With more and more authors designing their own covers, it’s even more important they understand their rights as well as the rights of the image holder/photographer. An easy way is to just get your photos for the cover art at a stock photo site such as Big Stock, Fotolia, or Deposit Photos.
They have various license you can purchase and explain in detail what you can and can’t do with each image. But there are some things people do with the images without realizing they’re violating copyright such as displaying the stock photo without purchasing it. By this I mean, you do a search on their site, find an image and then post that image (with the watermark) on your blog asking your readers, “Do you like this?”. Without realizing it, this is a violation of almost every stock photo sites terms of service. Unless you purchase the unwatermarked image you’re not allowed to show it on your site openly in that manner.
Then there is the issue of public domain. Say for example an artist’s work has fallen into public domain and a photographer goes into a museum and takes a picture of that artwork. While the artwork itself may be public domain, the picture taken by the photographer may not be. You still need that photographer’s permission to use the image they took. And believe it or not, there are certain buildings which you’re not allowed to use or take pictures of.
The easiest way to ensure you’re not infringing copyright is to just contact the photographer (or stock photo site) and purchase a license. You will save yourself a ton of headache later on. And the one absolute thing you never ever want to do is download an image from a Google search. That is almost a guarantee you’re violating someone’s copyright because you have no way of knowing what the original source for that image is or in what manner the owner allows his work to be used.
Not infringing upon copyright is pretty simple. If it’s not yours, don’t use it, or get permission before you do. Designers, artists, and photographers work just as hard on their images as an author does on their words so just be respectful of their hard work and ask before you use regardless of what it is you’re wanting to use.
Do you know an artist whose work has been stolen or the copyright violated?