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
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