Many people, including myself, have likened the internet in some ways to the wild west. Once things were free to all, it became a place of no rules, anything goes and basically a legal hot mess initially. One of the most common issues still plaguing the internet is use of created content – video, music, text and photos. This leads to one of the questions we get often. Can we use that photo without paying for it? It’s on the internet so it must be free right?
While photos are one of the most common ways of infriging on copyright laws – videos, music and text are also targets. Some people know what they are doing and don’t care … most just don’t understand, know or think about their use of other created work. The latter certainly don’t consider it “stealing”. But it is….
How to protect yourself from Copyright issues on Social Sites and Websites
The first and foremost way to protect yourself from copyright issues on something specific is to ask an attorney. This blog post is not intended for specific legal advice, but more of a common understanding and to help our readers get a basic overall understanding of how to use content.
Images on the internet are not free … I’ll repeat that … images found on the internet and in Google image search are NOT free for you to use. Case in point – I tag a lot of pictures with keywords for great SEO reasons. These pictures rank in Google Search images. Here’s the difference between my photos (which I created or paid for) and your use of that same photo if you lift or download it off of Google Images: … that royalty free purchase I made for ME and my site … does not extend to you. My created content and photo I used on my site and my digital property … does not give you permission to use it because it’s on Pinterest, Google Search or other social/search site.
The easiest way to protect yourself from being THAT person … create all content yourself. This way you’ll never have to worry if you are stealing someone else’s ideas or content.
Can I give credit to a photo, video, music or text via a link? Does that cover me?
Yes and No! This is a great way to cite where your content came from. Photo / Video / Music / text credits and website links not only identify the creator, it also allows your readers to view the content directly from those who created it. Be aware however, this does NOT cover you from liability – some creators may NOT appreciate the use and direct link to their work. Why? It doesn’t matter … it’s their work and their reason. So if you get a request from a creator of work you have shared/used to remove a photo, video, text or music … the best thing to do is remove it. If you really like it … offer to pay for it and see where that takes you. In other cases – you may not have the opportunity to remove it – you may have to pay thousands of dollars for that image like this case: Copywriter Pays $4,000 for $10 Photo
Again – if you want to know about something specific – please reach out to an attorney. The US Copyright Office gives very clear direction on Fair Use and Copyright use … which if you read that link you’ll see my joke in that sentence … which basically leads you back to “ask an attorney”.
One word on photos … lift what you want and give credit … but be mindful that there are many ways those photos could hurt your business if they are not purchased correctly. Always make sure your website designers, content creators and social media personal are paying for the photos they use on your websites or they are creating the designs themselves. Make sure your social media manager is using photos and funny quotes in a way that gives credit back to the creator of those items. We opt to purchase photos from reputable sites for our client work. If we do utilize someone else’s creation … we always give credit where credit is due …
If you use text someone else has created – always cite your source via a link next to the content. A better way to give credit or cite a source is to use the “Quote” button on your blog (wordpress example shown below) or use blog quotes to emphasize a quoted source …. with a link back to that person or article. This makes everyone happy.
Our favorite place to buy photos for blogs, social sites and websites is DepositPhotos.
Think it can’t happen to you? Here’s a great read on actual events and a case in point – $8,000 worth of case in point: The $8,000 Mistake That All Bloggers Should Beware
Hat Tip to The Daily Post for creating an even better reading version of copyright, creative commons, Fair Use and other blogging issues on their blog.