5 Tips for Not Getting Sued When Using Online Images

avoiding copyright infringement

Photo © Cavan Images

With Google, Bing and Yahoo hosting billions upon billions of images in their database, it has become all too easy to search for that ‘New York Skyline’ shot.  Just type it in!  In fact, we saved you the job – take a look at these ‘New York Skyline’ images, courtesy of Google, of course, and quickly peruse the sheer number of beautiful, glossy (free?) images that await you.  Just click on that image, save it to your desktop, and voila – it’s yours.  Who’s going to know?  There are billions of images on Google search, so how will anyone differentiate or even know that this one skyline picture belongs to someone else?

The problem with the ‘open Internet’ is that it’s become a haven for taking what’s not yours, or more specifically, what you didn’t pay for.  It’s the open Internet that also breeds an ‘ignorance is bliss’ mentality.  You kind of know it’s wrong, but does it really matter?

Image companies have invested millions in technology to help combat Internet thieves, or again, those who feel ignorance is bliss. Getty Images has a reputation for being particularly ruthless in enforcing its piracy code. It has invested a fortune into computer software that literally sends out crawlers across the web to track and read billions of images.  Its images are posted online with a code that is embedded into the image.  If its spiders finds this pixel on your site or anywhere it shouldn’t be without the appropriate copyright, you’re in trouble.

Even people with access to the best legal advisors in the world can get caught out with copyright claims. In 2011, Rihanna was sued by the artist David LaChapelle when her video for S&M was released. LaChappelle accused Rihanna of copying imagery from his “Striped Face” photo in the video’s “Pink Room Scene”. In fact various scenes from the video replicated a number of LaChapelle’s work, which lead to LaChappelle suing Rihanna on the basis of these similarities.

When image searching, most of us don’t intend to commit copyright infringement. But we live in a sue-happy world, so how do you make sure that when you’re searching for images online, you don’t accidentally fall victim to copyright infringement?

We put together 5 simple steps to make sure you don’t get sued:

1. Fair Use Standards DON’T Cut It.

Heard of the Fair Use standard?  If you’ve visited a few Tumblr blogs in your time, you’ve probably come across this gem, along with the following…. This blog claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog belong to their respective owners. If there is an image on this blog that belongs to you and you do not wish for it appear on this site, please e-mail us with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

Unfortunately, ImageBrief can pretty much advise that the above does not cut it. No amount of disclaimers will excuse you from stealing. Remember the ‘ignorance is not bliss’ rule.

2. Linking Back to the Image Doesn’t Give You Free Rein.

That’s right.  Don’t think that just because you link back to something, it gives you permission.  It does not you could still be committing infringement, and photographers are well within their rights to come after you.  Also consider the Way Back Machine on Google.  This gives you a snapshot of what a website looked like at any date and time.  You can’t take the picture down and hope no one saw it.

3. Pinterest is Not Safe.

Think you’re safe when you pin?  Think again.  If you pin a picture, and the blogger doesn’t own that image, you are still liable for copyright infringement.  You do not have the right to distribute without permission, and pinning our dear readers, is distributing. Also, the sheer number of people uploading other’s images on the site is astounding and stories are fast emerging of folk getting litigious over their work suddenly appearing on the site, promotion or not!  Remember—think before you Pin.

4. Common Sense.

If the photo looks like it was professionally done, then it probably was.

avoiding copyright infringement

Photo © Brad Triffitt

Who can take images of the New York skyline like THAT? For high-quality, awesome images like the one above—the work of a pro photographer is the only way to go.

However, if you’re not fussy—dig around and search.  There are tons of free images and stock sites around.  They’re not very good, but you get what you pay for.

5. Which Finally Takes Us To – Pay For It.

If an image you wish to use was professionally taken, then you should pay for it. Photographers are people too and the images they create are their bread and butter.  Do some searching and find the site, commission and price that’s right for you. There are tons of licensing options also, so you don’t always have to pay a fortune for the image you need.

Good luck with your image search, and until next time, try not to get sued.

Want to browse thousands of images available to license? Check out our Collection Search.

 

Simon Moss is the CEO and Founder of ImageBrief, Inc. Simon has 16 years experience across photography, image licensing, influencer marketing, startups and creating products from ideation to execution and then taking them to market.

Simon has presented on Crowdsourcing Creativity at Vivid Festival, Sydney Opera House, Mumbrella 360, AIMIA Summit, New York Photo Festival 2012 and Crowdsourcing Week in Singapore 2013. Simon was a panelist at the DMLA conference in October 2015 discussing on-demand photography and a panel member at the IDG Capital Conference in Beijing, China.

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About Simon Moss

Simon Moss is the CEO and Founder of ImageBrief, Inc. Simon has 16 years experience across photography, image licensing, influencer marketing, startups and creating products from ideation to execution and then taking them to market.

Simon has presented on Crowdsourcing Creativity at Vivid Festival, Sydney Opera House, Mumbrella 360, AIMIA Summit, New York Photo Festival 2012 and Crowdsourcing Week in Singapore 2013. Simon was a panelist at the DMLA conference in October 2015 discussing on-demand photography and a panel member at the IDG Capital Conference in Beijing, China.