sentiment of this (rather clumsy and ugly, it has to be said) poster. I at least credit, and if possible [nearly always] get express prior permission, when I post images to my blog, and I believe everyone should do that. But copyright and fair use are two completely different things:

    Copyright law protects your work from being REPRODUCED or RESOLD. It also protects your work from being used by someone WHO CLAIMS IT AS THEIR OWN. That’s why US Copyright Law has a magical clause called Fair Use: “Fair use is a judicial doctrine that refers to a use of copyrighted material that does not infringe or violate the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. Examples of fair use involve the reproduction of works for the purpose of “criticism, comment, news reporting,…scholarship, or research”.

    …that passage came from Regretsy.com, where this subject rears its head an awful lot.

  • I’m genuinely shocked at the suggestion that naming the photographer makes it ok to publish someone else’s work, or that asking permission gets you “bonus points.” This is really hazardous misinformation, giving people the idea that it’s fine for them to keep violating copyright as long as they’re giving credit to the person they stole from. Please don’t spread this around.

    This doesn’t require a chart: If you aren’t the creator of something (and don’t know what fair use means and that you’re within those rights), don’t post it without permission or payment, period. And that’s true whether it’s text or an image. Giving credit is totally beside the point.

  • I just had someone rip off my blog layout. I sent them an email but, of course, no reply. I am beyond frustrated. It seems a lot of blogs are talking about stealing photos but not layouts and ideas. Does anyone have any advice about what I could do?

  • While the poster looks great, it actually ignores copyright law and various creative commons licenses. It is both too lenient and too restrictive, depending on the license of the image in question. But in terms of promoting a better atmosphere for participation, I wholeheartedly support the poster and its sentiment.

  • also, for bloggers who’d like free, creative commons images for their posts: check out http://www.wylio.com — it automatically puts the image credits at the bottom and writes the proper sizing code. highly recommended.

  • Okay, this is utterly fantastic. I’ve also seen the “see something, cite something” poster that someone else commented about, which is also great.

    Can I post this on my blog?

  • Fantastic!!! what a fantastic job by two of my favorite people, Pia & Yvette! I know as a professional photographer how infuriating it is to have your work used without your knowledge or consent. Remember that though even with a proper photo credit that you still do not have the LEGAL right to use an image without explicit consent from the copyright holder even under “fair use” exceptions since that is widely misinterpreted. As a Photog I see a PROPER photo credit on a blog as a professional courtesy – you still infringed on my copyright but I’m not going to sue. Remember even if you remove someone’s work after being requested to it still doesn’t cancel out the original infringement and you’d still be held accountable if the copyright holder pursues legal action. As a blogger {even as an amateur} you have the responsibility to learn what is expected of you – anything else is not just ignorant, it shows a serious lack of integrity.

  • I used to assume as long as the image I was using on my blog linked back to the source, or if I mentioned the owner somewhere in my post, it was all good… Then I read the etiquette posts on d*s and realized I should PROBABLY start actually asking for permission from the owners, rather than just assuming they don’t mind.

    It feels good to ask permission (as simple as that notion is, it’s easy to ignore). And even better, it feels REALLY good to make contact and share words of appreciation with someone who has inspired me.

    And today, one of my favorite local artists, Jill Bliss, replied to my request to post some of her artwork. Not only was she very gracious in letting me post her images, but she even posted about ME on her blog in return!

    Thanks for helping guide the blogging community to be more respectful of each other’s work. Only good things can come from it!

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Use

    I recommend everyone take the time to read the whole article. Copyright and Fair Use are complex issues and specific to each piece of work. They can’t be distilled into universal principles exactly; rather, the principles have to be applied to each situation or each use of a work.

    And although I know it’s not to the letter of the law exactly (although it may be), I personally believe in Fair Play in the online world. For post-1923 material, you ask permission from the owner and you link and provide full attribution and you don’t swipe and republish a whole portfolio or similar.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Use#Fair_use_on_the_Internet —->
    9th Circuit Court of Appeals found “the fact that the photographs had already been published diminished the significance of their nature as creative works”.

    So if you want to retain full rights, if you want to disallow Fair Use, if you want to ensure that noone infringes your copyright : DON’T PUBLISH YOUR WORK ON THE INTERNET!

  • I like the idea, but the chaotic layout and typos hurt my head. Also, I don’t necessarily want people using my photos at ALL to illustrate their blogs, even if they credit me. So ask, every time!

  • This is really helpful (and pretty).

    As a relatively new blogger, it’s confusing territory. Especially when you want to reference work of people who influence you.

  • I have read so many posts about image crediting, proper sourcing and copyright recently. I am always interested in ethics but since we started our business & blogging ethics theme on Oh My it’s been all I seem to read!
    From what I am getting in the comments here many people seem to feel that no one should be sharing anything without getting prior permission from the source, ever.
    I am absolutely in agreement that there should be a code of ethics for bloggers & I sure wish you got the blogging cliff notes before making that first post. I wonder if anyone would start a blog if they did!
    I know it’s far from a perfect world & lots of people steal & act in totally unethical ways. But so many “infringements” are people who genuinely love another person’s work and want to share it. If I demanded that no one share anything from my site without explicit permission my readership would be tiny! Once you share something on the internet it begins to ripple outward, the greater your influence the greater the ripple…do we not want that to happen? That’s the viral nature of the internet that can lift an artist or photographer into the public eye in a heartbeat. While I think there needs to be a method of crediting that is simple & achievable (& I think this poster does a great job of) it shouldn’t be at the expense of creating a community either. I’ve made so many friends and connections by sharing peoples work and I have learned lots about crediting along the way.
    I just hope there is always room in the blogging world for people to have a learning curve & instead of being angry we work together to educate & support each other ethically but kindly too.

    • jessika

      i agree with your sentiment wholeheartedly, but i think the exact opposite about the community aspect. when people share the same images over and over without permission, i think they diminish the quality and uniqueness of their site and burn bridges with their community of bloggers at the same time. without good relationships (between bloggers, photogs and stylists), we’re at a severe disadvantage- and i think that, at a bare minimum, using good blogging etiquette about image/content usage is the best way to preserve those relationships and improve the professionalism of the community.

      these guidelines aren’t in any way preventing the spread of content, they’re merely crediting the source of the content. if you make a living from your blog, your photos or your styling, it’s crucial to be supported by the community benefitting from “sharing” your content. and i think we’re doing the people we love (those content creators) a disservice if we don’t support and credit them in a way that benefits their businesses.


  • Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!

    Being new to the game I have been very curious as to the etiquette but have yet to find something so clearly expressed as far as blog rules to live by!

    AND… as a designer I seriously HEART the poster!!!

    Best!! Ang

  • I see the current copyright problem as a misunderstanding among online business and artists. Copyright infringement is a badly misplaced sales opportunity. Someone wanted to use your work and didn’t see a practical, affordable, or even a way to pay. If it’s photography consider making the photographs available for a fee a month.

    If your layout is being ripped off consider selling an affordable/downloadable option? Often those who complain have no method of selling a product to the masses. I believe people would love to pay freelancers they meet online but aren’t sure how to go about it. We are in such a rush to accuse people of breaking the law that what we miss is that they love our work. I know there are real creepers out there who want to do harm. Just be mindful that wanna bees will usually pay for the goods if sold nicely. Don’t call your potential customer a criminal. Assuming the worst about people is never the right way to go.

    Read more at Design*Sponge http://www.designspongeonline.com/2011/03/how-to-credit-just-check-the-poster.html#ixzz1GuqeGBui

  • I agree with jessika. I am all for crediting where crediting is due and always make sure to do so. But the fact that every time I open my reader to find the same people blogging and tweeting ober and over again, making people feel like they shouldn’t blog at all just to be safe, it really makes me sad for this so called community we have. It’s unfortunate :(

  • thank you thank you thank you!!!!
    I am always sooooo frustrated when I can not find the source of a work, I find tumblrs especially annoying for that :/

    I will share this as widely as I can :-)

  • I definitely agree Grace credit must be given! Without question people need to cite their sources & this is a great guideline. I also think it’s important to ask permission. I don’t feel like the poster/this post or your Ethics & Etiquette posts are preventing the spread of content. I think you are bringing together your experience & others & gifting it to us. And I thank you for that! I hope my comment didn’t reflect that I don’t agree because I do, I was more concerned with the tone of many of the comments.I hope having clear & easy to understand info like this makes a hard topic easier. Also thank you for your thoughtful reply to my comment-I just love that you take the time to respond. That’s the true community building!

    • jessika

      thanks so much for your feedback- i know there are some intense comments floating around, but i think most of us are hoping to reach a bare minimum of ethics/etiquette and then build from there. it’s totally the wild west with blogging credit these days ;)


  • THANK YOUUU so much for this and for all the biz ladies posts- they are bookmarked and i find myself referencing them almost every time i post on my blog. as a brand new blogger, i’m learning something new about this community every day, and having such smart “big sisters” really helps when learning the ins & outs!

  • I’m finding myself a little flustered by this topic. I absolutely recognize the value of crediting sources. My blog is very image heavy and I always clearly state where each image was found and include a link to the source. In the past I have read conversations like these amongst bloggers where the general consensus was that a clear name drop and link was sufficient in most cases. Now I’m being bombarded with this idea of asking permission for every single image. I am an amateur blogger working with my spare time; a huge amount of the images I post come from large companies like magazines, a lot of them foreign. Is it really necessary for me to contact these entities each and every time I want to promote their image and wait for a response? This would severely hinder my ability to blog regularly. I know the frequency of my blogging is utterly unimportant compared to upholding the law and honoring artists, but can you guys see why I’m so flustered?

    I really want to do the right thing, but a lot of what you guys are saying is squelching my enthusiasm and making me feel positively trapped by these rules. Why is it that this law of copyright and fair use seems to have so many interpretations? How is a little person like me supposed to know who to listen to?

    • christina

      i don’t think any of us want people to feel squelched by rules, but we do however want the people who create the original content you’re running on your blog to not have their businesses squelched by losing out on the revenue they depend on to keep creating. if magazines, stylists and photographers don’t receive income, or at the least, referrals and traffic from their work being everywhere, they lose business. i see it as a responsibility of being part of a digital community. if you use something that isn’t yours, it’s polite to ask first.

      in terms of legality, it’s fairly clear cut. what’s not clear cut is how often, and by whom, it’s enforced. very few bloggers, mags and photogs are enforcing their copyrights right now, but i don’t think it will be that way forever.

      i hope you’re able to understand where those of us who create original content for a living are coming from. most of us just want to be able to receive credit for work we’ve paid for- either with money or time (or both).

      magazines seem to be ok with people using their images right now, but i see that as a problem in the making. fewer people seem to be buying intl magazines now because they’re readily scanned on american blogs. if we all mourned the loss of domino, we should be careful about driving people away from subscribing. i’ve seen way too many comments on twitter and on blogs that say “thanks, i can’t stomach the price tag on these japanese design magazines so it’s great to get to read them here for free instead.” i think if you care about keeping original publishing (in print or web form) alive, it’s part of your obligation as a member of the publishing community to respect original content.

      that said, these are all opinions being shared right now. copyrights are real and enforceable, but i think most of us are trying to get a dialogue started and raise awareness about the issues and very real concerns of content producers. i know i feel that discussions like this will really increase discussion among bloggers that may not have ever talked before, which will bring about more friendships and collaboration- two things that are always good for the community.

      my hope is that you’ll see this not as a list of things you CAN’T do, but rather a list of things you should do FIRST before posting. if it hinders the speed with which you post, perhaps it will inspire everyone to focus more on creating original content (even sharing iphone images from around your area that inspire you) that you don’t need permission to run.


  • Grace,
    Wow you wrote even more than I did. Haha. Thank you for responding.

    This whole issue clearly runs a lot deeper than merely how to appropriately credit sources. It seems as though technology has evolved faster than the law.

    I guess it is just hard for me to understand why most people wouldn’t welcome the free publicity. If I saw a way in which to financially compensate creators of original content that would be different. But as it stands, their images are already published to the internet. How is my reposting their content with proper credit and linking hindering their business? That is a sincere question; please enlighten me if I am missing something.

    That being said, I do understand that taking the extra step to ask for permission and let the creator know personally how much I enjoy their image is an awesome thing to do. I really want to be a classy, respectful blogger and you have inspired me to give this a try whenever possible.

    Oddly enough, my predominant feeling leaving this conversation is that my blogging is kind of lame. Haha. What I mean by that is that I can see how having original content is much cooler and a real way to contribute to the digital community. Unfortunately, my blog is about interior design and I do not foresee ever having the resources to create large amounts of original content on the same level as the images I currently share.

    Do you see a place in the future digital world for blogs like mine that merely round up and repost collections of inspiring images?

    • Hi Christina

      Thanks so much for continuing to discuss this with me :)

      Something that you said gets at the core of my point. You said that if the images are already everywhere than why do you have to ask for permission. I honestly don’t think it will always be this way- I think photogs and stylists will start charging (most likely discounted) photo rights for web use (like veer or corbis) and we won’t see so many people reposting willy nilly.

      Frankly- that sort of future gives me hope for blogs because I think it’s a future that allows for people who create original content to be paid and supported for what they do. And when more creative people can afford to do what they love, it’s better for all of us.

      As for a future of blogs that repost like aggregates- I think they will continue to exist but they won’t be able to stand out from the pack. Ive been thrilled to see so many young bloggers embrace and realize how unique content increases traffic and respect among peers.

      That said, you could totally talk about original things more often without having to design new homes for a post. Why not take an inspiration trip around town and post your photos? Take a trip to a design museum and talk about what you saw and how that relates to current design trends. Have readers send in problem rooms and solve them via a weekly column that uses readily available retail based images for a product roundup. The sky’s the limit.

      Think of your blog as what YOU have to say and what makes how YOU see the world different and the ideas for posts will start flowing :)


  • I love the poster. I guess my question is how can I cite in twitter better where characters are limited?

  • Grace,
    It is so sweet of you to care about what I’m saying and respond. Thank you! :)

    I also think it would be great if more photographers and the like were set up to charge for the use of their images. It’s difficult to imagine exactly how that would work; would every image have to be held on a website like Veer? I hope not. But at the rate technology is growing I don’t doubt someone will find a solution eventually.

    I really really appreciate your thoughts on how to create unique content. Although I don’t want to completely stop blogging inspirational images (with permission) found on the web, I am intrigued by the idea of trying to brainstorm ways I might be able to create my own original content. It won’t be easy with my limited resources, but I’m willing to entertain the possibilities.

    But any way you look at it, I’m not going to be able to, for example, take a day trip to Sweden to photograph their lovely interiors, and I still want to share inspiration from around the world with my readers. So I hope there are always systems in place that allow me to do that respectfully. That’s one of the beautiful things about the internet- it connects us to things going on across the globe that we wouldn’t otherwise have any chance to experience.

  • Hi Christina,

    Likewise- it’s so nice to be able to have a calm discussion about something that can be somewhat contentious ;)

    I really do believe you’ll be able to do both with your blogging- original content and inspiration-based imagery. There’s no reason people can’t keep posting images from other people as long as they have permission- most people I know always give permission, they just appreciate the nod of asking first.

    That said, I promise you it doesn’t cost much to do original content. You can spend maybe $50 a week and come up with tons of content. I suggest mining your local flea markets for projects you can redo (or even using supplies around the house) or just investing in a smart phone that lets you take pictures and blog about your area whenever you want. Believe me, we don’t have the budget for a Swedish trip either, but we invest where necessary and do the rest on a majorly shoestring budget.

    But all that comes with time and just getting used to blogging- I know you’re going to be great and will find a way to combine all the things you love with your own unique voice. Your willingness to chat and be open minded about new ideas and respecting others’ content is a great start and will serve you well as you continue to develop your blog.

    Best of luck :)


  • Grace, I just want to thank you again for giving so much light to this subject. As an influencer in the blog world, your reach is wide; hopefully more people are learning about the ethics of publishing other peoples’ work. I’d love to see a model eventually lock in place that follows the practices of traditional media.

    And for the record, I think the image above is anything but clumsy or ugly. It’s AWESOME!

  • Grace,

    I can’t thank you enough for your kind words and encouragement. You are truly a class act. Whatever happens with my blogging endeavors, I will always remember this conversation and the kindness you treated me with.


  • Where do you draw the line between Stealing vis-à-vis Crediting? I’m indifferent to the crediting or stealing of content. It doesn’t matter to me. Those who steal do it for various reasons. If they just happen to like some photo and want to share it with family and friends on a public Tumbler or FB Wall, is it worth pursuing credit for them or the creator (you)? It’s hardly worth your effort to enforce the crediting (aka $) or removal of a photo and especially a plagiarized word/sentence/phrase on every content farm or User-Generated-Content (UGC) site on the net (cough AT cough). If they all “Ask for permission” will this really help? At some point will you just say No! or Yes? or will it depend on how much they pay? How many of these requests are you willing to respond to in a day/week/month? What if it’s Martha asking for permission, would you allow her before some request from popeater? It’s all a game and Google is making the rules. The new algorithm from Google to reduce Made-For-Adsense (MFA) sites is working better than ever to show the original source of content higher in search results. (Google could do more but they don’t/won’t, I pray SEO will be a dirty word someday) Focus on creating the GOOD content and making Google/Everyone know you created it first. Install Tynt or PubSubHubbub on your blog to establish your “copyright” and “track” everywhere it goes. If it’s still a problem for you then respond in kind. Follow them and add trackback/comment links to your content on their site. The audience probably has something in common and it benefits you and them to know the source.

  • I’m so glad you included stylists on this. WE do work equally as hard to create an image and very rarely do I see credit lines for anyone else than photographers in catalogs & magazines. Thanks!

  • Giving credit is vital.
    Getting permission (whether free or by paying a license fee) is important.
    Copyright is established as soon as a work is in tangible form (written, recorded, etc.) whether or not it is registered anywhere and whether or not the creator intends to enforce the copyright.
    Fair Use is an exception to Copyright.
    That said, Fair Use doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want; Wikipedia has a great writeup on the conditions that need to exist for Fair Use to apply.
    It is ridiculous to claim that you still need explicit consent from the copyright holder if your use falls under Fair Use guidelines; if you have explicit consent, Fair Use means nothing, since its whole purpose is to allow for the use of a copyrighted work without the owners’ permission.
    There is no way for a creator of a work to disallow Fair Use.
    Even if Fair Use applies and you’re totally in the right, a copyright holder can still sue you and force you to settle or otherwise incur legal costs to defend yourself.
    Copyright infringement was happening long before the Internet was around.
    Bloggers live and die by links; link to others and they will return the link love; cite early and cite often (using links with good anchor text).

    Don’t steal from professionals.
    Don’t steal from amateurs.
    Reward those who are so kind as to share their works for free.

    While I don’t put a ton of pictures on my blog, I use almost exclusively photos I take myself or Creative Commons-licensed photos from Flickr http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons

    There are some variations on the Creative Commons licenses, but the quick and dirty of it is that the photographers are giving you permission up front to use their photos, as long as you give them credit and potentially follow some other optional conditions. Thank them for doing this by actually using their stuff, giving them a link, and letting them know. I post a comment on their photo with a link to my blog post so they can see how I used it, and a thank you for sharing.

    If you have photos you put online and are happy to have others use your stuff, because it makes you feel good and helps you meet new people, add a Creative Commons license to your own content and directly explain that all you want is a link back to your site.

    Creative Commons licenses can apply to any copyrighted work, not just photos; Wikipedia is actually licensed via Creative Commons, which facilitates the free use and open editing of its articles. (You did all know that anyone can click on the edit link on practically any Wikipedia article, and change it to say whatever you want, right? If you haven’t tried it, go do it right now.)

  • Love the poster, and thanks for addressing such an important topic! As a professional photographer, I think it is vital for people to understand not just etiquette, but the law regarding copyright and intellectual property.

    While I love seeing my work featured on other people’s blogs, a simple image credit is not sufficient. If I were to use a piece of recorded music on my site without the express consent of the copyright holder, I would be guilty of theft. So how is using imagery that you didn’t create any different, regardless of your motivation? Claiming that a photographer should be happy about the free publicity is akin to a client telling me I should shoot for free because I can use the images in my portfolio.

    Having said that, I have been asked for permission to use my images for several blogs and publications and have always obliged. I haven’t asked for usage or licensing fees, because in those cases it has been a form of positive publicity and recognition. But what if my work is used on a site whose content I disapprove of, or one that might be detrimental to my brand? What if my work is used out of context or inappropriately? Just because I am credited and/or my site is linked to does not make it okay. If I am commissioned by a blog or online publication for an original styled shoot, and you choose to run the images with a simple credit…is this fair to the original publisher who paid for my services?

    I welcome the breadth of information and inspiration that the internet provides, and it is essential to the success of my business. But with the relative ease of online publishing comes the responsibilities of both understanding and following the laws and customary procedures of content usage.

  • Grace
    Thank you for this post & this poster. As a professional photographer who has been creating images for clients and stock for many years, registering the copyright of my images is a regular part of my workflow.
    As you and others have pointed out…if you are a blogger and are interested in using an image of mine, then contact me. In nine out of ten cases where I am contacted about using one of my images, I am willing to allow usage as long as I am credited and the images is linked back to http://www.jakewyman.com.

  • Hi Grace,

    I’m still such a noob to all of this and I apologize in advance if you feel like you have to rehash the same info repeatedly, especially to someone like me!

    I run a video game blog (not for monetary value, just for fun), and I grab screenshots from actual game play, box covers, and other marketing material (posters, logos) from the actual game company’s sites, Wikimedia/Wikipedia, and other game publications and media outlets (e.g., IGN.com, joystiq.com). However, I’m getting into the habit of writing in the caption “I’mage courtesy of…” or “Thanks to (blank) for the image.” Please note this is a work in progress for me and is the reason why I haven’t submitted my blog to FeedBurner.

    My main concern is I don’t know if what I’m doing is right, ethical, or if I’m just way off the mark. Should I be emailing the webmasters of those sites and ask for permission, should I link to those sites directly?? My goal is to give credit for those images.

    Thanks for your help!

    • hi vickipedia,

      it really depends on where you’re finding the images. most times, game covers and other promo material (if used in a review post, etc) is totally fine with the company because you’re reviewing it, etc. but i’d be wary of using images from other media outlets- if it’s their original shot i’d check with them first to see if they’re ok with you using images from time to time as long as you credit. i’m sure you could get someone to perhaps give you a blanket “ok” if you’re a non-profit site and are crediting. i’d say, when in doubt (meaning not a promo image for review purposes) just ask :)


  • Hi Grace,

    I’ve spent the last 20 years as an architectural photography always worrying about copyrights and re-use and making a living. There was always concern given for infringing on copyrights, when print was the only forum.
    The digital age and internet makes me feel like I am living in the old west. Not many rules and even less ways to enforce hem.

    It is impossible to regulate and keep track of where my images go. And many people are insulted when I put my watermark on my digital images.

    I’m not really sure what the answers are but I ma happy to see that you have begun (or continued) the discussion.

    I really appreciate the way you run your log.


    PS: LOVE the poster!!!

  • Hello Grace,

    Cute poster. There are so many nuances about copyright but you got the main part – get permission! Fair Use does not often apply to why the average blogger is using an image. They’re using an image b/c they hope the SEO-lords are right when they say always include a photo. So they search, right click and away they go.

    One thing you did forget is the DMCA. While good manners would dictate sending an email or some other type of communication beforehand, DMCA does not require it and therefore there may be times when a person’s site is taken down BEFORE they have an opportunity to redress the wrong.

    Overall, though, I think the general point – Get Permission – is spot on!


  • Thank you for your article. I saw what you said about pinterest not being a blog so it doesn’t count, but what are your thoughts about tumblr? That site is setup to reblog whatever you see and there are no rules or ettiquete suggestions about reblogging. Many people sites are just that reblogging of everything they like.


  • I just randomly came across this website- it’s great, by the way. Reading this brought one thought to my mind- what do you think of Tumblr? It seems to be completely focused on reblogging.

    • acsmith

      i don’t mind tumblr as a concept at all, but i think the re-blogging feature it uses it flawed, because it only credits the previous blog, not the original source.


  • I love that people are discussing ethics in blogging! An issue I recently encountered was with bloggers deleting comments from users. After discussing with other bloggers, it seems many people subscribe to “my house, my rules” philosophy (in which case, bloggers can delete any comments they feel like) and “no fighting words/hate speech” or “spam.” But it seems not all people subscribe to these two philosophies (or if they do, it is more loosely followed)…


  • Excellent! We’ve been fighting a long battle on FetLife against image thieves, and this nicely addresses the issue, with honesty & some wit. I hereby request *your* permission to re-post this with full attribution. Please :)

  • Thank you for this and all the other helpful tips you have posted. For anyone new to the blog world can tell you – it is extreme exhausting trying to understand all the options and rules ..and all of your advice was very helpful in coming up with mine.
    I have you as one of my “rollers” and will remain a loyal follower.

  • This is a beautiful way of communicating this ongoing issue with humor.

    I find myself in the same place as Mark and because my work is so unique, I have to place watermarks I my images as well. BTW, I recommend this as a matter of course for everyone.

    I find that some people get upset, but my real clients don’t -they completely understand. I don’t want to police my work, but I feel I must to protect the investment my customers have made with me.

    This poster is a must-share -with full attribution of course!

  • I have a related question: I’d like to post pictures I took of apartments I looked at while searching for a new place to live. They aren’t professional pictures, and I’m not showing the listings. I usually asked realtor showing me if it was ok to take pictures, and they always say yes. Is it ok to post these on the internet?
    Some qualms: the few with stranger’s stuff in them– what if they stumbled upon it one day and were like HEY WTF that’s my mess?! Unlikely, but seems like an invasion of privacy (not like apartment hunting isn’t inherently that, but the internet is a much bigger world). I can’t imagine a realtor minding if empty pictures are posted, unless they objected to my (mild) comments on why the place might not work for me. I mean, it might bring them business, no?
    Maybe this is not worth worrying about. People post pictures of strangers to the internet all the time. I guess I just feel like their homes are … less public, and meant to stay that way unless invited? I’d love to hear anyone’s input.

  • I was just thinking of this poster & the issues around properly crediting images on blogs… the new Google “search by image” feature should be a great tool for bloggers who want to track down, credit and/or ask the permission of the original creator of “random” images found on tumblr or lurking on your hard drive.

    It’ll also make it much easier to find people who are posting images you’ve created without credit / permission… I’ve already found my content in lots of unexpected places after just a few searches. Super useful stuff!

  • Hi Grace,
    I saw your post some time ago and found it really appropriate and engaging. Today I linked it on my FB page after not being credited – again – by a store blog. Let’s hope they get the message ; )

  • I’m a bit late to the party but have something to offer on some of the questions on why someone “wouldn’t welcome the free publicity”. There are several reasons for this. One can be a matter of branding. I’ve worked for large luxury companies and they spend a ton of money, effort & intellect in ensuring their brand is represented in the best way possible, they typically want and have the right to control how their images are used. They may not have the resources (or want to use their resources) to monitor how their images are being utilized by others to ensure their brand image is not damaged, with their own image being used in the damaging piece as the cherry on top. Another issue is, as has been mentioned, there are bloggers out there who are not just doing a blog as a hobby, they are serious journalists and make an effort and incur costs to have original material. To have that image reproduced time and time again diminishes the exclusivity of their site. Another wrong thing I see all the time is a blogger will list another blogger as their pic source and it’s quite obvious to me there is no way the blogger took that shot so there is the issue of at some point, the original source info gets lost. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter on the logic for/against copyright, all that does matter is it’s not legal/legit to publish sans permision and we should be all are of that. I understand the struggle to come up with strong images as a brand new blogger but I’ve found many small businesses and my fellow bloggers are willing to share and provide permission, particularly when they are going to be part of a well written feature on something I love (or out of the goodness of their hearts I must say). In addition, I’m trying very hard to improve my photography skills and promote myself in my community so I can increase my amount of original photos. I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, not a photographer so it’s not an easy thing but my stock as a freelance writer will exponentially go up if I can take a decent photograph as well so there are non blog benefits. It is frustrating to me however to see gorgeous blogs out there which are full of pics you know they did not receive permission for. I’ve even seen blogs which are comprised of reproducing an entire post from another site.

  • That is true, the material is the key ingredient, also word and mouth from my audience to spread the word for me is also important!

  • Love it. What great way to show the flow. I wanted to FB like, I have platforms turned off so I shared your url of the poster & blog. Thank so much. I don’t know how many times this has come up on a fb-historical group.

  • Thank you thank you thank you! As a new blogger who is not very techie and stumbling through the how tos of this realm, it helps immensely. I have, so far, only used my own photos because I was concerned about this very thing, however, I have wondered what the procedure was if you wanted to use other pictures, clip art, so on.

  • Really helpful! I shared your link on my Facebook page, as this has become a major topic of conversation lately. Wonderful work…thanks!

  • I am sure this post has touched all the internet viewers, its really really good paragraph on building up new weblog.

  • ‘ Credit those photos you use that do not belong
    to you. It is a great opportunity to develop their creative talent and you can have
    so much fun making the invitations with them. If this occurs, always address the judge as “Your Honor” and thank him or
    her for allowing you the opportunity to speak.