Dangers of using images

from dubious sources


When it comes to your marketing, you'll always need images. Whether it’s for your blog, website, social media, newsletter or general collateral, a relevant image can really enhance your efforts. And whilst it may be tempting to look for that elusive image on Google, because you believe they are free, it’s important to remember that this content is subject to copyright.

It’s essential to ensure you have the appropriate permission (usually a licence) to use these works, otherwise you could be liable for damages for the infringement of copyright. And as we have heard from colleagues over the years, failure to seek the appropriate permission, could see you receiving an angry letter from a photographer’s lawyers, or a visual media organisation, who may demand substantial sums in compensation. So, what can you do to minimise the risk?

Do your homework

Our advice is simple – if you want to avoid the hassle, stress and distraction of infringing copyright and paying a ridiculous and unwelcome fee, you need to do your homework. Essentially, you should assume that every image is subject to copyright, because in general they usually are. And as for Google – you need to remember it’s not a free stock library, people own the images, and in some cases, the images are not of sufficient quality or resolution for reproduction.

Our advice is simple – if you want to avoid the hassle, stress and distraction of infringing copyright and paying a ridiculous and unwelcome fee, you need to do your homework

What’s the alternative?

There are lots of websites where you can legitimately use their images for free – Pixabay, Pexels, Unsplash etc have a wealth of images for that purpose. And if you are happy to pay, usually just a small fee, there are stock libraries like Shutterstock, iStock photo, Getty Images etc. where you will always find something suitable.

Alternatively, you can use your own images. Get a photographer to come in and do a photo shoot at your business. And then for several hundred pounds you will have your own library of unique pictures without ever having to worry about infringing copyright again.

How common is it to get caught?

Of course, if you want to wing it, then you have been warned. In recent years, we have heard of several businesses who have been actively pursued for the illegal use of images. Here are two examples:

One of our clients recently was approached by a photographer’s lawyer demanding compensation for an image our client had used in good faith (they were using it to promote the venue in the image). The photographer though saw it as potential loss of earnings and as the copyright holder that is their right. It was settled but our client had to pay a few hundred pounds for the privilege.

One of our contact's clients was written to by Getty Images for using a photograph without permission on one of their blogs. The amount they initially asked for was ludicrous, in the end they managed to negotiate a smaller fee. But they still had to pay it. Plus, the image had to be removed from their blog immediately and they were warned that they were on Getty’s radar for potential future infringements.

What to do if you receive a letter

If you receive a letter - don’t ignore it. If you need to gather the facts, you could acknowledge receipt and request further time to respond. If the figure they are suggesting seems exorbitant, you could make a lower counteroffer, this may be accepted by the other party.

For more information on image selection, read our selection of articles on stock image advice:

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