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Is Using Celebrity Photos on Your Blog OK?

By Mar 10, 2011July 3rd, 201446 Comments

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Remember that post I wanted to write last week about Oscar Fashion, only it ended up being about using pictures from a celebrity website? Well, my lawyer pal, Danielle Liss of www.danielleliss.com followed up with the real info.  Enjoy (and go thank her for sharing her expertise).

How to Use Images on Your Blog that
Are Not Your Own

We’ve all been there. You’re writing a post. You want to live by the maxim of a photo with every post, but you simply don’t have a photo that fits with your content. Because you’re writing about why the amazing host of So You Think You Can Dance, Cat Deely, always seems to be dressed like some sort of character, you need a picture of tonight’s ensemble to prove that she was dressed exactly like your first Barbie. However, the only photo that you can find is on a celebrity gossip blog. You can copy and paste the image directly into the blog, so you can use it, right?

I don’t really recommend it. The image is most likely copyrighted.

creative common

photo credit: dacoolhunter.blogspot.com

If you check the terms of the website where the image is posted, it is most likely a copyrighted image. Or, it may show the source of the image is an agency, like Getty Images. If that is the case, you should be paying royalties to Getty Images.

But then you remember that you have the show saved on your DVR. Since the entire show is a copyrighted work, can you take a photograph of Cat on the screen and use it for your blog?

The answer is yes.

Since you are writing about how Cat looks or if you were using the photo for a fashion-related blog, it would be considered a fair use of the isolated image from the program.

“If the picture is transformative of the original, or sufficiently original on its own, then it may be a derivative work,” says Intellectual Property attorney Rich Newman. So, for example, if you made a side-by-side photo collage of your first Barbie and Cat’s photo and then put arrows and commentary showing the similarities in her ensemble, that would typically add enough to the photo to make it a derivative work under copyright law.

If, however, you are not looking for photos of something on TV, there are a lot of great resources online where you can find photos. If you want to purchase photos that don’t require attribution, you can use Thinkstock or iStockphoto.

For many bloggers, though, using stock photography websites can be cost-prohibitive. The best option may be to use works that are licensed for public use, but may require attribution. You can find these photos on Flickr or Wikimedia Commons. (On Flickr, do an Advanced Search for the Creative Commons license.) When using images from these sites, it is critical that you note what type of license the image has. If attribution is required, ensure that you have properly identified the photographer and provided the necessary links.

Just remember, if you aren’t sure if a photo is copyrighted, don’t use it. When it comes to photos on websites, a letter requesting that you take down the photo is not required prior to a lawsuit for copyright infringement. (Google “Righthaven” to see how everyday bloggers like you and me are being sued for copyright infringements. It is simply not worth it.)

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Featured image photo credit: stipkalalaw.com

About Tiffany

Lover of college football, sushi and historical fiction. Mom to a teen and a toddler. I am a real life summer camp director and President of Influencer Management at Sway Group.


  • Daisy says:

    I am a beginner at blogging and just got inspired to write my first post. I want to write a review of the band/music I like and of course I want to add images…. but I stumbled upon copyright issues (if you post images that are not your own). I read about it and searched for images in Creative Commons and ecc. but they don’t have what I’m looking for.
    So I want to ask some questions:
    1. Can I use screenshots from an MV (music video) of the band?
    2. Do I have to make credit (write something) under the images?
    3. Should I change the image on my blog background as well ? (I use picture from Google)
    What will be alright ?

    I would very highly appreciate it if you can answer my questions.
    Thank you in advance… as well as writing a post about it.

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  • Jr Quest says:

    Great post, i think the best way is if yout blog attract alot of traffic from your niche you can buy images of celebrities from http://www.gettyimages.com/ this is the best and safest way

  • katherine says:

    Hi, I am currently working on my website. It’s not a ‘blog’ perse but it is a website about ‘makeup tips’. I want to use photos of ‘celebrities’ in my website to illustrate celebrity makeup tips. For e.g. if I have a web page called ‘how to do britney spears makeup’, I want to have a photo of her face beside my ‘text’. I also want to ‘edit’ the photo on photoshop (e.g. change her lip colour to demonstrate lipstick colours, change her eyeshadow colours,etc).

    I am new to these ‘legal’ stuff…so in summary to be able to: 1) use photos in my website for commercial use (i will be having google ads and affiliate) 2) edit the photo, I just click “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content”, “Find content to use commercially”, “Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon” ?? And, any images that come up …is okay for me to use and edit?

    Sorry for so many questions…I really want to make my website and I’m freaking out right now because I’m scared of getting sued! Please…somebody email me or post a reply, I need help fast! =( Thank you!

    Kind regards,

    • Gigi says:

      This should walk you through using Creative Commons images. http://www.squidoo.com/cc-flickr
      No matter what you use, you always should give attribution to the photo’s owner. Please do not consider this advice substitution for legal advice, though! Good luck.

  • chris says:

    thank you so much for this clarification. Some of it I knew, but still learned quite a bit here. Thanks again

  • Great information to the blogging novice!

  • Thanks. Good info!

  • Trianna says:

    I thought that crediting the source would be enough! Thanks for the info. I’m still new to Flickr so I’ll just have to try and figure it out myself.

  • WOW. So helpful, thank you so much for this information!

  • Thanks for the update.

  • Very good advice and good information. Sometimes, things get so complicated and it’s nice to have the details pared down so you can keep them on hand when questions come up.

  • Anne Galivan says:

    Some good clarifications! I prefer to pay for pictures using Fotolia.com so that I don’t have to worry about proper attributions etc. I don’t post every day so it’s not prohibitive for me and the number of pictures on there is practically limitless.

  • Gina says:

    Great information…now I know why that post on YouTube of a scene from “Glee” was made by someone just shooting a video of their T.V. screen…And I love your Cat Deely references, very funny ♥

  • Thanks for shedding some light into this issue. So many times, I almost posted celebrity pictures that were probably copyrighted, and a lot of those times, I stopped just before pressing the Publish button. I was thinking that since so many celebrity photos appeared on so many sites, they should be fair game. But I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want to risk it. I’ve taken to using Flickr’s The Commons section to search for photos for some of my posts. I don’t want to go through the hassle of being sued!

  • My question is about images that are used on multiple sites and for which I can’t find an original source. Should we still assume those images are copyrighted, or are they considered fair use?

  • Marie Cole says:

    All good info. to know, thank you for sharing and enlightening us all.

  • Small correction:

    EVERY photo is under copyright with the exception of images over 100 years (+/-) a few years. Copyright is 70 years plus the life of a photographer so anything created in the past century is still subject to copyright.

    My husband is a professional photographer for a company in Las Vegas and while he takes the images and receives the proper credits when published, the images still belong to his employer. Another friend of mine photographs celebrities on the red carpet, also here in Vegas. I can assure you he would not take too kindly to people using his images without written permission (and his work has been seen many, many times in People Magazine, among others).

    People assume that because it’s on Google Images it’s free for the taking when it’s not so. Unfortunately, there’s an extreme lack of knowledge when it comes to these matters. I am a photographer, my husband is a photographer as I mentioned, and several (as in at least 40) friends and acquaintances are photographers. People stealing our photos for their blogs, web sites, whatever WITHOUT written permission is a huge concern among us as is the sudden influx of “photographers” who are picking up a DSLR they have no clue how to operate but call themselves pros 2 weeks later.

    When in doubt, either say NO to the image or find a way to contact the image owner. When dealing with Creative Commons works, make sure to thoroughly READ what is and isn’t allowed. Just because it’s CC does NOT mean you can do as you please with it. There are rules to those images as well.

    I simply advise people to play it safe and use common sense when dealing with images they did not take themselves.

  • Thank you for this awesome information!!! I’ve had these questions a lot so this clears everything up.

  • Laura says:

    I have always wondered about using pictures from yahoo images and photobucket.

  • I have never heard of Wikimedia before but so far from what I’ve seen it’s amazing! I’ve found more there that I can use than I ever was able to find on Flickr!

  • Tiffany says:

    This is really good information to know about using photos that don’t belong to us. just because they are accessible on the internet does not mean they are free for the taking. It is definitely not worth getting sued over.

  • Marie says:

    Thank you for this post. The copyright issue reared its ugly head this week on another forum I participate in and I was thinking I should do a blog post about copyright. As a writer/photographer, it’s a hot button issue with me (though I’ll let you use my photos on your blog if you ask first and give me credit/link).

    Besides, it’s just not nice to hijack someone’s work.

  • Great info! I use Zemanta on Blogger, which provides photos and links that relate to the blog. It’s a great source for photos, and the attribution is built in.

  • Lala says:

    Thanks for the information!! I NOW know what NOT to do 😉

  • Thanks for the info!!!

  • Ah yes, this is so true… because who wants to get sued?

  • Lanita says:


    I’ve used iPhotoStock all along, but will go try Thinkstock also.

  • fojoy says:

    This is great information to know…here I thought all I had to do was credit the source!

  • Ah! So helpful. I’ve run into this dilemma many times while blogging. Thanks for answering all my questions!

  • I’m not saying all my photos come from a girl I knew in college who I killed to obtain all her pictures and recreate her life online… but I’m not saying I’m not.

    (That’d be legal, right?)

    (Because she’s not alive to sue me.)


  • Great advice!!!!

  • Great info! thanks!

  • Kelly says:

    Great advice as always!!!

  • This was a wonderful post. I think it is very important for people to understand that they can be sued for doing such a thing. I do not bash it completely but research is very important. Going to court isn’t cool. Thanks for posting this.

  • VERY imformative! Thank you!

  • Mimi says:

    Great post! I’m adding this as a resource to my blogging 101 folder!

  • Thanks for this! I don’t use images much but am trying to do it more. So hard to find the right one and know if it is okay to use.

  • Posting pictures is always something I WANT to do but am SCARED to do…I must admit, it’s all a big confusing mess to me. I guess I’ll just have to learn how to take awesome pictures of my own!!! That’s a total win-win 🙂

    Thanks for the post, I have learned a valuable lesson.

  • Dumb Mom says:

    Yes! Great info! And the reason I’ve been working on creating my photo stock. Now, if I could just get more celebs to pose for me!

  • Lynda says:

    This article is definitely needed. Thank you for the info!

    One thing to note – just because the image is licensed for use through Creative Commons does not mean it isn’t copyright. It’s still copyright the original creator, they are just permitting you to use it.

    I’ve also written more about Finding Photos on Flickr to use on your blog if anyone’s interested.

    I love Flickr!

  • And I just removed a post. Thank you!

  • Thank you for explaining this better. And I would have never thought about using DVRd images!

  • SharleneT says:

    Excellent article and much needed. There is nothing more frustrating than to do a search and discover your own work has been ‘borrowed’, whether it’s your writing or your photos. What’s really funny is that those who have no problem using someone else’s photos or articles get downright righteous if they discover someone has taken theirs! Thanks for sharing. Come visit when you can.