What You REALLY Need to Know About Photos and Copyright

By Susan and Willian Brinson. Photography by Willian Brinson for The House of Brinson.

Three years ago, when I first started blogging, I recall telling my seasoned blogging friend (in a horrified tone of voice), "Can you believe someone just took one of our pictures and used it on their blog?!?!??" She responded with, "Yeah, so?" I couldn't wrap my head around how that was possible and why someone would do that!

Let me explain: I come from the advertising world, where we would never in a million years consider using a photograph without written permission, not to mention purchasing it. When we do use a photo we have to make sure the photograph is used within the correct licensing type for the project. When you add in the reality that I am married to a photographer, you can see why I was really confused when someone used our picture without asking.

After becoming involved in the blogging community and speaking with bloggers, I realized many bloggers don't understand copyright law. Ignorance of copyright law isn't going to prevent a blogger from being sued for using images that they didn't have permission to use. The information we are going to cover in our upcoming class is critical for bloggers who use photographs they did not take, and for those bloggers producing original photographs. My worst fear is hearing about a blogger being sued and saying, "I wish I would have known that."

The blogging world is changing quickly and competing with traditional media outlets. Copyright law is something critical for all bloggers to know, especially with the increased popularity of blogs. Some of the areas you need to research before using photos you do not own are:


  • what is protected by copyright law
  • what are the different type of licensing rights for photographs
  • get to know the photography industry inside and out
  • developing a photography usage policy for your blog
  • know where the future of photo usage on blogs is going


We will be looking at real life examples of all the issues above. We will discuss some of our own adventures and take questions on March 14 during What You Really Need to Know about Photos and Copyright on the Alt Channel.

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Eden Hensley

Marketing creative, community engagement specialist, technophile, photographer, food and wine enthusiast, and the founder and editor-in-chief of The Road to The Good Life, a lifestyle blog about appreciating and enhancing your life by being grateful for the "haves" instead of lingering on the "wants." There you will find personal stories about my life and family weaved in with real-life, achievable entertaining tips, recipes for hearty home cooked meals, and DIY projects for capturing and sharing memories. I believe the best place to swap stories is over a shared meal, preferably a Thai-meal served family style, and teach an online introduction class to Thai Flavors and host the Family Dinners at The Station supper club in San Francisco.