This week, we’ve noticed an increase in sites which claim to find ‘copyright-free’ images for you to use on your blog or social media. You search for an image on their site using some keywords, and when you find one you like you can embed it on your website with either a link back to the photo-finding website or even one back to the original content creator’s site.

This is tosh.You can’t use someone else’s picture without explicit permission.

You can’t take an image off Pinterest and use it on another network unless you’re using it in the correct context

The correct context

Repinning from Pinterest to your own Pinterest boards is perfectly acceptable, indeed welcomed. The image should link back to the creator’s original content. You repinning that image is helping the reach of that content. The point of someone creating that image is to promote a piece of content housed elsewhere on the internet, so helping to promote it is a good idea.

You can share a pin on other networks such as Twitter and Facebook as long as you acknowledge it’s linked to someone else’s content. Saying “Hey, have a look at this great recipe I found on Pinterest“, and providing a link back to the recipe at its original source is ok. It may not be EXACTLY what the image creator intended but you’re using it in a fair and reasonable way, and they would be a fool to complain about you doing so if you’re promoting them in a positive manner.

The incorrect context

Taking someone else’s image and using it to brighten up your blog post, with or without photo credit and link back is not acceptable. This is stealing and could land you with a costly legal battle. If you use someone else’s image within a post in order to promote their content, then that would be ok under ‘fair use’, though it’s still good practice to ask first. Just using it because you can’t be bothered to make your own image to brighten up your post isn’t ok.

Taking someone else’s image from Pinterest and using it to promote your own content is definitely not ok. Make your own.

Will I get caught for using someone else’s images on Pinterest or on a website?

If someone suspects their images are being stolen, then they can do a reverse image search on Google. So yes, they can. But they will need to have the impetus to do a search in the first place. So you may get away with it

However, depending on your audience, people can see these by accident. I’ve had people come to me and tell me that they’ve seen pictures with my children on them on travel websites (I run a travel blog in my spare time). As my children are now fairly recognisable, not only can family and friends spot my original images, but other bloggers and readers can too. So even if you’re not on the original content creator’s radar, you soon could be!

Us original content creators talk to each other too. If we see a site that is trying to pass our images off as copyright free, we all go and have a look, and get reporting and emailing the site. If you want 500 emails an hour from angry bloggers threatening to sue you, then sure, promote those scraped images as free to use!

Stealing images from Pinterest

What will happen if I get caught?

  • In the first instance (probably) the original content creator will be in touch and ask you to cease using it and delete it from use.
  • The content creator could report you to search engines such as Google or to your web host and have your site delisted or shut down altogether.
  • The original content creator could send you an invoice for use of the image(s). This could get very costly.
  • The ultimate action is for you to be sued for damages through the courts.

My advice to you is to bail out at the first possible opportunity. If the content creator asks you to take the images down, then do it. And don’t do it again.

Even better advice is to not use other people’s images in the first place, especially if you’re not 100% sure of the licencing behind them.

You can find free to use images on legit sites – try Unsplash or Pixabay

You can make your own images using a platform such as Canva