Photos and Images Are Great For Your Website, But . . .
Social media experts always tell you having photographs on your website is great for SEO and reader engagement. But it’s not as simple as pulling an image or photo from another website and cutting and pasting it into your site. And “no, Google Images are not free”. If you don’t get permission from the photo copyright owners, you can end up paying a lot of money in damages and suffer bad PR for your site.
Reminder That Unauthorized Use Of Photos Is VERY Expensive
Two lawsuits, Mavrix Photo, Inc. v. BuzzFeed, Inc. and Pacific Stock, Inc. v. MacArthur & Company, Inc., et. al., bring this point home. Both cases demonstrate what can go wrong when you use copyrighted photographs without permission from the copyright owner.
In Pacific Stock, MacArthur failed to respond to the lawsuit and a default judgment was entered against it. Exacerbating its problem, MacArthur actually included false copyright information when it used the photos. Among the allegations against MacArthur were “unfair competition, unlawful appropriation, unjust enrichment, unlawful appropriation, wrongful deception of the purchasing, and unlawful trading on Pacific’s goodwill …” While there are statutory damages of $750 – $150,000 per violation of the Copyright Act, MacArthur also violated the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) which provides for statutory damages of $2,500 to $25,000 for each violation. Because of the outrageous violations of Plaintiff’s copyright, the court hammered MacArthur with a large award and forced it to pay Pacific’s legal fees. Ouch!
The Mavrix case has yet to be heard but the concepts are similar to Pacific Stock. Importantly, and also a factor in the Pacific Stock case, the photographs had registered copyrights. Therefore, Mavrix can claim statutory damages without having to prove actual damages.
5 Rules To Remember Before Using That Photo You Found On The Web
So, how can a blog, or other website, avoid this pain? Here are five quick and easy rules to keep in mind.
1. Always assume you cannot use the image unless shown otherwise. Just because the image does not have the © sign does not mean it is not copyrighted or protected.
2. Each stock photo service (e.g. iStock, 123rf, shutterstock) has different royalty options and terms. Some allow you to pay for a photograph and use it an unlimited number of times only on your site. Others allow unlimited use but only for a specific time (e.g. one month) and others even allow you to sub-license the photo. Each site has its own licensing rules, so be sure to check each site’s terms and conditions before using a photo.
3. Just because a photo carries a Creative Commons License (CCL), does not mean you can use it freely. The CCL comes in different varieties, each imposing varying limits.
4. So what about Photoshopping a photo? Again, you have to look to the license. Some will allow you to manipulate the photo and use it, while others will not.
5. Don’t assume fair use, the holy grail of the copyright world, allows you to use any photo you want. It doesn’t.
Many law that apply to the use of photographs also apply to symbols, logos, vector images, and even drawings. So, before you decide to use that great looking image, make sure you are not violating the owner’s copyright.
Now it’s your turn. Tell me what you think about this post, and any other comments you have. I want to hear from you.
- Work For Hire: You Paid For It, But You Might Not Own It. Part 1 and Part 2
- Who Has Authority To Let You Use Copyright Materials? Link Here
- Companies Now Have More Tools To Fight Employees Who Steal Trade Secrets Link Here
Image courtesy of Anusorn P. Nachol and www.freedigitalphotos.net