Help, I’m Being Sued For Copyright Infringement

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Life's A Beach.

Life’s A Beach.

Protect Yourself From A Blogger Headache

So we are not being sued, but just to be careful we did remove any questionable images from our blog to be sure.  If you didn’t know, you are not supposed to copy images and post them to your blog.  Sure everybody does it, but one day someone could locate you and send you a nice letter for copyright infringement for 1 photo that was posted to your blog.

Hey, don’t take our word for it. Just ask these 2 internet bloggers and see what they have to say.  This story is from Social Media And Content Marketers, Content Factory.  And honestly, most Web Professionals already know these facts and appreciate great Graphic Design artists, Photographers, and tools available today, but 1 or 2 photos could slip through the cracks unnoticed.  Just a word of caution.  Times are tough for many designers and photographers and they want to be compensated for their work at all costs.  Don’t just assume that it won’t happen to you.

The $8,000 Mistake That All Bloggers Should Beware

Q: What’s lamer than a crappy photo of Nebraska? A: Having to pay $8,000 in copyright infringement penalties for it. This is a lesson we recently learned the hard way, and if you have (or contribute to) a blog you might want to read about our story so that you never, ever make the same mistake we did.

Long Story Short: Image Copyright Laws Can Screw You Over

We write thousands of blog posts every year for our clients and agency partners. Our editorial standards are obnoxiously high, and we do our best to write the best web content our clients (and their competitors) have ever seen. Although we try to catch everything, occasionally a mistake sneaks by us. Recently we made a very costly mistake, and I think it’s one that every blogger and business owner should be aware of.

They fessed up and said it was a rookie mistake, but we aren’t the Copyright Police.  We understand it is the Internet.

You can go to that link above and read more about their internet blogging nightmare come true.  I was also able to locate another blogger that was sued for another image on their blog.  So I was just letting people know it could happen to you, and there really isn’t much you can do about it.  Technically, any image you take off the internet is probably copyrighted somewhere.

Now we are not the Internet Copyright Police.  I would love to load up my blog posts with Great Images, but those images  are posted by graphic designers and photographers who usually have to be compensated for their work in some way or you are granted permission by asking first.  Who really wants to do that?  I wish there was an easy answer for everyone who enjoys blogging and posting images they find relevant to their stories, just be careful where you get your images and how you get them.  Here’s another story of getting sued over an image on their blog.

Don't Get Sued

Don’t Get Sued

Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog – My Story

For those of you who are super observant, you may have noticed some changes on my blog over the last few months. Tumblr posts went away. Fiction Groupie disappeared. I deleted most of my Pinterest boards. The Boyfriend of the Week has changed format. And all my previous posts from the past three years–all 700 of them–now have new photos on them.

Why is that? What happened?

Well, you’ve probably figured it out from the title, but it’s because I’ve been involved in a case regarding a photo I used on my blog. Like most of you, I’m a casual blogger and learned my way into blogging by watching others. And one of the things I learned early on was that a post with a photo always looked nicer than one with just text. So I looked at what other people were doing for pictures. And mostly it seemed that everyone was grabbing pics from Google Images and pasting them on their sites. Sometimes with attribution, most of the time without. And when I asked others (or looked at disclaimers on websites and Tumblrs), it seemed that everyone agreed using pics that way was okay under Fair Use standards.

Here is an example of a disclaimer I found on a bigger site (name of blog removed):

THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

And site after site had the same kind of thing. Just look on Tumblr, that same type of disclaimer is on a ton of them. And I’m thinking–well, that must mean it’s okay because if that weren’t true, sites like Tumblr and Pinterest couldn’t even exist because reposting pics is the whole POINT of those sites. So off I went doing what everyone else does–using pics from Google Images, putting a disclaimer on my site, etc.

Well on one random post, I grabbed one random picture off of google and then a few weeks later I got contacted by the photographer who owned that photo. He sent me a takedown notice, which I responded to immediately because I felt awful that I had unknowingly used a copyrighted pic. The pic was down within minutes. But that wasn’t going to cut it. He wanted compensation for the pic. A significant chunk of money that I couldn’t afford. I’m not going to go into the details but know that it was a lot of stress, lawyers had to get involved, and I had to pay money that I didn’t have for a use of a photo I didn’t need.

It wasn’t fun. But the fact of the matter is, I was in the wrong. Unknowingly. But that doesn’t matter. And my guess is that many, many of you are doing the same thing I was doing without realizing it’s a copyright violation. So I wanted to share my experience so that you can learn from my mistake.

Here’s what I learned about Fair Use:

It DOESN’T MATTER…

  • if you link back to the source and list the photographer’s name
  • if the picture is not full-sized (only thumbnail size is okay)
  • if you did it innocently
  • if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
  • if you didn’t claim the photo was yours
  • if you’ve added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
  • if the picture is embedded and not saved on your server
  • if you have a disclaimer on your site.
  • if you immediately take down a pic if someone sends you a DMCA notice (you do have to take it down, but it doesn’t absolve you.)

NONE OF THAT releases you from liability. You are violating copyright if you have not gotten express PERMISSION from the copyright holder OR are using pics that are public domain, creative commons, etc. (more on that below.)

I didn’t know better and I had to learn the hard way. So I want to let you all know now so that you don’t have to be a cautionary tale as well.

Whoa, That’s Crazy

I won’t steal the author’s work or blog post, I was just trying to share her story on her blog and how it could happen to you.  Just to let you know.  Not that too many people will realize this until it is too late.

So what are some tips to finding Non-Copyrighted Media.

Search Royalty Free Stock Images.

These you have to pay for, but there are Millions of Stock Images you can choose from.  Just get a subscription like everything else on the web and start using Stock Photos.  It’s expensive, but so is the price of getting sued.  I use iStockphoto.com and my latest find, Dreamstime Stock Photos, check them out.  Seriously, they aren’t that bad once you start using these services.  It’s just like Google, but you do have to pay for your images based on size.  Use smaller sizes if you can.  Some are expensive though, you may want to get an Affiliate Subscription to help pay for their fees.  I’m learning more about that myself.  Anyways, Photospin is another Stock Photo Service you may want to check out.  Oh and CanStockPhoto as well.  There’s a ton of them.

All Government Photos are available for use as to my understanding.  So you might want to look into Public Domain Images as well.

USA Gov

USA Gov

Here are a few good places to search for those photos as well.

Actual Free Stock Photo Sites.

Some sites are actually free.  So just do some searching of your own and see what is available.  It doesn’t take too long to find the image you are probably searching for.  But it does require a little more work and effort to get these images for free and not worry about getting sued for Copyright Infringement.  If in doubt, Do Not Use.  Try and asking permission, most designers won’t care.  It never hurts to ask first.  Try these out and see what you can find.

So with that being said, we hope you will now try and be more creative and find ways to post images to your blog without worrying about getting sued.  You definitely do not want that to happen.  We have done our part and removed most of the images we thought were questionable, but we understand how it can happen.  I don’t feel that you should get sued for posting a photo to your blog, but you never know these days.

Here is what WikiHow Says about Avoiding Copyright Infringement. 

Check it out for yourself.

Try and Stop Using Copyrighted Photos

Try and Stop Using Copyrighted Photos

Edited by Lewis Collard, Krystle, Sondra C, Martyn P and 26 others

Have you ever uploaded an image or a video to a website, only for it to be deleted because of copyright issues? While some areas of copyright law can be complicated enough to cause copyright lawyers sleepless nights, the basics are very simple. Armed with some simple principles, you can save yourself from running afoul of copyright law.

Locate Free Photos for Commercial UseReview Copyrights of Free Photos and Images

Edited by Genius_knight, Jillianbazzi, Chris

Adding photos and images to content can significantly enhance the appearance of any material you publish online, such as articles you write for the web, your social media profile, and even your own website. However, when searching for and using photos you find online, it’s important to ensure that you have legal permission to use those photos without violating copyright infringement laws. There are currently a large number of services and websites you can take advantage of for free photos and images, especially for your business or website. Continue reading this article to learn more about how you can get free photos for commercial use.

Final Thoughts

So as you can see, it’s not something your should take lightly.  I know I used to do it quite frequently on some of my other blogs and thought it was okay, but I am more aware today and hopefully will not get sued for violating something which might seem trivial at first, but could end up costing you a lot of money and headaches in the long run.

Thanks for your time,

~Catalyst Web Designs

Also, your website will load faster with fewer images, but we do love our images on the web.  Just a consideration.

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