You’ve probably heard some of the horror stories about incorrectly used images. And if you haven’t, we are happy to share a few:
- A company being sued to the tune of 5-figures for using copyrighted images on their blog.
- A brand brought to court over the background of their website coming from Google Images.
- Getting a cease and desist letter and a notice of copyright infringement to take an audio track off a website that an editor thought was open-source.
The stories above are all true, and are a showcase of the challenging times in which website owners live. As a result, we’ve put together a helpful and simple guide on how to effectively source images for your websites and media.
It is important to note that when we design a website, we always strive to use images that come from open-source, free to use and from non-copyrighted catalogs. We do everything in our power to help absolve our clients of liability. However, if you are selecting images to use for your blog, please read on to make sure that you are sourcing your images correctly.
(Note – we are not attorneys, and so the advice given below should NOT be taken as legal advice, nor are we responsible for any damages you may incur as a result of using one of the services we recommend below)
Do Not Use Google Images
First, stay as far away from Google Images as humanly possible. I cannot overstate the importance of this enough. Sure, when you do an image search on Google you might find what you are looking for, and it might seem like a perfect match for the blog post you are writing. However, even though it says “Images may be subject to copyright”, you need to assume that you cannot use any of them.
The issue is that someone might post an image that they think is open-source, but it is possible that the license expired, or they purchased a one-time license for the image that only applies to the buyer. So if they re-post this image and you use it, you technically do not own the rights to the image.
Sure, some of these images might be safe to use, but most of them are not. Better to be safe than sorry.
What Happens if I Get Sued?
It will vary, but these days what can happen is that attorneys will search website images to see if the site owner legally owns an image, or images on their website. If not, they may wait for a period of time and then claim that their representative (possibly the owner of the image) is suing for a specified amount, usually over $8k, over copyright infringement. This has happened to many website owners.
Once this happens they may try to settle with you for the above amount. If you do not settle, they may or may not try to take you to court for more significant damages. Either way, having to drop $10k or more is often a hit that a small business cannot survive.
The best way to avoid it is to be careful where you source your images.
Ok – I Am Sufficiently Worried. Where Can I Get Safe Images?
Pixabay offers free, open-source images. Some images claim to have model-releases for images to be used for websites or blogs safely. Others require that these shots are only used for a specific purpose, such as for editorial use. Generally, you can go to Pixabay, do a search and find the image you are looking for to use on your site.
However, please make sure to read their disclaimer on each image, the image details, and if any credit needs to be given to the photographer or image owner.
If you would rather use a premium service for paid options, then 123rf, Dreamstime and Shutterstock are good alternatives. These all contain high-quality images and you are essentially buying the rights to use them, sometimes for a limited period of time. However, as with the warning above about Pixabay, make sure that you read the details of use for each image.
Can I Get Help With Images?
We are happy to take a look at your situation and assist you with sourcing your images. Again, while we are not attorneys, we can at least help point you in the right direction. Feel free to contact us if you should have any questions.