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copyright laws

Using Pictures Without Permission

Blazing Guitar © Kathy McCabe, Hilltop Photography

Blazing Guitar by Kathy McCabe, Hilltop Photography

Just a few days ago I uploaded a really great picture (the one in this article) to my web stores and to Facebook to show my friends.  Unfortunately, it was ‘altered’ with someone’s words to advertise an event at a local tavern. (It was NOT the tavern or any of their employees that used my image.)  When I offered – very generously – to allow him commercial use for the price of a drink and shout-out to me as the artist he declined and said he wouldn’t use it. When I asked him why he would use it for free (basically stealing off Facebook) and not pay the ridiculously low rate of a drink and a shout out, he told me that he had the right to use anything anyone put up online and on Facebook, for free.  And because although I watermarked the image but not through the center of it then he could do whatever he wanted with it.

Wow, how can anyone in this day and age actually believe that pictures online are free for anyone’s use? Can there be people who don’t understand copyright law?

It’s said, knowledge is power.  Well, let’s get really powerful and absorb some knowledge.  Please note, this article isn’t intended for those of us who understand and abide by the copyright laws, its for those who don’t.

A Copyright  – defined by the US Copyright Office:  A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States for “original works of authorship”, including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. “Copyright” literally means the right to copy but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. Similarly, names, titles, short phrases, slogans, familiar symbols, mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, coloring, and listings of contents or ingredients are not subject to copyright. From <>

  • NO, YOU MAY NOT USE MY PHOTO WITHOUT MY PERMISSION! Well, not just mine, you can’t use ANY photo without permission.
  • You are not allowed to alter my work without permission. You aren’t allowed to resell my work, for any reason unless we have an agreement in writing and you have PAID me for use of the image.
  • If you want to use my image to promote your business, that requires a COMMERCIAL license. You must ask permission and purchase first! (At least for my images it does.)

If you don’t believe me, have a look at US Copyright Law at the US Copyright Office. Also, LegalZoom has a good section explaining copyright law. Another good resource is

If you want to find out if your image is being used anywhere else, you can search using Google, simply enter the url of your image and hit search. After the results are brought up, click on images and then you can click on Search by Image. It will bring up anywhere else your image may be.

To protect your image you can choose to watermark them. Or, you can institute a “No Right Click” script, but that doesn’t work in all browsers. WordPress has several plugins that may be helpful in keeping your images from being lifted.

Bottom line, we as artists – photographers, song writers, literary writers, graphic designers, painters, and so on – should NOT have to deal with an uninformed public stealing our work.  Know the laws, protect yourselves and educate people about copyrights.

This is my ‘lecture’ of the day.  Thanks for listening to my rant.

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