Fair Use Images – Understanding Your Image Rights


Fair use images are pictures that are acceptable for users to adopt and publish. The process of determining when an image is fair use is complex, especially now that digital content is changing the accessibility of numerous images. Stay informed to make sure all your digital content procedures are correct and legal.

Protection for Companies in a World of Dynamic Copyright Laws

Companies with extensive digital assets such as images and video need digital rights management to ensure security and simplify license information. With the continuously changing outlook of copyright laws due to digital evolution, a digital rights management system ensures companies stay within copyright usage and protections.

One important method to consider to ensure images are protected and used within fair use guidelines is a watermark. Placing watermarks onto images before uploading them into cloud systems and online spaces is a way to ensure control of digital assets. It also lets the original owner investigate whether or not users applying to download the unmarked image will stay within fair use.

Young woman working on desktop computer.
Copyright laws change with technology, so use systems that automatically adapt.

The Digital Adaptation of Fair Use

Prior to the digital world we currently inhabit, a photograph or painting was singular and there was a way to tell the original from a copy. For this reason, fair use was much easier to apply and enforce. With digital images, the original work of a photographer is duplicated effortlessly with the click of a mouse. As such, fair use changed for images to ensure protection for copyrighted works.

Fair use for online images became defined as every picture available so long as the user followed a group of general guidelines concerning the image. These guidelines include educational usage – such as scholarly projects, all types of research and personal use with some stipulations. Fair use was enacted on digital images so long as the usage fell into these categories and followed any rules or restrictions correlated to the category.

Man in office on the phone.
Fair use has changed due to the digital boom.

Fair Use in the Social Media Age

With social media on the rise, and changing even further into a way to share images (Instagram, Snapchat), users need a basic understanding of fair use to be within legal rights. Fair use of images placed on social media are important now more than ever with social media sites geared toward images almost exclusively, and even businesses are re-using images with things like Twitter where they copy images they like and make them their own.

Fair use of images on social media boils down to the original uploader’s photo. If the picture was uploaded to the social media site, fully intended for the public to see, it is fair use to reuse the image. If the user had it stored privately and it was unfairly obtained, that’s a different story. Ensure the intentions of the original uploader are clearly understood to cover your bases.

Stay on the lookout for image sites that offer completely free and fair use images in endeavors that stray from protected acts concerning images. When unsure, consider the type of usage planned for the image in question before committing to it.