Creating content for your marketing strategy involves a fair bit of picking the right images to go with your copy. Looting images off search engines has become so common that many forget that it’s not entirely ethical. Sure it’s fair game if images are found in the public domain, but you should always be wary when an image does not belong to you. Here are four tips for using images with marketing content that will make sure nobody runs afoul of licensing infringements.

1.Register your copyrights to images you own

Let’s start at the beginning. When an image is created, whether by graphic design or photography, the creator owns the rights to that image. If the image was commissioned by someone who paid the creator to do it, then the commissioner either owns all or part of the rights to the image, depending on what was agreed upon between them and the designer or photographer. Anyone who does not own the rights to the image is not allowed to use it commercially. Registering your copyrights to images that are assets to your brand is a good way to protect them. Once this is this done, put a copyright notice next to your images and in the metadata of their digital file to deter any image thief.

2. Assume and attribute when using images with marketing content

No matter where you find an image, always assume it is protected. Do a reverse image search to determine if you have permission to use it or need to ask for approval. Attributing images to owners in the form of a watermark, a link back to their website, or both is the best way to avoid conflict, and potential losses from copyright infringement. If the image will be used in any ad campaigns, be sure to contact the owner of the image and ask for permission first or you might have to pay royalties you can’t afford.

3. Do not recreate photos without permission

Seen time and again, replication of photos can constitute a copyright infringement, even when re-created in a different medium. For example, re-creating a photo concept digitally and using it in a marketing campaign can be a problem if the original photo is protected. Copyrighted images protect the intellectual property of the owner, which includes the creative concept of those images. Be original, and if you have to, ask for permission before using a photo’s creative concept for your marketing content.

4. Use images from a royalty-free marketplace

Royalty-free visual marketplaces like Unsplash and Pixabay offer a wide range of images in their database, no matter what you require them for. Royalty-free images are budget-friendly and have become the go-to when using images with marketing content. Of course, you may not always find exactly what you are looking for, in which case, spending some money on an image license or photoshoot should be the next thing you consider.