book images

Book Images: Getting Beautiful Ones without Breaking Copyright Laws

Salmaan Ahmad

Salmaan Ahmad

May 11, 2023

When you design the layout of your book, you probably want to add book images, pictures, and photographs. You may also want an illustration for the cover, graphics on your author website, or pictures to use in your marketing campaign.

If those images were created by someone else, you’ll have to tread carefully to make sure you’re not violating copyright laws. Doing so can get you into serious legal hot water. Here’s what you need to know to stay on the right side of the law with book images.

Understanding Copyright Laws for Book Images

Are you confused about copyrights, licensing, and free use? Here’s a brief guide to the some of the key terms you need to know when looking for book images.

  • Copyright: When you have a copyright, you have the exclusive right to use, modify, publish, record, or sell a particular work. You also have the right to decide who else, if anyone, can use the work. A copyright is a legal protection.
  • Copyright symbol: This is used to name the holder of a copyright. It’s usually depicted by the author’s name followed by a C in a circle.
  • Attribution: When you acknowledge that someone is the creator of something, you are using attribution. One example is a caption under a photo, for instance, “Photo by Jay Gatsby,” or “Photos by the Getty Agency.” If you quote from someone else’s work, you must attribute your quote to the creator.
  • Creative Commons: The Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that allows writers, photographers, musicians, and other artists to share their work freely with the public. The Creative Commons has its own licensing system for the use of these materials. In some cases, you only need to credit the creator with a caption or other attribution. In others, you must only use the work for noncommercial projects. Finally, some Creative Commons licenses are free to use for any purpose, including commercial ones.
  • Intellectual property: Any work, whether it’s the result of imagination or technology and research, is considered intellectual property. Intellectual property is protected by copyright law.
  • License: The license is the legal right to use a particular work. Only the copyright holder can decide who gets this license.
  • Fair Use: The Fair Use exception to copyright law allows someone to use part of the work as part of a larger whole, for instance, to create a parody, to write a review, or to create instructional materials.
  • Public domain: If something is in the public domain, it means nobody owns the copyright to it. Works in the public domain are free for anyone to use for any purpose. In the United States, works published before 1978 without a copyright notice, works whose copyrights are 75 years old, and all works published by the government are considered public domain.

Are Those Book Images Safe to Use?

You’ve been searching the internet for just the right book images, and you think you’ve found them. Before you borrow a picture from a website or other source, look for clues that it might be protected under copyright laws.

In general, it’s not a good idea to use book images you find on internet searches. These book images are often published without attribution or proper licensing. The users may not have been caught yet, and they may not even be aware that they’re doing anything wrong, but they are breaking the law.

Always assume that an image you find online has a copyright owned by someone. If you want to find out for sure, look for one of these clues.

Image credit

A caption or an image credit is a clear sign that someone else holds the copyright to an image. This might be a person or an agency. On some websites, you may see a link that takes you to the license holder. If you’re set on using that picture, contact the owner and ask for permission to use the picture. In some cases, you will get a “Sure, go ahead, as long as you give me credit.” In others, you will have to pay for the privilege.

Reverse image search

If you found your book images through a Google search, you can use Google’s “Reverse Image Search” function to get to the sources of those pictures. You may have seen this technique on TV shows that investigate internet scammers. The reverse image search will take you to every online appearance of that image, and you’ll eventually get to the original one. That’s where you’ll find out who owns the copyright on it.


A watermark is a layer of print that lays on top of an image. Some copyright holders put large, obvious watermarks on images they own. Others use fainter lines that you might miss on first viewing. If you see a wavy or blurry spot on the image, it might be a watermark.

Metadata mark

All book images online have metadata. This is the digital information stored inside the picture. If you’re working in Windows, right-click on the picture, and then select “Properties.” This will reveal the metadata and show the copyright information. If you’re using a Mac, click on “Tools” and “Show inspector,” and then click the “I” icon. Hit the “EXIF” tab to reveal the metadata.

Consequences of Breaking Copyright Laws with Book Images

You may think you’re too unimportant for the government to go after you for copyright infringement. However, violating copyright laws can result in serious penalties, including:

  • Confiscation of all items that violate the law
  • Fines ranging from $200 to $150,000 for each violation
  • Legal injunctions
  • Court costs and attorney’s fees

The excuse that you found something widely used across the internet won’t work as a defense. In 1998, the government passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protects copyright owners from unlawful digital downloads of their works.

In short, don’t take unnecessary chances. There are plenty of places where you can find high-quality book images, pictures, graphics, and photographs that you can use without violating copyright laws.

Where to Find Copyright-Free Book Images

The good news is that there are creators out there who are happy to share their work with you. You can create a beautiful cover and other great-looking book images while protecting yourself and your book.

Here are some top sites where you’ll have access to thousands of beautiful book images, including photographs and videos. Although most are free to use without attribution, it’s always a nice gesture to give credit to the creator.

Pexels: This well-designed site is chock-full of photographs, artwork, and other creative materials. The site holds a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, which means that everything is free and available for any use.

Freerange Stock: This site holds thousands of high-quality photographs. It’s free to register for a membership. You can view photos by category, see the latest additions, or check out what’s most popular. You can use these book images for personal or commercial purposes.

Gratisography: Although this is a smaller site than some of the others on the list, its photographs are consistently high in quality. It works under a Creative Commons license.

Pixabay: This site specializes in royalty-free pictures, drawings, photos, videos, and music. The Pixabay license allows you to use them without asking for permission or giving credit, even if you’re using them for commercial purposes.

Unsplash: Like Pixabay, Unsplash has its own license that allows free use of all its material. You’ll find huge numbers of free artwork, photographs, videos, animations, and more. You can use them for anything–except to create a website that competes with Unsplash.

Copyright Laws Protect Everyone

As a book author, you benefit from the same laws that protect other creators. Fortunately, it’s easy to stay out of trouble. You can choose images and pictures that beautify your book without infringing on anyone else’s rights.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide. When it’s time to publish you book, images and all, contact Publishing Xpress.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2024 Publishing Xpress. All Rights Reserved.

Email Quote