How to Not Get Sued for Copyright Infringement
You might be surprised to know how many times we've been contacted by a customer who used a photo on their blog and have now received a Cease and Desist Demand letter from a photographer, an agency, or an attorney. They are sometimes frantic, and always asking us what they should do, but, even though we are very empathetic to their plight, we are not copyright lawyers, and we can't give legal advice.
So, this post is about how not to fall into this situation, and give your nerves and pocketbook a break.
You are writing a blog post and need a photo to make it eye-catching. You don't have time to take a photo yourself and decide to search for one on the internet. You find the perfect photo and add it to your blog. It looks great!
3 Years Later...
You get an email from a photography agency saying that they know you used their photo on your blog, and they are now asking you to pay for said photo. Because it's been there for so long, they don't care if you take it down immediately. They want to get paid. And they want to get paid a lot of money.
What Can You Do?
Short answer - nothing. You can try to negotiate with the agency, or the photographer, or their attorney, but you will either pay or be sued. They won't let you get away with it. Photo agencies use software that scours the internet looking for their copyrighted images, so they can protect their property. It's not a question of "if" you will get caught, but "when". If they do employ an attorney, you will likely have to pay legal costs, too. Current copyright law allows for damages up to $30,000. You might read articles on the internet about how to get around paying, or how to pay less, and those tactics might even work for you, but it's better to just avoid the hassle and stress.
You may have heard some of the following myths about copyrighting of photos and Fair Use:
- If it's not marked with a copyright or a watermark, it's ok to use.
- If I give credit to the photographer, it's ok to use
- If I publish a disclaimer, it protects me from liability
- If I edit or change the photo, then it's fine to use
- If I am not claiming the image is my own work, it's ok
Nope. Not one of these myths is correct. A disclaimer saying that you claim no credit for any images used on the site or blog will not protect you. Giving a credit to the photographer means nothing if they didn't give permission for you to use the image. Photos do not have to be marked in order to be copyrighted. And editing a photo may be even a greater violation than just using it as is.
How to Get Photos for Your Blog and Website Legally
Now that you've gone and removed all the possibly copyrighted photos from your blog, here are some ways to get photos without having to worry about copyright infringement and possible legal action.
Take Your Own Photos
You can use your own photos and know you are perfectly safe. Today's mobile devices can take beautiful photos that look great on a screen.
Buy Photos from a Royalty-free Stock Photo Agency Like Dreamstime or iStockPhoto
Usually you pay for a subscription, or a block of credits that you use on the photos, which can be purchased in several sizes. Yes, it costs money, but not nearly as much as a lawsuit.
Ask Permission to Use Images that You Find on the Internet
Just make sure that if you do ask permission, and the photographer or designer agrees, that you keep proof, in the form of an email, and that you credit the photographer or website. Here is a problem - if the website is using a photo that they took illegally, you are still on the hook.
Use A Free Image Site
There are SO MANY royalty-free, free image sites out there today - here are just a few:
One caveat - make sure you understand the terms on using photos from a free site. Some require a model or property release, which will generally be posted on the site.
To wrap it up - do use photos and other images on your blog, to make it as eye-catching as possible, but do not use photos that you take from the internet without permission.
Local, Social Media and Education Support