You’ve created wonderful content for your brand. You are confident of its originality. But, what about that thousand word picture? Every public presenter knows that visual content is more engaging than audio content. You’ve found the right image online. It complements your digital content perfectly. How do you use it without a legal tussle?
It was published on a public platform so it is free, right? Wrong. You need to understand the copyright infringement laws.
Understand what Copyright Means
According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary , if a person or an organisation holds the copyright on a piece of writing, music, etc., they are the only people who have the legal right to publish, broadcast, perform it etc., and other people must ask their permission to use it or any part of it.
It is assumed that the creator of the image holds the copyright. It doesn’t have to be patented. Understand the consequences of copyright infringement.
Read and Understand the Terms of Service
Read the terms of service of the platform. An image shared on Instagram or SnapChat does not necessarily mean that it is free for public use. Understand the terms and conditions of service before using any image. For example, Pinterest has a copyright policy. This deals with the use of its digital content.
Send a Request to the Copyright Holder
Every photographer, graphic designer and artist wants as much exposure as possible. However, this is not always the case. The image creator might not want to be associated with your brand. Maybe they believe the image has a low quality. This could damage their reputation. You can simply avoid legal problems by asking.
Write them a polite email. A professional photographer can even offer you another of higher quality.
Remember, ascribing the work to the image creator is not enough. Get written permission.
Obtain a License
Confirm the license requirements. Even if it is on a free to download website.It could be that it requires a copyright license for commercial use. Understand the rights granted by the type of license you have bought.
For example, all the Creative Commons licenses grant the licensee the right to copy and distribute the author’s work. However, each of the licenses allow for different types of tasks. Only the CC BY-ND license allows commercial use for non derivative images.
Will the Fair Use Law Apply ?
Does the use of the image serve public interest? Then you may use the image without a legal tussle. Examples include teaching in a classroom or news reporting. Talk to your legal team to help you understand this exception in the copyright law.
It is also a good idea to ask for the author’s permission even if you have the right to use the image.
Use Your Own Photos
You own the right as an image creator unless you were hired to create it. Get a written release from any person in the photograph. This is a privacy rather than a copyright issue.
Free to Use Sites
Here are my all time personal favorite sites with amazing free photos. Do your own research to confirm if a particular image is completely free or requires a license.
Are You Legally Using Other’s Images
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects intellectual property rights. A DMCA cease and desist order is embarrassing and expensive.
You cannot blame the web designer, you own the brand. You cannot make slight changes to the image and claim it as an original.
Task your legal team to make the copyright infringement laws clear to the web designers. Double check the requirements for use of each image. Obtaining a license is much cheaper than a lawsuit.