Can we include images in our stories? What are the guidelines for using images on SWG?

When we set up the SWG archive, we granted permission to use images because, although SWG is a group formed by and for writers, we also have strong ties to the Tolkien fanart community, and we count numerous talented artists among our members. Furthermore, images can and have always been used alongside written work. Members who wish to enhance their stories with visual artwork should feel free to do so.

However, in order to protect ourselves legally, protect the rights of our fellow artists, and respect other writers who use the archive, SWG members who wish to use images must adhere to the following guidelines. These guidelines apply throughout the SWG website: in stories, reviews, member profiles, and other areas where members can display images. When using an image on the SWG archive, the three conditions below must be met.

1. You are legally allowed to use the image.

The Internet makes billions of images available at the click of the mouse. Many people incorrectly assume that because an image is posted online, then it is free and available for use by anyone.

This can be a costly error. Image copyright holders can and will track down illegal use of their images, hitting infringing sites with bills ranging from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars. We are an all-volunteer site maintained financially by one person who works as a special-education teacher and cannot afford to pay legal bills because you chose to post an image you did not own to this site. In the interest of preserving this site financially and legally, it is mandatory that all images used on the site meet at least one of the following conditions.

  1. The image is in the public domain. Just because an image is online does not mean that it is in the public domain. Public domain works are works not protected by copyright because the copyright has expired, has been forfeited, or does not apply. The number of years that must pass before a copyright expires and a work enters the public domain varies based on the country of origin of the work. Unless a work is clearly identified as public domain, do not assume that it is.
  2. The image is licensed for free, nonprofit use, or you have purchased a license for the image. Many artists and photographers make their work available online for free under licenses such as Creative Commons licenses. These works will be clearly labeled as to how they can be used. Image libraries and stock photo sites will also often sell licenses for images in their libraries that, again, will make clear how those images can be used.

    It is important to adhere to the terms of the license. For example, some artists may make their work available for free but may not allow modifications, such as resizing, cropping, or captioning.
  3. You have written permission from the copyright holder to use the image. For example, your friend may allow you to use photographs from her online photo gallery to make icons and photomanips to display on your profile. Or an artist you like may give your permission to post a drawing with a chapter of your story that the drawing inspired. Again, you should get written permission, including permission to make modifications to the images, if applicable, before displaying any of the images on the Web.
  4. You own the copyright for the image. If you are the artist or photographer, unless you have sold your rights, then you own the copyright to your image and can do with it as you please. Digital artists should be aware, however, that using photos, brushes, and even fonts made by other people require meeting one of the conditions above. For example, screencapping a photo available from Getty Images and using it as a backdrop for your photomanip of Fingolfin is still infringement and can still get you—and our site—in trouble.

2. You have credited the copyright holder.

You must credit the copyright holder for any photography or artwork that you display on our site. Do not assume that every Silmarillion fan knows Jenny Dolfen's work and will recognize her painting when you use it in your story. The copyright holder is generally the artist or photographer, unless stated otherwise.

Some artists and photographers have very specific requirements for credit, or attribution. For example, they may require a link to their DeviantART page or want their name written in a certain way. Follow these instructions to the letter. Never remove copyright notices or watermarks from images unless you have written permission from the copyright holder to do so.

Failure to credit the artist or photographer who created an image is the same as taking credit for that image and is plagiarism. Unless an artist or photographer explicitly asks you not to include her or his name on the work, then you should always provide credit, including if you are the copyright holder.

3. The image is displayed in an appropriate place on the SWG website.

The SWG archive is primarily a place for writers to share stories, poems, and essays with readers. As such, we do not allow images in places where they could possibly disrupt the experience of authors and readers who did not post the image.

Given that, we allow images anyplace on the SWG where the content is controlled by a single author or coauthor group. This includes member profiles, story notes, story content, and LiveJournal entries behind an LJ-cut.

Images are not allowed in "public spaces," where multiple authors are contributing content. This includes story summaries (which appear on pages used by multiple authors) and LiveJournal entries outside an LJ-cut (where content appears beside the entries of others).

Other areas fall between the two designations, such as reviews or round-robin stories. While multiple authors can contribute to these areas, they are not able to be edited by the "controlling" author or contributors. Images are permitted in these areas but will be removed by a moderator if asked to do so by the controlling author or the user who added the image.

We ask authors to limit images to areas that they control since images load slower than other site content and may disrupt the layout of the site. When images are added to areas used by multiple authors, this may affect the loading speed and layout for multiple authors, most of whom do not control the image, and negatively impact readership for those authors. Images used in the summary field may detract attention from other authors' stories listed on the page or push other authors' listings below the "scroll point" on the page.

SWG Event Banners and Icons

We frequently offer banners and icons for participants in group events. Our banner and icon makers agree to follow the guidelines here, so you can safely assume that any images offered by our group are safe for use on the site. Credit is not expected when using banners and icons created for SWG events.

Image Content Permitted by SWG

If an image is used in a space covered by a rating--such as story content--then the image's rating cannot exceed the story's rating. For example, a story rated General should not include an image depicting blood and gore. Likewise, warnings applied to the story should include warnings relevant to the image(s) used.

It is highly recommended that warnings for images be given independently of warnings for written content. Readers may have different sensitivities to visual depictions than written descriptions of the same. A reader who can handle violent content in a story may not be comfortable with images showing violence. Moderators may ask you to add such warnings to your summary or story notes if you use images that we feel may be bothersome to some readers.

Our webhost does not allow pornography on the sites that it hosts. Therefore, graphic visual depictions of sexuality cannot be permitted, even in stories that carry an adequate rating. If you are unsure about whether an image is acceptable according to our host's TOS, then please contact a moderator for assistance at

As both the SWG and our webhost are American-based organizations and are therefore under the purview of American law, then depictions of minors engaging in sexual acts are not permitted, as this violates American law regarding child pornography on the Internet.

Finally, images are also covered by our Terms of Service, so images that violate our TOS will be removed by the moderators, and members may face restriction or suspension of account privileges as with any TOS violation.

Image Removal by Moderators

Members who post images in violation of copyright law, other law, or our webhost's Terms of Service (as described in this FAQ) put our website at legal and financial risk when they do so. As such, members who do so will be given one warning, and further violation of the rules will result in suspension of image-posting privileges or the locking of the member's archive account.

In urgent situations--such as copyright, webhost TOS, or legal violation--moderators will remove an image entirely. Moderators will attempt to contact the author using the email address that the user has registered with the site in order to notify the user of the action taken and why it was taken. Images may be temporarily removed pending moderator decision on the above; moderators will restore the image if it is found not to be in violation of law or TOS.

If the SWG receives a complaint from an artist that his or her work has been used or modified without permission, or has been used or modified without proper credit, then the moderators will remove the image immediately and inform the user of the action taken and why it was taken using the email address the user has registered with the SWG. Again, we must take copyright violation seriously, and members who break this rule will receive one warning before losing image-posting privileges or having their accounts locked. Artists or photographers who find their work used improperly or without credit on this site are encouraged to contact us at, and we will address the situation.

If an image is used in an inappropriate location, such as a story summary, site moderators will generally move the image into an allowed area, such as the Story Notes, and contact the author to let them know of the action taken. If a member uses an image without appropriate credit, that image will be removed by moderators; we will contact the member and ask that the image be restored with correct credit. Members who display images in violation of the image use guidelines set forth here will be reminded of the rules, warned, and then have account privileges suspended in accordance with the three-strike rule described in our Site Etiquette and Terms of Service.

Moderators will also remove any persistently broken image links. Please notify a moderator if you find any broken links, image or otherwise.

Last updated 28 October 2013.

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