Bloggers Beware

This is a no photo post. Why? Because I’m scared out of my skin. My lovely friend Holly sent me a message on Facebook last night, with a link. It was a link to Roni Loren’s Blog. She did a post….THIS POST about using pictures on your blog.

She did it all the time. Grabbed em from google, tumblr…wherever she could find em. Linked them back to where she found them, and never thought another thing about it, until she got sued.


By the photographer. He contacted her, and asked her to take the photo down, the one she had used in a post weeks before. She did, within 5 minutes.

He still sued. For a bunch of money. She had to get a lawyer, and the whole kerfuffle sounds stressful enough to cause someone to drink heavily. Horrible enough to cause someone to gain 30 pounds from eating Doritos washed down with gallons of Diet Coke  while watching P.S. I love You in your ratty pajamas that you’ve  they’ve been wearing for 3 straight days.  This is all guesswork of course. I personally have no experience with stress.

So, somewhere between me feeling awful for poor Roni, and a little outraged that this guy sued her, I began breaking out in a cold sweat.

I put all kinds of pictures on my blog. If I can find a source to credit them, I do. But if I can’t…..I just link it back to the blog or site I found it on.

Guess what dear friends: It’s not enough.

I’m taking the bulleted section below straight from Roni’s blog, because I think it’s information you need to have. But, if you know what’s good for you, head over to the LINK I’ve provided. There’s a lot of information in the comment section of the post.

Here’s what I learned about Fair Use:


  • if you link back to the source and list the photographer’s name
  • if the picture is not full-sized (only thumbnail size is okay)
  • if you did it innocently
  • if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
  • if you didn’t claim the photo was yours
  • if you’ve added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
  • if the picture is embedded and not saved on your server
  • if you have a disclaimer on your site.
  • if you immediately take down a pic if someone sends you a DMCA notice (you do have to take it down, but it doesn’t absolve you.)

NONE OF THAT releases you from liability. You are violating copyright if you have not gotten express PERMISSION from the copyright holder OR are using pics that are public domain, creative commons, etc. (more on that below.)

So, Roni has some suggestions for bloggers like me that LOVE to use photographs.

Things to look for when posting pictures:

  • Creative Commons Licensed Pictures
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • A subscription service to a stock photo site
  • Photos that are in the Public Domain.
  • Pictures that you take yourself are always ok. Unless they are of you doing the DUCKFACE. (This isn’t legally wrong, just WrongWrong).

Use sites like Pinterest and Tumblr with caution… both sites will throw you under the bus in a New York minute if a photographer comes after you wanting money for something YOU repinned, or posted. Apparently, even if you post it on Facebook. (!!) YIKES!

Roni is careful to say, it is highly unlikely that the average blogger or facebooker is going to get sued. She doesn’t say it, but she’s pretty famous. I think she had a fairly big target on her back. But still. It’s got me spooked.

When I read through the comments, I was shocked by what people had to say. Many of them were photographers, and they were outraged. Most applauded Roni for being honest, but at the same time couldn’t BELIEVE that she would think of just grabbing photos off the internet.

Here’s an example:

I am a little annoyed over some of these comments. I guess because writers (and probably other artists) are always asked to work for free and just be happy they are getting exposure. So the next time you go to the mechanic try that with them. Or when you ask your boss for a paycheck and you are told, but you got great experience from doing the work. How does that make you feel? Taking something from the internet without permission from the copyright owner, words or pictures, is stealing. Would you go into a store and take milk without paying for it? I doubt it, so why are you stealing online? This includes pics people post on facebook, unless they grant permission for others to use.

Also remember it is the copyright holder, not the person in the pic or the writer if they sold the rights to someone else.

I applaud this blogger for sharing her story. As she learned, intent and ignorance don’t matter when it comes to the law. Remember the music industry going after the grandmas and kids who downloaded/uploaded songs online years ago? It’s the same thing. Me personally, I wouldn’t have sued since you took it down right away.

And don’t feel bad about not knowing. A friend had an article she wrote copied and used on a very famous person’s website. Her professionals had no idea they couldn’t do it. My friend ended up contacting them and sending them a bill, which they paid.-Rissa

Ok fellow bloggers/photographers out there: What are your feelings on this? I had never looked at the photographer’s point of view, even though there are some photographers here on WordPress that I love and adore.

I’d love to know what you all are making of this.

These are all pretty great links if you want to know more.

  • Sharing is Caring ( This one gives awesome links to fabulous pictures that won’t get you in trouble. Or cause you to eat Doritos in excess.

35 thoughts on “Bloggers Beware

  1. I read this post by Roni and recently changed all of the photos on my blog. I have a little post planned about this too. I think everybody needs to know! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Reblogged this on Harsh Mellow – Blue and commented:
    Here’s the deal: If you want to use my words or images and make money doing that, or represent your commercial interest with my work, I want to be compensated for it. If I have taken some really cool pictures of the Great Smoky Mountains from Clingman’s Dome, say, and you used the image on your blog which promotes your writing career for which you are compensated, do the right thing, and pay me for my work. You obviously thought it was good enough to use to represent your written work, therefore, I need to get paid. The Great Smoky Mountains aren’t right outside my front door, after all, and my travel expenses, gas, food, lodging, plus my equipment cost, and the time getting the right shot, plus gas I use carting my big ass around, and the time it takes to edit and post the image…you get the picture? That shit isn’t free! As well, most images offered for sale are worth the little bit of money you will pay up front, out of pocket. Just think of the peace of mind and sense of pride you will have, knowing you are represented by professional high quality art work. Wouldn’t you say that that alone is worth the minor hassle and expense? By the way, I can be contacted very simply by email or through the comments section on my blog. I have high quality digital images that you can use for a nominal fee. Maybe you have some digital images that you want manipulated, and perhaps you want my spin on it? You may be so amazed at the end result that you want that image in a high quality print for your home, office, or retail space – use your imagination, there are so many possibilities! We can work it out together just by dropping me a short email. Don’t be afraid, I’m not an ogre living in a cave. In the end, I’m committed to working together with other creatives to forge lasting bonds while we all work hard to fashion creative products, and get paid doing it. Because one thing is for sure: we all have to make a living!

        • Dear Harsh,
          Well, thanks…although I stole most of it from Roni;)
          And…please don’t go poking around my old posts. Particularly Travel is Fatal. I have some posts that need to be removed, or changed….somehow.
          Thanks, Lis

      • Also, have you looked at Roni’s website, lately? It’s not just a part time venture, she has her own .com domain, and she is selling and promoting her work there. It’s not just some blog she does on the side, it’s a for real commercial, for profit enterprise. I have been following her on Twitter and reading her blog since before all of the professional upgrades, and I think she’s great, but business is business. I feel bad that she had to learn the hard way, and maybe the photographer was playing ‘gotcha’, but she should have known better when her blog became a commercial enterprise.

        • Dear Harsh,
          I had no idea!! I’ve never heard of her.
          I’m guessing she has more than 113 followers(me).
          And obviously makes money from her blog (Unlike me)
          But still. I don’t want to exploit other’s work.
          It was never my intention, but from here on out, I will be doing my best to only post pics that I have permission to post.
          Thanks for the added info!

  3. As you know, I take all my pictures on my cell phone. I never thought of any of the issues raised…and they’re valid points! Thanks for sharing this, Lis, it’s important! xoxoM

    • Dear M,
      Thank you!
      I am really going to have to think about this one.
      Been getting a lot of varied opinions today.
      I’m starting to feel like ….I make no money on this blog whatsoever. If I did….
      I don’t know.
      I am so torn.
      Right now, I’m thinking abou the gorgeous pictures that I would love to share.
      Because I can’t find the photographer…to ask permission…that means I can’t share it?
      I hear that photographers need to make money, too.
      But here’s the thing.
      As a “writer”…and I use that term loosely…if someone found my words or poems I write to be beautiful…I would hope that somehow..they could give me credit.
      If they can’t…If those words can bring someone joy..I would want that.
      You KNow?
      I don’t know.
      Love, Lis

      • Yes, I understand how you feel, Lis. I was having a similar conversation with a dear friend this evening. While for you having the recognition that you words brought someone joy is enough of a reward, as a society we have accepted the belief that value is to be measured with money, and we seem to value those who earn a lot of money more than those who earn less.

        It baffles me that we accept as appropriate that Jamie Dimon over at JP Morgan Chase should be paid millions of dollars for presiding over a five billion dollar (and increasing) loss, while we balk at paying teachers, those people to whom we entrust the shaping of our children’s minds, a decent salary and benefits.

        We are not – yet- living in a world where we respect and value unconditionally the unique contribution to our collective wellbeing that each one of us makes. Respecting and valuing one another’s work, whether for love or for money, is a start.

        If someone used your words to turn a profit, and all you got was a “Nice going, Lis,” would you really be okay with that? Something to think about…

        Love you, sweet one! Middler’s coming home soon! 🙂

        • Dear M,
          These are good thoughts.
          I don’t take huge effort in protecting my words.
          I could.
          But I don’t.
          I guess, if this that were something on my mind and heart, I would.
          I respect photographers.
          And I wouldn’t ever want to take advantage.
          I’ll be doing this the best I can.
          Love, L
          p.s.. The boy is home. He is exhausted!!!

          • Dear Lis,
            It may seem that it’s about protecting our words, images, or ideas. That’s just the surface appearance. It’s about standing in one’s own power. It’s about being free to create and to share, whether for money or a handshake, as one sees fit. It’s about mutual, and self, respect.

            A lot of that has been lost in our “have I got a deal for you” culture. I worked for someone who made tons more money than I did and refused to pay for delivery charges and bank fees. It was okay if I paid them, even when that bank fee is what put me into an overdraft situation which then triggered more fees, but not if he was charged any fees.

            I’m not accusing anyone in the blogosphere of intentionally, or even knowingly, taking advantage of someone else’s work. I am pointing out that we are not using the same currency when valuing our work. Your words, dear friend, your ideas, your point of view is far more valuable than money, because you put your heart into it. It’s not about you taking advantage of anyone, it is about creating a culture of respect where no one is taken advantage off.

            Guess you didn’t know I could really hog that soapbox!

            My child is off having a wonderful time in Baltimore this weekend…and I eagerly await her return on Monday. Holding your baby in your arms never gets old! Enjoy having your arms full!

            With much love, and respect! xoxoM

  4. Scared doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt after reading this post! I dont really use photos on my blog and when I do, I prefer to use the ones I’ve taken on my phone( which aren’t nearly as good as the ones from google ofcourse). However, I HAVE used pictures off the Internet and now I’m quaking in my boots. From now on, it’s gonna be my own pictures on my blog. I have to kinda agree with the photographers on this one, although……it is a bit tricky. Thanks for the heads up Lis…x

  5. Great piece about a really serious issue. The vast majority of pics I use on my blog are my own and if they aren’t mine, they are ones with a creative license.

    However, I only know this because I work in media and use a CMS.

    One thing I would like to know, is how do I find out if someone uses MY images?! Is it just a case of coming across them or do they somehow link back to you?

  6. I was wondering about this. I think I will follow Emily J’s lead and change out the photos that were not my own or from, which has a decent bunch of photos, but they are not always as visually engaging. Ugh…thank you SO much for the warning!!!!!

    • Dear News,
      I’m not sure what I’m doing yet.
      When I gather my thoughts….I will let you know.
      I’m glad to pass on the info.
      I’m not sure it’s the same thing…when you are making money from your blog…like Roni is.
      I’m still pondering…..
      Love, Lis

      • Kind of scary stuff…thanks so much for the heads-up! I am so new to this that I really had no idea. Such a shame really. I thought if you linked back to where you found the photo it was OK. Thanks for raising the warning bell!

  7. Wow, I feel so sexy, commenting on your post… lol – nice comment invite BTW!

    Thanks for the link to my post. I appreciate it. I’m in the process of taking all photos and swapping them out for what i can find in WANA Commons. At least that’s put together from all my pals.

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