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Ask Haley: Legal use of images explained

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Q: I found pictures on Google Images that I like.  Can I use them on my website?

A: In short, no.  Before you use any image on your website (or for any other purpose), you must have the right to do so.  If you use an image without paying for it, you could be sued by the copyright holder.

According to Google:  The images identified by the Google Image Search service may be protected by copyrights. Although you can locate and access the images through our service, we cannot grant you any rights to use them for any purpose other than viewing them on the web.  Accordingly, if you would like to use any images you have found through our service, we advise you to contact the site owner to obtain the requisite permissions.

And just in case you think this is “no big deal,” consider the fact that stock photography companies are using software to search out pirated images and are aggressively going after copyright violators. If they find unlicensed images on your website, they’ll send you a demand letter for as much as $1,000 per image. That can add up to tens of thousands of dollars if you have a significant number of images on your website or blog without the proper authorization.

So how do you protect yourself?

  1. Don’t ever use Google Images as a source of pictures for your marketing.
  2. If you are going to use stock photography, illustrations or videos, purchase your images from a well-known firm that provides indemnity to you for using images they provide  (at Haley Marketing, we use Thinkstock).
  3. If you want original pictures, you need to hire a photographer or illustrator.  However, be sure you understand what you are buying. Many artists only license the use of images for a specific purpose.  Make sure you have an agreement that spells out exactly how you are allowed to use the image and for how long.  You also want to make sure you have releases from the creator of the image, any person (or professional model) used in the image, and any firm holding a trademark that can be seen in your image.

    Check out this link for a quick video that explains Image Rights: http://www.stockphotorights.com/

  4. Don’t assume that just because you hired a designer (or a design firm) that you’re off the hook.  Unfortunately, some designers try to save money by re-using imagery across client projects. Unless they have the rights to do this, you can be held liable for images they are stealing.  Be sure to ask any design firm you use where and how they get the images for your project.

At Haley Marketing, we invest in an annual subscription to Thinkstock. Our subscription gives us the ability to provide imagery for all our clients’ projects–without having to separately license individual photos or illustrations.  We love this subscription because it provides our clients the ability to choose pictures from an enormous library, ensures protection from copyright issues, and reduces costs for our clients by not having to license individual images.

If you have questions or want more information about how you can legally obtain imagery for your projects, feel free to drop me a line: [email protected].


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