Book Publishing Basics: What You Need to Know About Using Copyrighted Images

Are you getting ready to publish your book?

If yes, congrats. Whether it’s through the traditional route or self-publishing, the good thing is you’re doing it. Don’t forget that some writers only dream about it. They either have a book they’ve already started but not finished or they’ve yet to write their killer idea.

Now, if all that’s left for you is to find the perfect image or illustration to go with your book, there are some things you need to know about using copyrighted images. Here, we’ll talk about some of the best practices for lowering your copyright risks, as well as some tips for using internet images in your book. 

Using Copyrighted Images

What Is Image Copyright

How to Using Copyrighted-Protected Images

Where to Find Royalty-Free Images

Print and Publish Your Book

First Things First: What Is Image Copyright?

One of the best things about the internet is that it’s a treasure trove of beautiful images. The downside to this, however, is that anyone who’s not familiar with copyright laws might think that it’s okay to grab these images for personal or professional use.

Here’s the thing though, most of the images online are copyrighted. That means these images have owners (usually the ones who created them). If you use these images without permission, you’re committing copyright infringement, which is a legal offense.

Now, keep in mind that the term ‘use’ covers reproduction, publication, and distribution. If you do any of these and you get caught, you’re sure to face some legal and financial consequences. 

Best Practices for Using Copyrighted-Protected Images

Of course, you can opt to use copyright-free images, but what if you have your heart set on this one picture you saw online? 

You don’t have to give up just yet. Copyright-protected images are by no means off-limits. If the image you want to use isn’t copyright-free, you can try the most direct method, which is asking the owner for permission.

Another option is to get a license through a third-party website. You can also have the copyright transferred to you, but this can get complicated. If you choose this option, try to get legal help to ensure the transfer will be valid.

Important: You’ll rarely find copyrighted images online that are free to use. To be on the safe side, always try to find the owner of the image. If you can’t find the copyright owner, it’s best to let the image go, and look for another one you can use for your work.

Looking for the Image Copyright Owner: 3 Tips That Can Help 

Let’s say you’re looking for the copyright owner of the image you want to put in your book. Here are 3 tips that can help make your search easier.

1. Look for a Watermark

One of the easiest ways to tell if an image is copyright-protected is to check if it has a watermark. Now most watermarks are obvious, meaning they’re often the name of the individual or company to whom the image belongs. This should make it easier for you to contact the copyright owner, but if the watermark’s quite vague, a little googling can help. 

Fair warning though, never try to remove a watermark from an image, then use it for your book, website, social media post, etc. If the owner of that image finds out, he or she can sue you. Plus, they will most likely use what you’ve done to show that you have every intention of infringing on their copyright.

2. Check the Caption 

Another easy way to tell if an image you found online is copyrighted is through its caption. Some info you’ll find here includes the name of the copyright owner, their email address, and/or website. 

With these details, you should be able to get in touch with the image owner. If you’re lucky, they’ll allow you to use their image either through a license or a written agreement.

3. Do a Google Reverse Image Search

For journalists, writers, and other folks who want to find the original source of an image, Google Reverse Image Search is a super useful tool. It’s easier to use on a desktop, but you can also use it on a mobile device

Take note that image owners also use this tool to know if other sites are using their photos without permission.

A Few More Notes on Using Copyrighted Images

There are some cases where obtaining permission may not be necessary. One example is when the image is in the public domain. Another would be when copyright owners explicitly state that anyone can freely use their image without getting permission.

If an image has a CC or Creative Commons license, don’t assume that it’s automatically free to use. It’s in your best interest to be thorough when reading what that particular CC license allows.

Don’t forget that most CC licenses specify that the copyright owner must be acknowledged. You should also keep in mind that some CC licenses are strict about using images as-is, while others allow modifications.

You wouldn’t want to be accused of altering copyrighted images and using them for your book just because you didn’t check the fine print. That also goes for selling copyrighted images with a CC license.

What About Royalty-Free Images?  

If you feel that the whole process of obtaining permission from an image copyright owner is too tedious, you can opt to buy from a stock agency such as

and so on.

Other options include

For some authors, this is the most appealing option because they get access to a vast library of royalty-free photos.

However, you should remember that if you buy a royalty-free photo, it doesn’t mean you own its copyright. The stock agency retains the copyright, but you will obtain the license to use this photo as many times you want.

One last thing: Whether you plan to use a copyrighted image or a royalty-free one for your book, there are some printing and publishing mistakes you need to avoid. These include not using the right image resolution (at least 300dpi) for printing, no ISBN, and so on.

Ready to Print and Publish Your Book?

Now that you know the basics of using copyrighted images, do you still need more printing and publishing tips and advice?

If yes, don’t hesitate to browse our other posts. You may also contact us if you have any questions about book printing, custom printing services, hardcover book printing, children’s book printing, etc.