Use Images Legally Online

 

The young beautiful woman in horror has clutched at the head hands

That’s how I felt last week when I tried to help a blogger whose work I enjoy fix a potential legal nightmare on her blog.

The Story

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.

The young beautiful woman in horror has clutched at the head hands
This image is used legally. I licensed it from (c) Yanlev/DepositPhoto.com

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.

For more information:


 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Giving Up Television Changed Me

After grumbling each month over my satellite television bill, and endless hours starting at the T.V. each night whining, “There’s nothing to watch!” when I have access to 200 channels, I pulled the plug. Literally. I unsubscribed to satellite TV and for a few blissful days, the house was quiet from the squawking boob tube.  My spirit quieted along with the squawk box.

Licensed from (C) everett225/DepositPhoto.com
Licensed from (C) everett225/DepositPhoto.com

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of television or movies. I’d rather find a book that sucks me right into its imaginary world and spend blissful hours in a comfy chair, cat on my lap, cup of tea by my side, totally inside the author’s imagination. Yeah, I’m a party animal all right.

Maybe it’s how I grew up. I grew up with a black and white television, and my parents didn’t turn it on until the evening hours with Walter Cronkite and the 6 p.m. news. Television choices were simpler then, and at the risk of dating myself like expired milk, I have fond memories of waiting for Monday nights and The Muppet Show, Sunday nights and The Wonderful World of Disney, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and other innocent pleasures.

But something changed in the past five years. At first, I thought it was me. I became more deeply involved in my faith, to be sure, and began reading and learning all I could about it, which changed my views on many cultural issues. .

I realized that part of my dissatisfaction was the selection of programs available via the two satellite television providers we tried. Neither had much in the way of new content, and what they offered was sometimes morally objectionable. As the years went by, more and more shows dove into the ‘morally objectionable’ category and fewer were ones we’d watch.

When my family found ourselves faced with a choice to watch re-runs of The Waltons, re-runs of Little House on the Prairie,  or Ancient Aliens, and realized we were paying almost $90 a month for the privilege, we decided to cut the cord for good.

How Giving Up Television Changed Me

At first, I felt disoriented, like something was missing from my life. We would be walking the dog after dinner and I’d turn to my husband to ask, “What’s on tonight?” only to realize neither of us had a clue, nor cared. We didn’t have access. It was a moot point.

It’s amazing how much of my daily life was organized around television watching time, and this from a woman who watched maybe two hours a day, tops, on a work day. Yet my schedule was dictated by when my favorite programs were on. Once the television was silent, my time was once again my own.

I worked more on my novel, I Believe You, that week than ever before.  The dog was finally brushed daily. The house was clean. I went to bed early.

I also started sleeping soundly for the first time in years.

My mood improved. I felt…serene.

When we had satellite television, so many of the images, even just casually browsing by each channel, were negative. People shouting at each other, news pundits excoriating guests, ‘reality shows’ with phony plot lines. It got so that I didn’t even want to be in the same room when the television was on. Now, however, because we’re watching shows that are recorded, it’s simple entertainment – and it’s our choice. We can choose the stories, plots, and other factors that enter our home. And I choose things that don’t upset me or my peace of mind!

Today: Some Television, But No Longer Attached

We now watch recorded movies, television shows and courses we’ve purchased on DVD. We watch the broadcast stations for the news and weather, but I find myself walking out of the room when anything other than the weather comes on.  New affects me tremendously. Maybe it’s the writer in me. I’m too sensitive. I see images on television and I don’t sleep well.

Now my television costs nothing each month because it’s broadcast TV. If I want to watch a new movie, I rent it or find the DVD at the public library. And I don’t miss satellite television at all.

Better Writer?

My creativity has soared higher as the amount of hours spent watching television has dropped. More importantly, my mood has improved. I’m focused, open to new ideas, and better able to recognize great ideas when they arrive.

I credit all this with giving up the trash that passes for entertainment on most of the big-name networks these days. No, I have no idea who the latest reality TV star is or who that person at the awards ceremony is…but I don’t care. I’m too busy writing to care.

 

Giving up television might not be for you, but limiting it, as we finally chose to do, may be just what you need. Try it for a while. You don’t have to go full Amish, but turn the darned thing off and be choosy about what you put into your mind. More people are concerned with the quality of the food that they eat than the quality of the ideas and images they let into their minds from the boob tube. By being choosy, you can gain greater serenity, harmony and peace…and maybe, when the subconscious settles down, be a better writer, too.

 

Should Freelance Writers Complete Free Test Articles?

As a freelance writer, I’m often asked to complete a test assignment. Sometimes companies offer compensation, sometimes they don’t. Here’s my answer to such a request, and why.

 

NO

 

Why Freelance Writers Should NEVER Write a Free Test Article

Last week, I submitted an application to a company seeking a content writer. A friend passed the ad on to me, and the company looked interesting and well-established. The ad didn’t say how much each article assignment would eventually pay, but the professional tone of the advertisement was encouraging. So too was the fact that I had impressive publishing credentials in exactly the space the potential client worked in – and magazine clips to submit on the exact topics he wanted someone to write for. It seemed like a slam-dunk, a home run.

The potential client responded within 24 hours. “Congratulations! You’ve made the first cut. You’re among 25 writers we’re considering for this vacancy.”

You’ve narrowed it down to…25? Are you kidding me? Already I had that prickling feeling on the back of my neck that warns me a potentially bad situation is looming. But the next paragraph clinched it for me.

“In order for us to select the best writer, we require you to complete the attached questionnaire and submit two sample articles. Each article will be keyword-rich and 1,000 words. Submit your articles within 24 hours to us at…”

How long does it take a professional writer to research keywords and topics, then write a really solid 1,000 word article? I would say at least one hour per article. So essentially, this company wanted two free hours of work from each of their 25 potential writers. Then, and only then, would one lucky writer be chosen to work with them. And by the way, they still didn’t mention how much they planned to pay.

So I emailed them back and politely let them know that while I would be willing to complete a test, my rate for completing such a test is X, and I accepted PayPal and bank check.

They seemed absolutely flummoxed by my response. I received another email back, letting me know that it was standard practice within their company to ask applicants to complete tests. Writers, designers, computer programmers, whoever was going to work with them, they wanted a lengthy test.

Now while I can see such a test for a full-time position, for freelance work it is absurd. It is especially absurd when you consider that I had submitted published magazine articles on the EXACT topic requested in their test article.

I declined to write the test, and explained my reasons to them in this manner.

“Would you ask a lawyer to prepare a free legal brief for you so that you can assess his skills? Ask a physician to commit two hours at no charge to you so that you can assess his surgical skills? Ask a dentist to install a free filling and a crown so you can test his skills? No. So why are you asking writers to give you two free hours of their time?”

Their only response was to tell me that this was their standard method of assessing freelancers and so far, no one had complained but me. Well, I have news for them. The reason they haven’t heard complaints yet is because the better writers packed up their keyboards and went elsewhere.

Here's me, waving goodbye.

 

The sad fact is that many writers probably DID complete their test assignments. What guarantee do we have that the company won’t use the two free articles produced as part of the test? None. Just their word that they have given the same writing prompts to all 25 writers and therefore couldn’t use the resulting articles. After all, no one would want to publish, let alone read, 25 articles on the same topic. Right? Well, maybe…

Now I am not saying that this particular firm intended to get free content. It has been my experience, however, that companies who want lengthy free consultations or to “hear your thoughts” on their pressing problem before they hire you as a consultant are hoping to get free work out of you. Why companies think it is okay to do this with consultants and creative freelancers, such as designers, writers, photographers and others, is beyond me, but we (the creative types) do seem to get hit with this more frequently than say, other white-collar professions.

As a freelance writer, my experience is simply this: the best companies I work with are the ones who paid me a fair rate for a simple test assignment. Many paid me to participate in short online training courses to learn the ropes for their particular clients or content platforms. They paid me for my time.

If you are a freelance writer and a company asks you to complete a big free project, ask yourself (and yes, ask them too) why. Why do they want a test assignment? Offer clips of your work, links to it online, or a short paragraph if they truly want to assess your writing skills.

But don’t give your time and talents away for free. You’re worth more than that.

No, freelance writers should not complete test articles at no charge.

 

Jeanne for websiteThis article was written by Jeanne Grunert, president of Seven Oaks Consulting, and “The Marketing Writer“.  Jeanne is a 20+ year veteran of countless meetings which could have been handled by phone calls or emails. Her experience includes leading marketing department, writing books and magazine articles, and pushing cats off of her desk. Jeanne does not write free test assignments but she’s happy to give you a satisfaction guarantee on your first project with her. If you’re not happy with her writing, you’re free to cancel and go elsewhere with no hard feelings and not a penny owed to her. For more information, visit www.marketing-writer.com, Jeanne’s website.

Five Things Your Freelance Writer Wants You to Know

10253953_10152127461657081_7873493515381398667_nAudrey II (the office orchid, above) and I would like you to know five very important things. These are the five things that the freelance writer you’ve hired would like you to know but is probably too shy to tell you.

  1. Provide clear project instructions: When you’re working with a freelancer, time is money. Every moment spent working on your project is a moment not spent working on another paying gig. So please respect your freelance writer, graphic designer, web designer and other freelancer’s time. Provide clear instructions, including expectations, deadlines, and background information, at the start of the project. Your freelance writer will thank you.
  2. Stop tweaking: Most freelance writers, myself included, are happy to make edits. We are not happy when you begin sending the same document back to us multiple times with different edits. If a word choice, phrase, or product detail was correct in version 1, it should be correct in version 3. At some point, you have to stop tweaking a document and, to paraphrase Frozen, let it go.
  3. Read every word: That said, read every word. Every. Single. Word. Read and double-check telephone numbers, email addresses, URLs, product SKUs and more. “But,” you protest, “isn’t that what I’m paying my writer to do?” Yes but your freelance writer is still a human being. Copywriters get tired, hungry, and interrupted a lot. Mistakes happen. You are the final approval person on any project, so check and double-check all of the copy that your freelance writer sends to you.
  4. Don’t be surprised when your freelancer works for someone else. They aren’t employees. They will write for other clients, oftentimes on the same topics. That’s because freelance writers, marketing writers and other copywriters gain a reputation for writing about specific subjects, and as such, they’re called upon by others to write on that topic. You wouldn’t be shocked to find that the man painting your house is painting another house down the street, nor would you insist he sign an exclusive contract with you not to paint any other house on the block. By the same token, however, you do expect discretion; if he hears you discussing your medication on the telephone with your doctor, he shouldn’t blab to the neighbors about it when he paints their house. Freelance writers should ALWAYS write unique copy for each client. They nearly always write for many clients in the same industry, but recycling text is a no-no. Expect freelancers to freelance…it’s what we do. Otherwise, we’d be your employee. And you’d have to provide me with paid vacation and medical benefits.
  5. Pay promptly, and if paying by PayPal, absorb the fees. Unless you and your freelancer have agreed on specific net terms, payment is due upon completion of the project and receipt of the freelancer’s invoice. Most freelancers struggle with an uneven cash flow, and they appreciate it when clients pay promptly. Another thing they really appreciate is clients who pay them the full amount by absorbing transaction fees in PayPal. Most freelance writers, myself included, accept payments via PayPal. I agree on my fees with clients as the NET amount I expect to receive. When they pay via PayPal and I am suddenly socked with PayPal fees, it’s short-changing me. I always appreciate it when clients pay me the gross amount and absorb the fees on their end. It is thoughtful and considerate of their freelance writers.

 

Your freelance copywriter, marketing writer and other freelance professionals are part of your team. They may work from home with a cat draped across the keyboard or they make work parked at a table in the local library or coffee shop. No matter where they hang their shingle, they should be treated as professionals. Just as they treat your firm like a valued client, so too should you treat them like the valued team members they are.

 

Jeanne for website

If you are ready to hire a professional, experienced and diligent freelance writer, contact me today. I have over 25 years of experience as a writer and marketing manager. I specialize in long-form content for SEO projects, such as longer online articles, guides, papers and more. Visit Marketing-Writer Jeanne Grunert for details.