Avoid this one common mistake, and you won't have lawyers knocking on your door for  COPYRIGHT VIOLATIONS.

Almost unnoticed by mom and pop website entrepreneurs, and just plain bloggers who are only trying to help a world gone Upside Down, is the threat of huge fines for a nearly harmless and forgivable "crime":  which is, unknowingly using copyrighted images chanced upon while surfing the internet, and copying those onto your website for the enjoyment and amusement of your visitors.   Unfortunately, the fines for doing so include court costs and lawyers fees, which probably amount to 99% of any actual damage done to copyright holders.  It doesn't matter that your blog got 2 visitors a week, you still have to pay.  And that often means, THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.

That's not at all to say that copyrighted images (or audio, or video) OUGHT to be stolen or "borrowed".  They shouldn't be, even if someone doesn't know any better.  But the problem is proportionality.  The punishment ought to fit the "crime".  

But the GOOD news is that you CAN protect yourself from any such disaster:  just don't use any copyrighted images, etc., in your blogs.  "But", you ask, "how in the world can I know if any old image I run into on the internet is copyrighted?"   The answer is, you often CAN know, as shown below.  Otherwise, the safe (and ethical) thing to do is to assume it is copyrighted.

FREE MEDIA:  Clearly, any image you take with your own camera is not copyrighted (except by you).  And here's some breaking news:  any images or text released by the U.S. Government is copyright free.  But aside from that, there are BILLIONS of "free" images.  Such as from, and other sites.

Here's what you need to know about these trolls, from Wikipedia:  "A copyright troll is a party (person or company) that enforces copyrights it owns for purposes of making money through litigation, in a manner considered unduly aggressive or opportunistic, generally without producing or licensing the works it owns for paid distribution."  

Another link:  "Copyright Trolls";

And:  "Copyright trolls are coming after you"


In Google: Start the search for the item of interest:  then, click the "Images" tab; then, once you get a page full of images, click on the "Tools" tab (above), then use the (newly opened) pull-down menu button "Labeled for re-use":  this causes Google to 
filter out all images which violate stipulated conditions:  you only see the free and safe ones -- so feel safe to download and use on your website.  E.g., you can choose "Labeled for reuse" or "Labeled for noncommercial reuse", etc.

Much the same for Bing:   click the "Images" tab, then when you get a page full of images, click on the "Filter" tab (way right on the desktop computer), then use the pull-down menu labeled "License",  and choose "Public Domain" etc, etc.

Wikipedia provides similar options: e.g., click on an image you like: when it opens up, click on "More Information" and/or "File Usage" links.

More on reusing Wikimedia images here.

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