Cautions About Using Stock Photos

We really believe that eye catching photos enhance the appeal of your trip descriptions. Intentionally ask your staff and team members to take pictures for you as they go!

Stock photos however can also bring legal problems. 

Here are 5 key points to remember about using stock photos:

1. Posting photos on is considered a “commercial usage.” 

The fact that and your organization are nonprofits doesn’t change that.

2. Stock photos are copyrighted and licensed.

Random pictures on social media or Twitter or Google are no different. Someone took those photos and they own the copyright. You must know and follow the terms of the license including giving credit in the form they require.

3. Several stock photo companies and various copyright lawyers aggressively search websites and blogs for unauthorized usage of their photos.

You must be able to document where you found the photo, the terms of its license and demonstrate that you have complied with the licensing requirements.

4. Photos offered under Creative Commons licenses often are later pulled without notice.

Your continued usage after that point is “unauthorized”. We speak from experience. The fines that result will be paid by your organization.

5. The good news is that some stock photo companies have checked out the copyrights of their pictures so well that they offer to cover up to $10,000 of any legal costs incurred from using their pictures.

But you will still have to document when and where you downloaded it, the terms of the contract and that you complied with the terms of the license (or subscription).

Fair Use of Photos

Because posting photos on is considered a commercial usage, “fair use” does not cover them. For more information about Fair Use see: and similar articles easily found on the web.

Creative Common Licenses

The website explains the various kinds of Creative Common licenses and the requirements of each. Again, because posting photos on is considered “commercial usage” most Creative Common licenses won’t allow posting those pictures to

If you do find photos with Creative Commons licenses which allow commercial usage we will request to see the screenshots of the photo offer page and the terms of the license.

Public Domain

There are some great public domain photos out there, but you need to document where and when you found them and the statement about them being public domain. Unfortunately, a well-known stock photo company out of Seattle, WA apparently uploaded tens of thousands of public domain photos from the Library of Congress and is now threatening people who are using those photos but did not subscribe to their services. The original photographer is suing them in court. For more details see:

All that to say, document where and when you found the photos and the proof that they are public domain. For information about public photos, there is a good discussion at or similar articles on the web.

Check out our DMCA Policy

Contact customer service if you have any questions or need assistance: email us at [email protected].

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