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The Complete Guide to Image Copyright and Plagiarism:
What You Need to Know


Whether you’re a student, a marketer, or a business owner trying to establish your online presence, it’s important to avoid committing mistakes related to copyright and plagiarism. Such a mistake can be costly in the long run.

Read on to learn about image plagiarism and copyright infringement, and find helpful resources on how you can avoid committing plagiarism in your work.

First, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about image copyright and plagiarism.

Image Copyright


What is image copyright?

Image copyright refers to image ownership. Copyright is legal protection granted to creators who create any work of authorship. As soon as you click your camera’s shutter or your iPhone’s home button, your job is automatically considered a copyrighted image.

  • • Reproduce the copyrighted work
  • • Make derivatives of the work
  • • Display the work publicly
  • • Distribute the work to the public through sale, rental, or lending

You can learn more about image copyright from these articles:


What Are the Penalties for Violating an Image Copyright?

There are several legal penalties for copyright infringement in the U.S. Visit these links to learn more about the civil and criminal penalties.


What Are the Types of Images That Are Subject to Copyright Protection?

According to the US Copyright Act, images are defined as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.” These works include “two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic, and applied art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, globes, charts, diagrams, models, and technical drawings, including architectural plans.”


How Do You Know if Your Content Is Violating Someone Else's Copyright?

Copyright infringement takes many forms. If you own copyrighted images, you have to acknowledge that there is a real risk of someone using your photo without your permission when you publish it online.

What is the best way to protect your work from being stolen and check if someone has already done it? We compiled this list of articles to guide you through the steps that you have to take.



What are the different types of copyrights?

You may be wondering, how many types of copyrights are there? Here are some articles that you can read to learn more about the kinds of copyrights.



Applications of Copyright: Important Concepts You Should Know

Image Plagiarism

It’s all too common nowadays to download an image from the internet and reuse it elsewhere. Many of us may not know that this practice is a form of plagiarism.

Simply put, plagiarism is when you pass off another person’s work as your own, whether intentional or not. It can be considered plagiarism when you fail to give proper attribution to the creator of a piece of work, whether it’s a text, a song, or an image.

Want to understand plagiarism and how to avoid it? Read our comprehensive guide to plagiarism.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright infringement usually involves copying, distributing, or creating a derivative of another work that you do not own without the express permission of the work owner or any applicable exceptions from the Copyright Law. The unauthorized use of licensed images falls under copyright infringement.

What is the difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism?
Visit these links to learn more about the topic.

Fair Use

According to the Stanford University Libraries, fair use is “a copyright principle based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism."

Often, there is a fine line between fair use and plagiarism and copyright infringement. Make sure to review any copyright restrictions concerning the use of any images that you are looking to reuse or reproduce.



Valuable Resources on Copyright and Fair Use



Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that “helps overcome legal obstacles to sharing knowledge and creativity.” They provide licenses and public domain tools that help create a standardized way to grant permissions for creative or academic works.

These licenses allow creators to grant permission on how their work can be used. There are different kinds of licenses depending on how the creator wants their image to be used.

Find out more about the different licenses here:


How to Choose Which Creative Commons License is Right for You

Choosing a creative commons license can be confusing if you’re not familiar with each license. For most cases – especially if you’re going to use images on social media – are attribution-only and CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) public domain licenses.

Keep in mind that if the license mentions “attribution,” you must give credit to the work's creator.

If you’re still not sure which to use, try this license chooser from Creative Commons.



20 Websites With Free-to-Use Image

  1. Unsplash
  2. Pexels
  3. Burst by Shopify
  4. Pixabay
  5. PicJumbo
  6. Foodiesfeed
  7. Skitterphoto
  8. StockSnap.io
  9. Picography
  10. Styled Stock
  11. Focastock
  12. Reshot
  13. Kaboom Pics
  14. Isorepublic
  15. Gratisography
  16. LibreStock
  17. FreeImages
  18. MorgueFile
  19. FreeStockPhotos.biz
  20. Foter


Not sure whether an image you have downloaded on the internet is copyright protected? You can use free tools such as Google’s Advanced Image Search or Reverse Image Search by Small SEO Tools to check. It’s also a good idea to refer to this guide on copyright protection for works published in the US.

To be safe, always ask yourself these questions from Friendly Stock before downloading and using stock photos from the internet:

  • • Is the license current?
  • • Are you going to use the image for commercial purposes?
  • • If so, is there a need to collect releases?
  • • Are there any copyright issues?
  • • Are there any items in the photo that could be protected by trademark law?

Search for freely usable images through these links:


What happens if you use a copyrighted image?

Implementing copyright laws is not as straightforward as it seems, and Here are a few scary stories about what could happen when there's a breach of copyright.



Learn How to Protect Your Images from Copyright Infringement & Plagiarism

How can you prevent your images from being used without permission? Sadly, with the massive amount of information published on the internet every second, it’s challenging to avoid image theft.

Nevertheless, It's important to know how to protect your images and deter malicious users from misusing your work. Some of the techniques you can do include:

  • • Adding a copyright notice to your published web pages
  • • Putting a watermark on your photos
  • • Uploading low-resolution images on your website
  • • Disabling right-click menu options on your website

These methods are not fool-proof, and those who are determined to steal your content will always find a way around these. But it doesn’t help to try and make their work a little more complicated.

For now, one of the best things you can do to counter copyright infringement and plagiarism is by arming yourself with information. Here are some resources for further reading:


For Photographers and Artists: