Image copyright is something that every blogger should be familiar with.
Do you use photos in your blog posts? Of course you do!
Are they picture that you took yourself?
Did you get them from a stock photo site?
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Or did you just find them on the internet?
It is time to get your ducks in a row.
Image copyright is becoming a big deal and bloggers are the ones with the most to lose.
Read Roni's Image Copyright Nightmare
This post by Roni Loren outlines every bloggers worst nightmare.
She used a photo she found through Google Images to illustrate a post and was subsequently sued by the photographer.
She was wrong to use a copyrighted work, even if she wasn't aware of the copyright.
I get it.
You Can Face Stiff Penalties For Misusing an Image
The hardest part to swallow is the dollar amount of damages.
Roni doesn't disclose her penalty but she does say that it was and I quote “A significant chunk of money that I couldn't afford.”
The Content Factory found itself in a similar situation and the initial lawsuit was for $8,000 although they negotiated it down to $3,000.
As a blogger, those numbers are horrifying.
A personal blog typically generates very little revenue.
What if you link to the original source?
Not good enough.
What if you take down the photo when asked?
Not good enough.
In fact, learning from Roni's story, there is not much you can do once you use the photo – no matter what your intentions.
The Penalties are Not Necessarily Reasonable
I understand that an artist should be compensated for their work.
But the word “reasonable” does not seem to apply here.
If you use an image, plaster it all over your products and sell them for a profit – yeah, I get it.
That is blatant theft.
If you lift an image and a post word for word – yeah, that is scraping. The verdict is guilty.
But if a blogger uses an image in their own post, links back to the source, and perhaps even talks favorably about the photographer or source site – well, then maybe requesting a take down or a customary charge for the photo should be satisfactory. (See the benefits of linking below.)
When the casual and most likely mistaken use of one image can bankrupt a person or a company there is something wrong.
Is a Photo Worth More Than A Life?
This family's young son died in an accident caused by distracted driving.
Apparently, the driver was on the phone or texting at the time and did not hit the brakes.
His fine? $1,000. One thousand dollars for taking a life but $8,000 for using a photo?
It truly is the Wild, Wild West of the internet where anything goes.
How Should You React If Someone Uses Your Photo?
I write this from a blogger's perspective which I differentiate from that of a professional photographer.
Let's say you take a great photo of the smoothie that you made this morning and put the recipe on your blog.
Another blogger includes your smoothie photo in their round up post and links back to your website.
Then someone else comes along and pins your photo from the round up post host's website.
Now your photo links back to someone else's site.
Should you be upset? I don't think so.
The reason? Backlinks.
Don't Ignore the Benefits of a Backlink
As a blogger, you actually get search engine juju if people link back to your site.
If someone uses your photo on their site, talks about the photo in their own words, and links back to the original source – you get a link back to your site from a reputable site and media exposure.
In the internet world a link back from a reputable site is very powerful.
It helps build your site up with the search engines, it helps others to discover your site, it may increase sharing on social networks – and all of that can result in increased traffic to your site.
That is how the internet evolved in the first place.
Any traffic lost from Pinterest will be more than made up from the overall increase in search engine juice over time.
Read more about whether this is an infringement of image copyright in this article about Stealing or Sharing.
What Should You Do to Avoid Image Copyright Issues on Your Blog?
Clean Your Blogging House
As a blogger, it's time to clean house.
Go back through your old posts and make sure that you have the rights to display every single image.
Set Terms for Your Own Photos
Put yourself on both ends of the stick.
If you post your own photos – create a photo use policy for your website.
Let other people know what is ok and what isn't.
I LOVE the copyright notice that Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen has posted at the bottom of her sidebar.
It makes it so easy for other bloggers to know what media they can use safely and how to do so.
My guess is that this simple notice boosts links back to her site and strengthens it.
If I find a blog article or photo that I want to talk about and share with my readers – I WILL NOT USE IT unless I have express written permission – which means that I often do not share things that I would like to and the source blog misses out on the benefits.
Abby at Just a Girl and Her Blog – also provides a similar copyright notice in her sidebar. It grants just enough permission for fans to share her great info but limits people with more nefarious agendas.
Clean Up Your Old Blogs
This is where people might be particularly vulnerable.
If you have old blogs sitting around from before the days of Flickr and Pinterest, or when Creative Commons was not common knowledge, then you need to reexamine the posts that you wrote and illustrated way back when.
Read This Disclaimer
I am not a lawyer.
I don't know the law.
Everything in this article is my opinion and is NOT legal advice in any way, shape, or form.
Thank you to Lisa at 2CreateAWebsite.com for keeping this issue in the forefront.
What Say You?
There are lots of people on both sides of this debate? Where do you stand?
Buy Stock Photos to Avoid Any Uncertainty
To avoid any uncertainty, you can purchase stock photography (you still need to read the terms of service to make sure you are in compliance).