Cautions about Internet 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 stock photos:

  1. Posting photos on is considered “commercial usage”. The fact that M-DAT, the MissionExcellence 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 sometimes are later pulled without notice. Your continued usage after that point is “unauthorized”.
  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 in order to protect yourself, you may 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

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, some stock photo companies have uploaded public domain photos and then threatened people who were using those photos but had not subscribed to their services.   

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

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