Can You Use Copyrighted Images in Your Book Trailer?

can you use copyrighted images in your book trailer

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, this is not legal advice. As authors and book marketers, you should learn about copyright and take it seriously to protect yourself and make sure you don’t infringe on others.

Ok, you’ve decided to make a DIY book trailer.

So, you type the words, “Blue haired teenager” or “Pirate with a sword for an arm” into Google and scroll through images until you find a picture that looks similar to the characters you describe in your book. These may even be the same images that you used for inspiration when writing the book… so, you save it to your desktop and prepare to make your book trailer.



Because using images like these in your book trailer can be a HUGE mistake that could violate someone else’s copyright can possibly get you sued.

I’ve had multiple authors write to me and ask if they could use pictures they found on Google Images in their book trailers. The answer is a resounding No. Nope. No way. Not a good idea. Don’t do it.

Q. “But it’s on the internet? Doesn’t that mean it’s free?”

A. Just because images appear in a Google search does not mean that they aren’t copyrighted.

Q. “But what about a song I downloaded on iTunes? I bought it for over a dollar! Doesn’t that mean I own it and can use it in my book trailer?

A. Just because you purchase a song on iTunes does not mean that you have the license to use that song in a commercial (which your book trailer essentially is… a commercial for your book, even if you are giving away your ebook for free. )

You need to have licenses to use these pictures, video, and music legally unless they are in the public domain. If you’re not sure if it’s the public domain or not, always better to err on the side of caution and use something you are absolutely certain that you have the authority to use.

This goes for your book cover as well as your book trailer.

Book Trailer Horror Stories…

Horror Story #1:

I’ve personally seen book trailers that used clips from major motion pictures featuring huge Hollywood stars. Do not do this.

If Brad Pitt didn’t give you personal, written permission to use his likeness in your book trailer, you shouldn’t use clips of him as Achilles in Troy.

Q. But I bought Troy on Blue Ray! Doesn’t that give me the right to use Brad Pitt in my book trailer?

A. No.

Q. Doesn’t using footage from Hollywood Blockbusters make my book look super professional and exciting?

A. Actually, it’s the complete opposite. Even though those major motion picture clips are technically high quality video, using those clips actually makes you look unprofessional because it’s clear that this movie wasn’t made for your book. To the audience who already has seen that movie, it looks like your book is just copycatting a movie to piggyback on someone else’s success. It cheapens your book to the level of a knock-off.

You spent a long time writing your novel. It is YOUR story. Don’t use someone else’s story to try and sell yours. Audiences are smart enough to spot this trick a mile away.

Horror Story #2:

I heard from an author who PAID someone on Fiverr for a book trailer, but she told me that Instagram flagged it for a music copyright violation and took it down. This is why you must use licensed, royalty free music! So, if you get flagged for a copyright violation, you can prove that you have the authority to use the song and your video won’t have to be removed or demonetized on that basis.

Horror Story #3:

An author told me they bought a book cover online only to find out that the so-called “artist” they hired was actually a scammer who was using another artist’s work and trying to pass it off as their own. Then the original artist found out and went after the author for buying the book cover when the scammer vanished into thin air. The author was forced to pay the original artist in order to keep her book cover. This same thing could easily happen with a book trailer. That’s why it’s important to choose a reputable book trailer company with a proven track record of success.

Q. So, how do I make sure that all music, photos, and video in my Book Trailer are properly licensed???

A. Here are four possible ways:

  1. Shoot the video yourself and record your own music and voiceover so you own the copyright to everything.
  2. Locate and get written permission from the copyright owner to use any assets they’ve created in your book trailer and license it directly from them. Ask a lawyer to review your agreement and to be certain that the person actually really does own the copyright to the image or video you’re trying to license.
  3. Purchase stock assets from reputable vendors that can be properly licensed. Get a license for every individual piece of stock media you use in your trailer. (This can be expensive $$$ since each piece of media must be licensed separately.)
  4. Buy any book trailer from ElectraFox and let us take care of it for you.

Here at ElectraFox, we primarily use stock assets from our huge library of stock media. We have the ability to license each asset specifically for your project. That means any video, music, graphics, and even fonts that we use in your book trailer can be used with peace of mind.

The cost of the stock media license from any asset in our library is bundled into your book trailer cost. If you want specialty media from an outside source, that can be purchased for a separate licensing fee. We’ve made many amazing book trailers that did not require additional licensing fees. So, you can rest easy that we’ll make you something amazing within your budget.

Examples of things you might need licensed for your book trailer:

  • Want the sound effect of a squeaky door opening? We license that.
  • A funky rock song? Yep, we license that too.
  • Elegant, scripty font for a romance novel book trailer? We’ll find a font that will make you swoon and license it.
  • Bright fun graphics for your contemporary YA book? Yes!
  • A clip of a spaceship soaring through a galaxy? Certainly!

In short, any sound effect, overlay, lens flare, smoke, dust, particles, dynamic text, 3D graphic, music, stock video… each item will be individually licensed FOR YOUR PROJECT SPECIFICALLY.

Check out our book trailer packages today and see which one is right for you!

Cinematic Book Trailers are our most elite. We offer three packages: 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and 60 seconds.

Express Book Trailers are our most affordable book trailer option for indie authors! Express Book Trailers have a fast turn-around time and many styles to choose from! View All Express.