Can I Copy Stuff Off The Web and Use It On My Blog?
This is the second article in the series of articles I am writing on commonly asked questions people ask me. The first one had to do with Why Do I Need a Website? I’ll Just Use Facebook.
This question on can I copy “stuff” from the website usually comes in the form of two different questions. The first is can I use pictures I find online and the second is can I use other blog articles I find and post them.
Can I Use A Picture I Find Online?
The short answer is no. This question usually arises when I mention how important images are on your website, when posting online and in ads. Not only are people more attracted to images, not only do statistics show that posts and pages with images get a whole lot more views, but social media platforms like Facebook, and search engines like Google favor images greatly.
So, yes, you do need images to attract attention and increase your online visibility. So, the quandary is, where do you get them? And everyone knows there are great images everywhere online.
Unlike the common belief (although I don’t know a single individual I can name who believes this) that what one finds on the internet is public and therefore “public” property not particularly owned by anyone, this is far from the truth. Everything posted on the internet, pretty much, is owned by someone. I know there are exceptions, but the safest way to proceed is to assume that everything posted is someone’s individual property.
Therefore, you cannot just copy a picture and post it as your own, use it on your website, or in a blog article or post. Because sharing is so prevalent online I think people think if it can be shared, then it must be okay. However, when you share something, it is because the original owner has given you permission to do so (even though you might not be aware of this), but the permission is to share it only, share it as their content that you then are sharing. It does not give you permission to copy all or part of it, at all.
One remedy is to ask permission. If you can tell who the owner is, you can ask permission to use the content or image. Many people are thrilled to let you do so, as long as you attribute it to them. My one caution here is to get permission in writing so you have it for “just-in-case” situations.
Alternatives To Using Someone Else’s Images
Take Your Own
My suggestion to people to carry their cell phones with them everywhere and snap pictures everywhere, to provide a source of original images, seems to not be the solution people want to hear.
Maybe it’s our lack of confidence in our abilities as photographers. Or maybe it’s the thought that where I go in my daily life is not particularly interesting and I won’t have any “good” photos to use. My protestations that interesting opportunities are everywhere and will work to provide image content seems to fall on deaf ears. I think this stems from people thinking everything has to be perfect and they are harsher on themselves than anyone else.
License Stock Images
The second alternative I suggest, when people look skeptical at taking their own is to license stock images. Note I said license them versus using “royalty free” images. The problem with using stock images particularly from sites that insist they are royalty free, is that usually royalty-free is not royalty-free forever, for anything you want to use them for. It might be 3 years or 5 years, or for a limited use, like on your website, but not in a presentation.
And people forget. They might think 3 years is fine, or I am only going to use this on my website… and then 4 years down the road, use the image somewhere else, forgetting they cannot. The risk is at minimum, a slap on the hand, and at maximum, a lawsuit or bad-mouthing online.
So, my suggestion is to license them from a site that will, for a small fee, some as low as $1, license them to you “forever.” and license them to you for unlimited use, anywhere you want. Then you avoid potential trouble down the road. If you need suggestions on which sites I recommend, email me at
And one final suggestion, when you use stock images, make them your own. Modify them in some way. Google doesn’t particularly like stock image, so add something to them, change them.
How About Posting An Interesting Blog Article Someone Else Wrote?
Once again, I think this question is in reaction to the thought of having to come up with original content yourself. And yes, there are a lot of great writers out there, already posting great content. And no, there is nothing wrong with posting someone else’s content occasionally. That is if you post it as theirs, not if you act like it is your own. It’s stealing if you act like it is your own. So, say you like it, and post the link.
Why Only Occasionally?
Because, when you do it properly, you are not copying the content as your own, you are making a comment and then posting the link to their original article. Therefore, you are not driving traffic to your website and business, you are driving traffic to theirs. Is this your intent? To attract attention to their business not yours?
Alternatives To Posting Someone Else’s Content
Write an original blog article of your own, based on the interesting content you found elsewhere. You can say you read an interesting article, being sure to quote the author and source (but do not include the link). Then summarize what it said - you can even directly quote from it, as long as you state that it is a direct quote. And then, add your own opinions, comments etc.
So, in this way, you are using the article to help you, but you are writing an original article yourself, posting it and driving traffic to your website and blog, not theirs.
Use your own original content. Your clients want your voice, they want to know you, they want to do business with you people buy from people, so give them you.
Tags: Online Visibility, Images, Stock Images, Social Media, Copying, Internet Posts, website
Filed Under: Questions Series