You are probably asking, “Can I take a screenshot and use it on my blog?”, “Are screenshots illegal?”, and “Will I get in legal trouble?” Maybe you’ve even asked around or gone online to find an answer only to be met with conflicting advice.
If so, I’ve done the same exact thing. It can be frustrating and overwhelming not to find a direct, clear answer to simple questions. That’s why I wrote this post. I dug around online, checked credible sources, and even consulted an attorney to finally get to the bottom of these questions.
Here’s what I found:
Yes, you can take screenshots and use them on your blog. This almost always falls under Fair Use. It comes down to intent, how, and how much you use of the other person’s content. 99.9% of the time you don’t have to ask for permission. However, it’s still considered good practice to always credit the source of your screenshots.
Sources: section 107 of US copyright law, www.copyright.gov, attorney
But wait, did you say “almost always”??
Yes, because it depends on how many screenshots you take and how you use them. It also depends on what country you live in. This post is primarily for those in the US (but the information applies to many other countries as well).
What Falls Under Fair Use For Screenshots?
Now, I’m not a lawyer (yep, mandatory disclaimer), but I did consult one in developing this post (see my sources listed at the bottom of the post).
My research and legal advisor all point to this: as long as you are taking and using a small number of screenshots for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—your use qualifies as fair use.
If you are using a screenshot for private or personal use, such as to save “for your eyes only,” as a computer background, etc., you are completely safe and within your legal rights to do so.
Here are a few other specific, real world scenarios:
- You take one screenshot of a publicly available website like Twitter as an example for a point in your blog post. (That’s fair use)
- You take one or two screenshots of a Keyword Search Tool to show the process of how to perform keyword searches for ranking higher in Google (that’s fair use).
- You post an unaltered screenshot of a Spotify playlist on your blog for commentary, review, or criticism. (That’s fair use)
- You take a screenshot and use it on your blog for informational purposes. Your blog is monetized with ads. (That’s fair use)
We’ll talk about a few rare cases where fair use might not apply in a moment. First, I just want to calm your concerns.
The bottom line is that 99.9% of the time you shouldn’t worry about using a screenshot on your blog.
The easiest way to protect yourself?
- Take only a few screenshots (5 or less, depending on the length of the content). As a rule of thumb, the shorter the content, the fewer screenshots you should take.
- Don’t alter the image (you can, however, “cut” the image to focus on one particular area or feature)
- Use them for informational purposes only (teaching, commentary, review, etc.).
- Give credit to the creator or owner of the content.
Still, I know it can be nerve-wracking and stressful to try to make the best blog post possible without ending up in legal trouble. There is a huge learning curve when it comes to online blogging and entrepreneurship.
Read my post on How to Start a Blog for Free and Make Money
Despite the clear answer that you almost certainly have nothing to worry about, people still have questions, so let’s dig in!
What is a Screenshot?
First, what is a screenshot? A screenshot is a picture you take with your computer, phone, or tablet of something online. You can take a screenshot of anything online: websites, videos, TV shows, social media posts, games, other people’s blog posts, anything.
Here’s a Screenshot.
Ok, that makes sense, but how do you take one?
How Do You Take a Screenshot?
The way you take a screenshot depends on what type of computer or device you are using (laptop, desktop, tablet or phone, etc.).
How Do You Take a Screenshot on a Windows PC?
If you’re on a Windows computer, simply press “Ctrl + Prt Sc” to take a screenshot. The screenshot is saved much like text is saved when you highlight and “copy” it.
Next, head to wherever you want to take your screenshot, like your blog, and right-click to select the “paste” option. Presto! You have inserted a screenshot into your blog post.
Here’s a screen recording of me doing that with this post.
How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac?
If you’re using a Mac, you can take a screenshot in several ways.
- Capture the entire screen (like normal)
- Capture a part of your screen (that you choose)
- Capture a specific window
Yeah, Macs are pretty dang cool.
Here’s the rundown of how to take each screenshot (Also, I added a video to make it super clear):
- Entire screen: press “Shift + Command + 3” and it’ll capture your screen.
- Part of your screen: press “Shift + Command + 4”. (You’ll need to drag the pointer (called the crosshairs because programmers are apparently also snipers) to select the area you want to screenshot.
- Screenshot of a specific window: (This one has several steps) press “Shift + Command + 4” and, at the same time, also press the Space bar on your keyboard. On your screen, the pointer will transform into a camera, or at least an icon of one. All you need to do now is to drag the camera icon on a window of your choosing. This will highlight and capture the window.
Wow, that’s a lot of words to describe what is essentially a super simple process of taking snapping a photo with your device. In case that is confusing, here’s a video that shows you exactly how to do it.
How to Take a Screenshot On a Phone
Phone technology changes all the time, and many videos on YouTube are years old, but here is a simple, short video of how to take a screenshot on an Android or iPhone.
How to Take A Screenshot On a Tablet
Like phones, tablets are ever-changing. The good news is that companies are constantly making it easier and easier to take screenshots with any device.
Here’s a video on how to take a screenshot with an ONN Tablet or Android Tablet.
Now here’s a screenshot video for an iPad.
Now you know what a screenshot is and how to take one, but can you really just use it on your blog? Is there really no reason to worry?
Those are honest questions that I’ve asked myself. So have many other writers. So, let’s answer these questions once and for all, shall we?
Is it Ever Illegal to Take and Use Screenshots on Your Website?
Yes, there are certain conditions that would, at the very least, place you in very muddy waters (a.k.a, questionable grounds). Is it illegal? Maybe. Maybe not. But why go there.
As long as you are not taking tons of screenshots or earning money selling the actual screenshots, you are almost assuredly just fine. Even if you use a screenshot for commentary and example purposes in an eBook or course that you create and sell, you are probably still be covered by fair use.
What are possible circumstances where taking and using screenshots would be illegal?
- If you are taking a screenshot of something behind a “paywall”, like inside a paid eBook, inside a paid course, or inside a “members only” area of a website.
- If you take a screenshot of something the owner or creator clearly expresses that they do not want you to screenshot and publicize elsewhere (Usually, this is made very clear upfront).
- You take and publically post a screenshot of a private conversation where the parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
- You take 150 screenshots of the entire content of an eBook and post it all on your blog.
If you have to pay to get access to it, or if there are obvious reasons not to screenshot, why not err on the side of caution and not screenshot it for use on your blog? No one is probably going to hunt you down and sue you, but it’s just good karma and good practice.
Can I Use YouTube Screenshots in My Blog Post?
You mean, like this one?
Sure, why not. You can use a screenshot of a YouTube search, a video itself, or video comments. Again, the key is how many and how you use your screenshots.
For example, I wouldn’t take 20 screenshots of a video and post it on your website. One or two? Shouldn’t be a problem.
Is It Illegal to Take Screenshots of Movies, TV, or Streaming Services (Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, etc)?
What if you want to use a screenshot of a movie, TV-show, or streaming services like Netflix or Hulu?
Here’s a good point about fair use from Adam on a google Blogger forum applying fair use to anime.
Can I Use Screenshots of Apps and Games?
What about using screenshots of apps like Kindle, Facebook, or TikTok (or any newfangled apps that don’t exist at the time of this writing)? What about using images or screenshots of the latest PlayStation or X-box games?
You can use screenshots from apps and games much the same way as you can any other screenshots. Just think about it: YouTubers show tons of game time on their monetized channels.
If there were some major video game commission to crack down on using images (or video), YouTubers would be the biggest culprits.
In contrast, you want to use two static screenshots in your informational or entertainment post. There is no issue. I certainly wouldn’t worry about it. Simply follow the guidelines of limiting the number of screenshots that you use, and give credit.
Who Do I Contact to Seek Permission to Use Screenshots?
The contact person for each website is going to be different. Here are a few steps you can take to find the right person:
- Look for a “Contact” or “About Us/Me” page. You’ll generally find an email or online submission form.
- If that doesn’t work, try their social media accounts. (Again, either find those on the website or just run a search of their website name in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. When you find the right site, send them a direct message).
By using the above approaches, you will likely find the copyright holder.
How Do I Ask For Copyright Permission For My Screenshot?
There is no right or wrong way to ask for permission to use the screenshot on your blog or website. However, I appreciate a good template, so here is one that I created just for you.
Dear [Insert name],
I found your website while researching for my latest blog post. I thought [describe what you want to screenshot] would make a wonderful example in my post. I am writing to ask for your permission to use a screenshot of [insert short content description] on my blog post for informational purposes only. Please note that I will credit you with a link to your website.
Please let me know.
Create Your Own Royalty Free and Copyright Free Images
After this entire post, if you are still concerned about getting in legal trouble for using screenshots on your blog, I have a solution for you.
It’s actually the solution that I use most of time. Not because I’m worried, but because it’s so simple and easy.
I create my own images.
You know that orange infographic about copyright law at the beginning of this post? I created that on https://www.canva.com. The image with the astute looking gentleman and the “rules” for safely using screenshots? Canva again.
It’s an amazing free website where you can make almost any kind of blog (or other kinds of) graphics you could ever want.
I use it so often that I got the paid version, but you really – REALLY – don’t need to. The free version is fantastic. I combine Canva with free high-quality photos from Unsplash.com for almost every blog post.
The most important takeaways from this blog post:
- Fair use covers your screenshots most of the time.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Be kind and considerate (limit screenshots, give credit and ask for permission, if appropriate)
Planning on turning your blog content into an eBook or lead magnet? Read my post on 10 eBook Marketing Strategies (Explode Your eBook Sales)
Hopefully, you now have the full and complete answer to the question, “Can I take a screenshot and use it on my blog?”
Now go out there and create.