by Shelley Webb| Featured Contributor
Recently I received a frantic e-mail from a client of mine stating that she had received a letter from Getty Images with an order to pay more than $1000.00 for illegal use of an image unless she could prove that she obtained it legally. She wanted to know if perhaps I had obtained the image for use on her website and thus had records of it. But alas, it was her former assistant who had placed it there so I was unable to help. Hopefully her former assistant will have record of its legal purchase otherwise the bill will need to be paid by my client.
This isn’t a rare occurrence. I am hearing more and more horror stories from folks who are receiving surprise bills or threats of lawsuits from some of the big-name image providers.
In an article in August of 2013, I talked about the importance of NOT using Google Images to find images for your blog posts, social media posts and mailings. In it, I mentioned that unless you use their advanced feature and search for creative commons licensed images, you can easily get yourself into trouble. You can find out more about that here.
But there are new concerns. Image owners are noticing that their royalty free-images (which can be found at no cost on some some great image sites) are popular enough to warrant a copyright and bring in some cash for them. They then copyright the image and it is no longer royalty-free. Some folks who have used these images legitimately are now receiving bills for their use and unless they have documentation of the date and site from where they obtained the image when it was free, they are up a creek without a paddle.
Here are some pointers when publishing images anywhere on or off the internet:
1. Don’t assume that even though you give credit, the images are free to use. They aren’t.
2. Do not edit an image from Pinterest and redirect it to your own website’s URL. That practice is against Pinterest Terms of Service. I recently saw someone recommend this exact strategy to her followers so I am compelled to mention it.
3. Document when and where you obtained each image and keep them (along with their information) in a safe place in the cloud or on your back-up device.
4. If you are managing content for a client, have THEM purchase their own images so that they have a record of it.
5. If you accept guest posts on your website, be very careful to ascertain where the image originated or better yet, use one that you have obtained. I actually had a person submit a guest post for my website with the istockphotos watermark still on it!
6. Consider purchasing images rather than using free sites. At this point, it’s just a lot safer to do so. Some good low cost sites to consider: Clipart.com, DepositPhotos.com (my fav), GraphicStock.com (they are new to the scene and don’t have a ton of images but are a very low cost option right now), and Dreamstime.com. An image size of 72 dpi is fine for a blog post or social media update. For e-books and printed material, you may want to choose a larger dpi and might even opt for the higher quality iStock Photo or Getty Images options.
7. Use your own photographs and add some text. You can easily do this at Pixlr.com, PicMonkey.com, and Canva.com. Add a copyright or your website url.
8. Do not copy/paste the cute images that you find on Facebook to your own Facebook timeline. Share them so that a). you are not stealing another person’s image and b). if they are using it without permission, you are less apt be implicated.
9. Don’t copy/share images from Instagram. There is now a Repost app on both the iPhone and the Android systems that allows you to Repost with attribution to the original Instagram account. Folks on Instagram are actually pleased to have their images shared as long as they are shared correctly.
Images are very important in social media inbound marketing and will likely be even more important in the coming year. We are a very visual society and great images draw the eye in create more engagement. Just be sure that the images you are choosing are legal to use so that you do not open up your mail one day and find a large unexpected bill sitting on your desk.
Image credit: Deposit Photos
Shelley Webb – Social Influence Expert
Shelley Webb is founder of On The Webb Social Media, an agency devoted to teaching professionals how to position themselves as an expert in their field using the power of social media.
Having worked as a registered nurse for over 30 years, Shelley suddenly found herself as the soul caregiver to her father who suffered from dementia. She began writing a blog in order to support other caregivers and just by using the power of social media, rose from a simple nurse to an award winning blog owner, “social media rockstar”, sought after speaker and expert writer for Dr. Oz.
People began asking her if she had a publicity agent. Her response: “social media is my publicity agent”. Soon, requests for social media assistance came flooding in and so in January of 2012, Shelley founded On The Webb Social Media Services.
Born in Canada, raised in southern California, she currently resides in a small town in northern Idaho with 2 dogs, 2 tortoises and about 35 chickens.
On The Webb Social Media blog
The Intentional Caregiver blog
Twitter: @ShelleyWebbCSO and @ShelleyWebbRN
Facebook: OnTheWebbSocialMedia and TheIntentionalCaregiver
16 Replies to “More Warnings About Using Copyrighted Images by @ShelleyWebbCSO”
That’s something to consider, although because I’m not an attorney, I wouldn’t know who would hold the legal responsibility in that case.
On more tidbit of advice: be wary of using an image from Flickr which shows an identifiable person, even if the image has been marked with the correct Creative Commons license. You cannot be sure the photographer obtained the necessary releases. For images with people, it’s safer to purchase a stock photo from Dreamstime, IStockphoto or similar site.
Many thanks Shelley, this led me to write a new blog post following my previous post on great places to find free images. I linked back to this post; I hope you don’t mind.
That’s great! Thanks, Tricia.
Many thanks Shelly, this led me to write a new blog post following my previous post on great places to find free images. I linked back to this post; I hope you don’t mind.
Photography Secrets for Bloggers | Liz Strauss at Successful Blog
I like http://bigstockphoto.com – they have a huge selection and are inexpensive. And I’ve had good experiences with their customer service as well.
Shelley Webb[ Post Author ]
They are a good source. It’s nice to hear that you’ve a positive experience with their customer service.
Shelley Webb[ Post Author ]
I completely agree, Sean The more I read, the more I see just how dangerous.
Just looking at morguefile, I would never use an image from there. There is no meta data available in the file I downloaded, like a license or copyright statement, and I didn’t even have to log in, so there’s no account tracking me. That’s asking for trouble if you’re a business, although fine if you’re a student or something.
Stock agencies aren’t really able to troll the web for royalty free images, since they don’t know they end use of the content when the license it. Unlike a rights managed image, where they would know the specific uses they have already licensed the content for.
Anyways, “free” is dangerous.
“Image owners are noticing that their royalty free-images (which can be found at no cost on some some great image sites) are popular enough to warrant a copyright and bring in some cash for them. They then copyright the image and it is no longer royalty-free. Some folks who have used these images legitimately are now receiving bills for their use and unless they have documentation of the date and site from where they obtained the image when it was free, they are up a creek without a paddle.”
I think you’re confusing some terms here and this whole paragraph is unclear, so let me add some information.
All creative content, including images, are copyrighted (in the US, at least) when created, and the rights are owned by the creator.
“Royalty free” refers to a typical set of terms that the copyright holder can grant to someone regarding how that content can be used. Usually, the license is paid for, and that payment is made up front, requiring no _further_ royalties, thus, “royalty free”. This is in contrast to “Rights Managed” where the rights have to constantly be renewed at a cost.
If you want to download a “free” of cost image, you should be sure to do it through a website that adds a license, like “Creative Commons” to it, so at least you have a record of the agreement and terms. Just downloading random images where the creator says “help yourself” is risky and will cost you. Also, it is unlikely that anyone would receive a big bill for using a “free image”, as big bills usually come from misuse of Rights Managed images, and someone selling those types of licenses is not the kind of person who gives images away from free in the first place.
You can read more here: http://www.seanlockephotography.com/2013/06/12/sometimes-free-isnt-such-a-great-deal/
Also – “An image size of 72 dpi is fine for a blog post or social media update.” – DPI has nothing to do with image size. Image size is measured in pixels. 200 pixels x 200 pixels would be fine for a blog post. DPI only refers to how content would be printed on paper (dots per inch).
Shelley Webb[ Post Author ]
Thank you for taking the time to leave such an informative comment and unscrambling my inability to communicate what I wanted to say. Many people use the sites that offer images at no cost to the user, such as MorgueFile.com. The images are contributed freely to Morgue file by photographers. Sometimes when they note than an image is popular, they will submit it to sites that charge a fee. If you have used the image without contacting the photographer (and many people are doing this because they don’t know better), you can get yourself into trouble AND once it is in a paid-for service, which has better ways to troll the web and find the images, you could be in even more trouble.
Great article Shelley, can I ask why did you give credit at the end to Deposit Photos ? Do you still have to give credit if you paid for their image ?
Shelley Webb[ Post Author ]
Thanks, Raymond. Each individual royalty-free image site has their own rules and there are also certain requirements for each image, depending upon the license so it’s important to read the fine print. I’ve made a habit of giving image credit even when not needed because I want other folks to know that is a purchased image with copyrights so they’ll be less likely to “save image as” and use if for their own.
Great advice Shelley. I personally use Flickr to find images that can be used commercially.
Here is the link to Flickr’s advanced search for any readers wondering how to do this:
Shelley Webb[ Post Author ]
Flickr is a great source when used correctly. I’ve noticed that YAHOO!’s Weather app uses Flickr images which is quite cool.