Communicate with photos - legally - Word&Way

Communicate with photos – legally

Ken SatterfieldChurch business administrator Ed Marino recently shared on the Church Law & Tax website that his church received word it owed several hundred dollars to a stock photo company because a stock photograph had been posted unintentionally on the church website without proper licensing.

While investigating the accusation, Marino learned three things:

• Stock image companies are cracking down on violations. (They use tools such as to find unauthorized image use.)

• Search engines such as Google have a disclaimer that they are not required to include license information.

• If an image is repackaged and posted without including licensing information and you use it, you are still liable.

In a classic routine, comedian Steve Martin shares the key to being a millionaire and never paying taxes is to use two simple words when confronted by the tax man: “I forgot.” For stock footage companies, innocent mistakes or “we’re a small church” won’t work either!

That’s fair. Professional photographers go through a time-consuming process to get that “just-right” photo. They deserve compensation.

Here are some steps to finding legal images to use online:

• Google and Bing offer image search. Yvon Prehn’s Effective Church Communications site includes a video describing how to legally download images from search results on Google (Images > Search Tools > Image Rights) or Bing (Images > License) and choosing an option that allows you to use, modify and share (

• Researching images is a smart extra step. allows reverse image search using an uploaded image or URL, helping you to find a source and different sizes and resolution. Google Image Search allows you to find sources and possible costs. Plagiarism Today provides a step-by-step procedure ( license-photographs). offers Fast Image Research. The add-on for Firefox and Chrome browsers allows you to right-click an image, choose Research Image and both Google and TinEye are searched.

• Creative Commons licensing ( allows the creator of an image, music or academic material to designate how others can use it. Is credit required? Can it be used in a commercial project? Can it be redistributed? Their search page helps you look for images and video on a variety of sites (

• Many, many sites, such as, allow searching for public domain images. These sites may require credits or free registration, or use a specific distribution method. Some suggest stock images for purchase. You can find a list of 80 options, including restrictions, at

The Harvard Law School library ( provides a resource with annotated links to search for images, audio or video content.

• When in doubt, consider taking pictures or working with volunteer photographers. While they may not be studio quality, they may meet a temporary need. A discussion on the Church Administrative Professionals site ( considers age, privacy and submissions.

Most anything posted on the Internet never truly disappears. Marino’s experience ( sites-learning-from-our-costly-mistake.html) also taught him that deleted online images can still be found through Internet archival services. Two examples are the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine ( and the Library of Congress’ announced plans to archive Twitter feeds.

The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. But consider ownership and privacy before posting so one of those words doesn’t turn out to be “oops.”

Ken Satterfield is marketing coordinator for Word & Way.