How many times have you searched Google Images for a picture to use along with your blog post or website?
Many people do that and you can’t blame them- I mean Google Images stocks countless photos of every type, to be used in ever possible context, so naturally people will use it as a resource.
But have you ever considered that it could be illegal to use pictures that were taken by someone else?
This is what some bloggers or content creators have a hard time swallowing: It doesn’t matter if you grab a cheap lousy photo of Omaha possibly taken by a drunken college student with their camera phone, if someone else took the photo, you could be sued for using it.
How One Company Was Ordered To Pay Almost $8,000 For Using Google Images
Not too long ago a picture was posted on a popular blog alongside an article about finding great deals in Omaha.
The picture itself wasn’t particularly impressive and few people read the article but still, three months after the blog was posted, The Content Factory (a web content agency) received an email from an attorney who specializes in image copyright infringement.
Apparently, the not-so-interesting blog post- and the picture next to it- had attracted the attention of the person who took the picture in the first place.
The individual who took the picture had conducted a quick search online to find out if any of their pictures were being used without their permission, and just like that, the Omaha photo attracted a $8,000 lawsuit.
Like many people who find themselves in such a situation, there’s always the assumption that before anyone could be sued for using copyrighted images the offender has to ignore a request to pull it down.
But of course this is not the case, and even after multiple pleas to replace the image and apologize to the client, The Content Factory still had to pay $3,000.
The settlement was negotiated from $8,000 and even though the $5,000 drop was a huge save on the blog’s part, it still pains the owner that they lost $3,000 to such a trivial offense. Read the full press release here.
This is actually not the first time I’ve heard about these horror stories.
Where Does The Law Stand in Regard to Using Copyrighted Images?
You will be financially liable for posting a copyrighted image even if:
- It happened by accident
- You took down the image immediately when you got a DMCA takedown notice
- The picture is resized
- You never claimed the photo was yours
- You operate a non-profit site and made no money from the image
- You embed the picture as opposed to saving it on your server
- You add a disclaimer on your website
- Link back to the image source and cite the owner’s name
What’s The Alternative To Using Google Images?
The law doesn’t care if you used the picture innocently or with good intentions. If you break infringement laws you could be liable for thousands of dollars, whether or not you made any money off the picture.
It can happen to anyone so here are my tips on using images:
1. Take Your Own Photos
When you take your own photos, you are the sole owner of the photos. You set the rights. In addition, you’ll end up with original images that no one else has (great in Google’s eyes).
These days you don’t need to be a professional photographer to take good photos. Most cameras and even your cell phone can take pictures that are more than enough to use for your site or product.
The next time you go out, be sure to start taking some photos to stock up. It could be a skyscaper or something as simple as a close-up of a pencil. You’d be surprised how handy the photos will come.
The best part about it all is that it cost you nothing.
Oh, and by the way, I took the above photo not too long ago 😉
2. Buy Stock Images
My favorite stock image site is DepositPhotos.com. They are a heck of a lot cheaper than sites like iStockPhoto and BigStockPhoto, and have just as much photos.
Just like anything else, make sure you do your due diligence and read their terms and conditions, image rights, etc. You are only supposed to use the same image once. If you want to use the image for another piece of content, you need to re-purchase the same image. It sounds weird, but you either follow their rules or they’re going to start following you.
3. Use Flickr Creative Commons
Another great way to find images to use is to head to Flickr’s Creative Commons section.
Flickr’s a great way to find images of all sorts as it’s a web 2.0 driven social media site, in other words, users of Flickr upload their images to the site for others to view and/or use.
There’s just one small drawback with using Flickr: attribution may be required. You may need to give proper credit for use of the images. This can easily be done by placing something like “Photo credit: John Smith”, and simply link the name to his/her Flickr profile.
There are four different “rights” they provide, each depending on what the user sets: Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works and Share Alike. You can go to Flickr for an explanation.
Nonetheless, it’s a great place to start if you don’t want to take your own photos or purchase stock images.
Getty Images (owners of several popular stock image sites) recently announced that it will allow free use of all its images using their new “embed tool” as long as it’s for noncommercial use, which doesn’t really help us Internet marketers.
To Wrap Things Up…
This post was not intended to scare you or to make you avoid using images all together, but it’s to inform you so you can use some caution when it comes to using Google Images or any stock photography in general. Just think of it as a “heads up”.
With that said, I hope I did give you the “heads up” on this topic.
What are you thoughts on this subject?
Do you think people should at least be sent a warning instead of being hit by an immediate penalty?
Do you think it might be leaning towards a revenue-raising scheme? I mean, $8,000 is a hefty fine don’t you reckon?