When you place an image on your website, that image needs to be an original photo taken by members of your staff, a photo taken by someone else that is used with explicit written permission, or a photo that has been licensed for fair use. We recommend creating some sort of original photo or graphic whenever possible. That is the easiest way to guarantee that you are not going to violate any copyright.
Simply citing the source of an image that is copyrighted is not sufficient. Republishing images off of Google image searches or other websites is not legal and can result in your publication being liable for compensatory damages (fees) to the copyright holder. Some of those damages can be over $1,000 for a single image. Therefore, it is important to only use those images, audio, and video for which permission has been granted or secured through a license you have purchased or a Creative Commons license.
Again, if photos are not taken by your staff, it is not enough to simply credit where on the web the photo was taken from. Your staff will actually need to secure permission from the person/organization that originally took the photo. The only exception is when using photos for reviews (such as movies or music) — under copyright law, this is considered fair use, and you can safely credit the movie studio or recording label (e.g. using the credit line “Photo from Marvel Studios” when writing a review about the latest Marvel movie or show and placing that credit at the end of the caption).
For music and movie/TV/book reviews, an image from the artist/studio/record label/publisher can be used as fair use along with your review. Just be sure to give credit to the actual artist/studio/record label/publisher for the photo.(Again, include these credits at the end of the caption as the photographer field is designed only for staff members who created original photos or graphics.)
In order to use a photo from another news outlet, you need to obtain express written permission from that news outlet and label the photo as “Photo by ______ from ________ used with permission”, or in whatever attribution format the copyright holder requires in the agreement.
Because most news outlets don’t give permission for republishing their photos, another option is searching for photos that have been licensed for republication under the Creative Commons.
Wikimedia Commons, or http://commons.wikimedia.org/, is a large database of free and legal photos that can be republished. Most of the photos on Wikimedia are licensed under a Creative Commons license, which allows users to download and display the photos for free, given that they provide attribution as specified in the license of that specific photo. According to the Creative Commons website “ One condition of all CC licenses is attribution.”
That means that just saying “Wikimedia”, “Creative Commons”, “Photo from Wikimedia”, and similar attributions are not substantial enough. You need to click through the information and spend time reading the license for every photo you plan to use. Many times the attribution will also require a link to the original source of the photo, a link to the photographer’s page on Flickr, Smugmug, or whatever hosting site they use, and a link to the page with information about the specific Creative Commons license. For information about how to add links into photo captions on your site check out this support article.
You can also try a royalty-free search on Flickr. Google search tools also offer ways to search for images that may be available for reuse. After doing an image search on Google, click on Search Tools and then select “Labeled for Reuse”. When conducting a search like this make sure to read through the license and attribute the photo/graphic fully and accurately based on the terms of that license for that specific photo.
Another recommendation that we have regarding Wikimedia or Creative Commons graphics is to keep a spreadsheet that contains the information about the photo (the photographer, the url where you found it, and the license) and the date you placed the photo. Sometimes the copyright holders will change the terms of their license at a later date, so having this information saved and accessible is advisable.
If a photo is copyrighted by another photographer but you have secured written permission, a good way to label it in the caption field is “Photo used with permission from _____.” This includes community photographers who provide photos of school events and athletics. Make sure you have a written agreement with those folks to use their copyrighted images.