Understanding Image Copyrights: A Guide for Your Attorney Website

As you navigate the vast world of online content, images often catch your eye. The thought might cross your mind: “This would be perfect for my website!” However, many images are copyrighted, and using them without permission is against the law. How can you determine if an image is copyrighted before incorporating it into your law firm’s website or social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook?

Why Images are Subject to Copyright

Images, like any intellectual property, are copyrighted to prevent unauthorized reproduction, use, or display without the owner or creator’s permission. Whether photographers, graphic designers, or artists, these creators invest considerable time and effort into their work. Copyright allows them to control how their images are used, including displaying them on websites, reproducing the work, creating derivative works, and distributing copies. Violating copyright can lead to fines and penalties—a consequence you want to avoid for your law firm.

Identifying Copyrighted Images

Determining if an image is copyrighted can be straightforward or require a deeper investigation. Key indicators on the image itself can provide clues, such as watermarks, captions, and metadata. Watermarks are logos or signatures that indicate ownership, captions often credit the creator, and metadata can reveal ownership details. If these clues are absent, strategies like reverse image searches or checking the US Copyright Database can help clarify the image’s copyright status.


Artists commonly mark their images with watermarks, distinctive logos or signatures, to prevent unauthorized distribution.


Captions associated with an image may reveal ownership details, providing insights into who took the picture or created the artwork.


Information embedded in the metadata of an image can identify the owner and guide you on obtaining permission for use.

Other Strategies

When copyright information is unclear, consider additional methods like reverse image searches or checking the US Copyright Database.

Requesting Permission for Copyrighted Images

If you discover a copyrighted image you wish to use, you can seek permission from the creator or copyright holder. Contact them, share details about your intended use, and negotiate terms of use. The permissions granted may vary based on your usage and previous agreements with other parties.

Contact the Creator

Use the copyright information to contact the image creator or copyright holder and express your interest in using the image.

Share Usage Information

Provide details on how you plan to use the image. Some creators may offer their images for free or a nominal fee, while others may require more substantial compensation.

Negotiate Terms

Work with the image creator to establish a contract outlining how you can use the image, including the scope and duration of usage.

Instances Where Permission is Unnecessary

While it’s generally safest to assume you need permission, there are cases where it may be unnecessary, such as when an image falls outside copyright protection or is in the public domain.

Unprotectable Creations

Certain types of work, like common symbols, blank forms, typefaces, fonts, and lettering, may not be eligible for copyright protection.

Public Domain Images

Some images are intentionally placed in the public domain or enter it due to expired copyrights.

Scholarly Uses

In certain cases, using an image for commentary or scholarly purposes may not require permission, but it’s advisable to ensure legal compliance.

Let The Legal Authority Manage Your Website and Images

Navigating image permissions for your law firm’s website can be intricate. At The Legal Authority, we specialize in building law firm websites, curating striking images, and managing the permission process for copyrighted content. Our expertise extends to optimizing your website for search engines, ensuring it attracts the traffic it deserves. Contact us today to explore how our SEO agency for law firms can enhance your online presence and visual appeal.

Understanding Fair Use

It’s crucial to be aware of the concept of fair use when dealing with copyrighted images. Fair use allows limited use of copyrighted material without permission for purposes such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. However, determining fair use can be subjective and depends on factors like the purpose of use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount used, and the effect on the market value.

Factors Influencing Fair Use

Consider the following factors when assessing whether the use of a copyrighted image qualifies as fair use:

  • Purpose and Character of Use: Non-commercial, educational, or transformative use is more likely to be considered fair.
  • Nature of the Copyrighted Work: Factual or published works may be more susceptible to fair use than highly creative or unpublished works.
  •  Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used: Using a small, insignificant portion is more likely to be considered fair use than reproducing a substantial part of the work.
  • Effect on Market Value: If the use does not significantly impact the market value of the original work, it may be more likely to be deemed fair.

Best Practices for Law Firms

When using images on your law firm’s website, it’s advisable to follow these best practices:

Use Licensed Images

Whenever possible, opt for images that are licensed for use. Stock photo websites and image repositories often provide a clear licensing agreement that outlines how you can use the images.

Create Original Content

Consider creating original images or hiring a photographer or graphic designer to produce unique visuals for your website. This ensures you have full control over the content and avoids potential copyright issues.

Keep Records of Permissions

If you obtain permission to use a copyrighted image, keep records of the communication and agreement. This documentation can be valuable in case of any future disputes.

Regularly Review and Update

Stay informed about changes in copyright law and periodically review the images on your website. Update or remove any content that may pose a copyright concern.


Understanding image copyrights is crucial for law firms navigating the digital landscape. By being aware of the copyright status of images, seeking permissions when necessary, and adhering to fair use principles, your law firm can build an online presence that is both visually appealing and legally sound. If you have any questions or need assistance in managing image copyrights for your website, The Legal Authority is here to help. Contact us to ensure your online presence reflects the professionalism and integrity of your law firm.