Are You Guilty Of Copyright Infringement?

There’s nothing quite like an email first thing on a Monday morning from a lawyer informing you that you have used a photo without permission. Oh, and because of that you now owe them $900.

Sounds incredulous but this scenario did actually happen to one of our clients.

The image in question was one from a blog post that was written six years ago. Yes, six years ago.  Recently, the use of the image in question came to the attention of the copyright owner of the photo and before you could say “That was such a long time ago though”, a lawyer was firing off an email.

If there’s one game that changes quickly, it’s the internet game. When social media was new, images were being swapped, shared and used in blogs and websites without any care or caution as to the copyright of the images. That soon changed, and larger sites became very cognizant of the usage rights of the images that they used. However smaller sites, blogs, etc. didn’t really pay much attention.

Just because you Google an image and it shows up, that doesn’t mean it’s free to use on your blog or website. Although some sites take the time to watermark, link, or put a copyright notice on the image, the onus isn’t actually on them to tell you that the image is protected under copyright. The onus is on YOU not to use an image that’s protected under copyright. Because if you do, that’s technically stealing.

And yes, I can hear all the little arguments popping up in your brain right now.  If that’s happening, here’s how to adjust your mindset to 2018:

“Who’s going to notice?”

2012 – Maybe no one
2018 – Maybe everyone

“I doubt anyone will come after me”

2012 – Probably not
2018 – Likely so

“Everyone is using this image!”

2012 – You’re right. Carry on.
2018 – That doesn’t make it right. Stop it.

No More Excuses…

Copyright infringement is one of the absolute biggest no-no’s in online media. There are no more excuses, you just can’t get away with it any more.

Whenever possible, the best course of action when you’re creating content for social media or a blog is simple – make your own image. Use your smartphone, point, shoot, done.

Copyright Infringement: It Can Happen To You

Actual photo of my dog. Don’t steal it. I’ll find you.

Check Out These Resources For Great FREE Photos!

There are some awesome sites where you CAN get free images to use for your website. And the good news, this list is growing, so don’t worry. Some of these images are better than any that you’d ever “borrow” from Getty.

Copyright Infringement: It Can Happen To You
So, if you’ve got a website or blog that you’ve had for several years, it might be a good idea to make yourself a big pot of coffee, sit down, and edit some of those old posts.

And on the flip side, if you are the owner of original images that you’ve posted online, take a moment to check and see if anyone is using them illegally. You might be surprised what you find out. I also strongly recommend anyone who is in the art or photography business & posts their work online to make this simple check a weekly routine.

Here’s how to check:

  1. Go to Google.com/images
  2. Click the camera icon on the search bar
  3. Upload the image you want to use or paste the url of the image location
  4. Hit “search” and whiz-bang-boom, behold all of the sites currently using that image.

Believe me when I tell you that there are people whose sole job is to search Google images to see if anyone is using images illegally. And that’s how suddenly, unknowing bloggers get an email on a Monday morning from a lawyer asking for $900. Busted!

Eileen Fisher

Social Media Community Manager at We Make Stuff Happen
Eileen is an avid fan of all things “social” and loves discovering new platforms and ways to connect and engage with brands online. Slightly addicted to analytics and statistics, Eileen loves the balance of creativity and details with social media. “Instagram all the things!” is one of Eileen’s mottos and her most popular subject on her Instagram page is always the family dog. Eileen has a background in art and design and in her spare time is active in the Fraser Valley art community.

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