Protect Your Biz Against Photo Lawsuits
Protect Your Biz Against Photo Lawsuits
Using Stock Photos For Your Wellness Business? 3 Must-Know Tips To Protect Yourself From Scary (And Common) LawsuitsBy Briena Sash of Wellness Stock Shop Imagine being contacting out of the blue by an attorney serving you with a several-thousand-dollar lawsuit for using a photo you downloaded online. If you’ve ever downloaded and used an image from the internet without knowing the original photo source or usage terms, this could happen to you. This potential of this situation is very common and very real. Now, you might be thinking: But Briena, everyone downloads photos they find online. It happens all the time. I’ve been doing it for years and nothing’s happened. The truth is that downloading and using imagery without permission is stealing. And although I know you would never intentionally steal, even doing so innocently can get you into a real pickle. Here’s something many business owners don’t realize… illegal image usage has become so rampant that there are now attorneys making a living by hunting the internet for illegally used photos and encouraging photographers to press charges. And it’s not just big companies who are getting dinged. It’s the small people too. In fact, chances are very probable that you know someone who knows someone with a small business who’s been served for photo usage infringement. “I’ve heard of other acupuncturists getting popped by Getty Images for illegal use of photos. It’s opened my eyes to a very real situation and reminds me that it could happen to anyone, including me. As a solopreneur doing all my own marketing and branding, the images I use for my website and social media are very important to me. I’ve found it can be difficult to find quality stock images that haven’t been overused by everyone else in my profession or images that don’t have huge fees attached.” – Allison Blaisdell Chalifoux, acupuncturist Think you’re not at risk? Let me ask you this: Do you know the original source for every photo you’re using on your website, your blog, on social media, and in your promo materials and videos? What about the photos that have been “gifted” to you? And the images used in designs you’ve hired out on Fiverr or to other professional designers? More importantly, are you positive you have the legal right to use them in the ways you’re using them? If your answer is: I’m not sure (head scratch), but I think so… Then I’d encourage you to think twice before posting those photos in representation of your business. In case you didn’t know, not all images you find on the internet are free to use – even if you found them in a search on Google for “free photos” – in fact, most aren’t. So, what’s the cost of using a photo illegally? You might want to sit down for this. Drumroll… you can get sued for up to $8,000 per illegally used image. Yep, you heard that right. Well, but what if the photos were gifted to me by someone else, or if the photo was used in a design I hired out by a professional designer? The answer: You’re still liable. Yep. I know. It’s true, and it sucks. Briena THANK YOU so much for bringing the ‘royalty-free’ confusion to light. At a recent event I ran into a woman who was frantic she has been served with a several thousand $$ suit for improper use of photos from a web/print project she bought through Fiverr. After hiring a lawyer and paying what she has to it is going to be an expensive lesson- what a mess. It was a REAL eye-opener for me, I had no idea and felt very naive myself. … Please spread the word!! I spoke with my attorney about this and he basically confirmed what you said. This is the ‘new form of ambulance chasing’ there are attorneys that make a living in front of a computer looking for such infringements and infractions. – Felicia Mill And before you say: Well, I give photo credit and would just take it down if someone has a problem with it, let me tell you – it doesn’t matter. In fact, there’s no mercy, even if you:
- Didn’t realize you were using the image illegally
- Thought you were allowed to use it
- Offer to pay the regular usage cost
- Found the photo on someone else’s website
- Were “gifted” the photo as a bonus with something you purchased or signed up for
- Got the image from your friend/colleague who purchased the photo
- Got the photo as part of a design you commissioned on Fiverr or elsewhere
- Received the photo as a “filler” image in your website template or other design and didn’t realize you needed to purchase them
- Remove it from your site immediately
- Give proper photo credit and/or link back to where you found it
- Downloaded it because it came up in a google search for “free photos”
- Downloaded it because it said “royalty free”
- Understand this: “Royalty-free” does not mean free-to-use.
- Royalty-free typically means you don’t have to include “proper photo credit”, like a photographer mention or a link back to the photographer’s website.
- Royalty-free also commonly means, after legally obtained, the photo can be used multiple times without paying additional fees per each use or per volume.
- When in doubt, ask for the original photo source + usage permission
- Choose 1 or 2 go-to stock photo sources and get cozy with their usage terms