I love vintage everything…vintage fashion, vintage style. I subscribe to several vintage blogs and read them avidly.

Over the weekend, a blogger whose work I’ve long admired shared a Valentine’s Day post. Included in the post was a vintage image that appeared to be scanned in from a magazine. She included a Flickr credit under the image with a link to the original. I was curious. I’ve asked several vintage bloggers where they license their images, and I never heard back from any of them. I’d love to know since I’m always on the lookout for vintage images for one of my clients and finding and licensing them can be tough.

Anyway, I clicked through to the image source and discovered this disturbing fact: the original Flickr photograph was marked “All Rights Reserved.”

Flickr Licenses and More

If you’re using Flickr images to decorate your blog posts or websites, you need to understand the difference license levels that content owners can apply to their photos. Flickr uses the Creative Commons Licensing system. This is a voluntary, non profit licensing system whereby content creators can affix one of several licenses to their works. Each license grants different permission levels for the use of the work.

Some licenses grant permission to use an image for commercial purposes. This means that the use of the image on a website that displays advertising is allowed. Other images require attribution. You must state the photographer’s name and link to the license in order to use the image legally. Still others allow the use of the image, but you may not modify it.

All photographs, illustrations and copy (words) published online are immediately granted copyright protect and “All rights reserved” even if the artist doesn’t state it. That’s because under United States law, copyright is granted the instant an artist creates a work.

When a photographer shares something online, yet marks it with “All rights reserved”, he’s taking a further proactive step to state, “You can use this for reference or you can email me for permission. But you can’t use this image without permission.”

The End of the Story

I hesitated a few minutes before dropping the blogger a quick note, with reference links to some great articles about proper use of photographs, just as a friendly, “Hey, did you know this and hey, if you don’t pay attention you might be in a lot of trouble, and hey, I care!”

Her response to me was astonishing. Not only did she justify the use of the image, but she wouldn’t take it down. She claimed (and she may be absolutely correct) that when she downloaded the image, it was done so legally. Just because the photographer or image owner changed the copyright on it doesn’t mean that she has to take it down.

I’m no legal scholar. I’m not a lawyer. I do know far too many people who have been embroiled in dreadful copyright extortion schemes. Many even used images legally, as I’ve done with this post, paying a licensing fee to the company from which I downloaded the image. A simple mistake in how you use an image online, no matter how innocent, can lead to a lot of stress and potential heartache.

Use Images Legally Online

The moral of the story? Use images legally online.

  • Take your own images. That’s the very best way to make sure you don’t run into any legal issues!
  • Make a screenshot of the license if you download from Flickr. It may seem silly, but if the image owner changes the license later, you’ll have proof that you used it correctly at the time of download.
  • Learn all you can about image copyright. Never use Google Image Search to find an image for your blog. It is terrible at finding the original image source or the person from whom you can license the image.
  • Understand the various Creative Commons licenses before you download images. Read licensing terms on any stock photo website.
  • Avoid free photo sites such as free wallpaper sites. Some sites are unscrupulous and swipe images from photographers then make them available to the public. You are on the hook for the legal issues involved in using the image, not the free wallpaper website. Many have clauses in their terms of use that put the burden on YOU. Know what you are getting into when you download and use photos.
  • Purchase stock photography and use it under license. If you’re not sure you are using it correctly, contact the company. I had question for Deposit Photo on how I could use their images, so I contacted their Customer Service department. They were pleasant and helpful, plus I now have a written transcript of my chat with their customer service agent who granted me permission to use the image for my stated project.


As for the blogger I emailed, I’m disappointed. She seems to think that she can slap a credit link on a photo and use it as she pleased. Giving credit is nice, but it doesn’t absolve you of legal responsibility if you use an image improperly.

Everyone makes mistakes. The internet can be a forgiving place…or a very unforgiving one. Don’t take a chance. If you are a content creator like me, a writer or blogger, take your own photos, learn how to license them properly, and avoid getting into trouble using stock images.

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Jeanne Grunert_October 2015


By Jeanne Grunert, President, Seven Oaks Consulting.  Jeanne is a freelance writer, blogger and novelist with a background in internet marketing.  This post originally appeared on Byte by Bite, the content marketing blog of Seven Oaks Consulting. Feel free to link to it. Reprints by permission only.