Photos in Your Blog Posts – Be Careful

Watch Out for Copyright Problems

When you’re creating a blog about anything, it helps your reader if you can break up the monotony of lots of text by including photos, graphics, or even a video.  Text is fine; for my money, it’s the most efficient method of conveying information.  You can skim it, and it simply takes less time to read text than it does to watch a video that contains the same amount of information.

website_photoStill, one big block of text after another does become a bore, and even I like to see something on the page other than lots of Times New Roman.  You’ll notice that every post I use on this site has at least three images or graphics, and they’re usually spread out in such a way as to give your eyes something to do other than to get lost in whatever it is I’m going on about.  In short, graphics and photos are good.

Unfortunately, if you aren’t careful, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble with photos.

Photos Can Get You In Trouble

There are literally billions of images out there on the Web, and for lots of bloggers, finding a suitable image for their post consists of little more than going to Google Images, typing in a keyword, and selecting one of the thousands of images that comes up in the results.  That can work, and it’s done all the time.

avoid stock photo lawsuitsThe problem comes when you do this and you use an image that has been copyrighted.  Yes, photographers and graphic artists like to eat, too, and those who work professionally like to copyright their work.  That means that they are entitled to be compensated for their work and guess what?  The law allows them to sue you if they should discover that you’ve used their work without permission or without a license.

And sue you they will.  While there are lots of people who file lawsuits every day for unlawful use of copyrighted images, no one seems to do it more than Getty Images.  Getty has a couple of Websites that sell licenses for copyrighted images, and they make a pretty good living at it.  Getty has always been a bit pricey for my taste, but I have used Getty-owned IStockPhoto on a number of occasions.  They’re easy to work with and offer a great selection of photos, but they do require that you pay them for the use of their images.

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Getty Images has hired a company that uses bots to scour the Web for images from Getty that have been used without proper licensing, and when they find one, they find the owner of the site and demand payment, and payment for violating their copyrights generally falls into the range of several thousand dollars per image.  Getty’s people are relentless, and they’re unwilling to accept any excuse you might have to offer.  Under U.S. law, for instance, you’re financially liable even if you:

• Did it by accident
• Take down the picture after receiving a DMCA takedown notice
• Resized the image
• Used your Website developer’s license
• Link back to the photo source and cite the photographer’s name
• Make no money from your blogs
• Have a disclaimer on the site
• Hotlinked to a copyrighted image on another site

I’ve had encounters of this kind with Getty and it took me a long time to work my way out of it.  In my case, I purchased a piece of Web design software that used a Getty image in a Website theme. My license to use the software said that I had the rights to use images included in their stock themes, but the company that created the software had some legal disagreements with Getty and while the particulars aren’t known to me, I do know this:  Getty contacted every single person who was using that particular theme online and demanded $1250 in cash for the use of the photo.  I happen to have a good friend who’s an attorney and he took up the matter on my behalf as a favor.  Others weren’t so lucky and Getty collected a bundle from Webmasters over that one photo.

I’ve heard stories of owners of copyrighted photos demanding as much as $10,000 for unauthorized use of their work, and you run the risk of a lawsuit anytime you use an image that you didn’t take or create yourself.

stock photographerIt seems unfair to have to pay for photos when all you have to do is find one that you like, right click on it and choose “save as”, but like I said earlier, photographers and graphic artists work for a living and like to eat and pay their bills just as much as the rest of us.  You like to be paid for your work and so do they.

Solutions are readily available.  There are a number of places on the Web where you can purchase a license to use copyrighted images, such as Fotolia or IStockPhoto.  Most of the time, their photos are relatively affordable for both commercial and non-commercial use, and you can often find images that are suitable for your needs for just a few dollars.  I personally like a site called Pixabay, which has thousands of images that are completely free.  Most of the graphics on this site are either from Pixabay or are taken from sales pages for products I’m reviewing, which fall under “fair use” sections of U.S. copyright law.

If you’re going to use photos or graphics on your Website or blog, make sure you’re using images you create yourself, images that you’ve paid to use, or images that are genuinely free.  If you steal images from somewhere and don’t know who owns them, you could end up facing a very expensive lawsuit.  Of course, if you don’t know how to use photos on a Website, you might want to learn more.  One great way to learn about building Websites for making money online is to join Wealthy Affiliate.  This online training site will show you how to work online from home, starting from scratch.  Wealthy Affiliate has tutorial videos that will show you how to find a marketing niche, pick a product to promote, and how to build a legal Website to promote that product via affiliate marketing.  There’s also a great user forum where you can meet people who will share ideas with you about making money online.  It’s a great site and you can sign up for free.

Bottom line – Before using a photo on your Website, be sure you have the rights to use it.

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