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How to use motivational images without getting sued

“She believed she could she did.”
“Eat. Sleep. Hustle. Repeat.”
“It never gets easier, you just get faster/better/stronger.”
“Teamwork makes the dreamwork.”

Scrolling through your favorite social media channel, it likely won’t take you long to come across at least one motivational saying or quote, often in a highly stylized font, or floating on top of a photo.

Screenshot from a blog I visited recently.

Fairly frequently, we also notice that these images are covered in watermarks, or even include the file name from organizations such as VectorStock, iStockPhoto, or BigStock.

At the risk of sounding harsh – these images are likely stolen, and with a few exceptions, put the organization at very real risk of getting sued.

Here’s a a simple rule of thumb when considering if you are infringing on someone’s copyright – if you didn’t make it, you probably can’t use it. (Click here for a deeper dive into how to avoid copyright infringement).

So the best way to avoid getting sued?

Look Around While riding in Austin, Texas I came across several quotes, that were perfectly Instagrammable. Art, as they say, is everywhere.

View this post on Instagram

Working on it.

A post shared by Kristin Brandt (@kristinsb) on

Use What You Have When I bought this motivational mug from Target, I knew it would be used for more than just supporting my caffeine addiction. The color, and the message, made it a perfect candidate for a social media post.

Design Your Own You can work with a designer, or try your own hand using popular tools, to create your own. (Keep in mind, quotes are also covered by copyright laws – but that’s a topic for another day).

Pay for the image. If you are still planning on using pre-designed images (and there is nothing wrong with that), just remember that getting sued will cost far more than anything organizations like iStock are charging for images. If you believe you will be purchasing images regularly, consider a subscription or multi-pack of credits to save money.

Motivational imagery is a recognized way to engage your audience – just make sure it doesn’t cost you more than it should.