Copyright 101 For Authors

“I found it on the Internet…”  is one of those answers that makes me slam the brakes on an author’s self-publishing train.

“…And where did you get these pictures?”

“I used Google® and copied and pasted them from a website.”

When self-publishing, it’s especially important for an author to be aware of the potential legal risks involved in writing and publishing a book. Using images or text taken off the internet is one of them. It’s easy, and tempting, to copy and paste an image when you’re looking for a “certain something” to add to your book, or to take some text from the internet and “change it a bit.” But using a photo, illustration, graphic or text without permission is Copyright Infringement and could lead to legal action and fines.

You might think that “no one will know,” but once your book is in print, it is in the public eye, and bound to be seen by anyone.

I have seen books created with barely any budget, and others with thousands of dollars invested into editing, design, illustrations, etc. An author may think that they can’t fit certain things into their publishing budget, but there are many ways they can create a successful book while avoiding Copyright Infringement:

  • Try asking the owner of the image or text for written permission to use it. If written permission is given, credit should be given to the photographer, author or rights holder.
  • Stock photos are a cost-effective way for a self-publisher to add the imagery they need to their book. There are dozens of reputable stock photography websites.
  • You could take your own photos, or find a fledgling photographer looking for practice.
  • Look for an illustrator or graphic artist who is newer to the business and looking to gain experience in the publishing world, who might in turn offer you a lower price for their work.

You’ve worked hard to write and prepare your book; avoid risking its success by using images and text you don’t have the rights to. To learn more about what constitutes Copyright Infringement, visit