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Why One Unlicensed Photo Could Cost You Thousands

November 5th 2013

There are literally millions of photographs on the internet, most of which are easily downloadable. Many people download images for their own use but some do it with a view to publishing the images on their own website or social media pages. The fact that an image is readily available on the internet does not mean, however, that anyone other than its owner has the right to reproduce it and, as this article will demonstrate, there can be some quite severe consequences of using a photo without some form of license to do so.

Why do I Need Permission to Publish Photos on my Website?
The creator of a photograph or a person or body to whom the taker has assigned the rights in that photograph is entitled to assert copyright over it. This means that the person owning the copyright in a photograph has the exclusive right to use it. If anyone else wishes to use it the permission of the copyright holder has to be given. Obviously, it is likely that the copyright holder will require some form of payment in return for allowing the use of his work.

What if I use a Photo Without the Copyright Holder’s Permission
In simple terms, if you publish a copyrighted photograph on your website you will be liable for breach of copyright. The consequences of this can be financially severe, as you may be sued for damages and an injunction to force you to remove the image from your site and to prevent you from publishing it again. In some cases, you may even be asked to account for any profits that you have made as a consequence of using the photograph. Of course, you are also likely to have to pay a considerable sum in legal costs, both for your own lawyer and the one who is representing the person whose copyright you have breached. For those reasons, publishing photos without a license is not a very good idea at all!

Getty Images Stock Photos

So How Do I Avoid Breaching Copyright for the Photos I Want on my Website?
The easiest way of ensuring that you do not place unlicensed photographs on your site is to use images that you have taken yourself. However, this is not feasible for most commercial websites, where a wide range of high quality photographs is required. In such cases, the easiest way to obtain photographs that can be safely published on your site is through a stock photograph agency, such as Getty Images. On their website you can search among its collection of over eighty million stock images and purchase the right to use them before downloading them and adding them to your website. There are also sites, such as Wikimedia and Flickr, which have a collection of photographs that are subject to a Creative Commons License. By uploading their photographs to these sites, the copyright owner grants a general license for them to be republished, subject, in most cases, to them receiving appropriate credit for the photograph on the page in which it is published.

There is no doubt that professional-looking, high quality photographs enhance the appearance of a website. The risk involved in using photos without a license, when free commons licenses are available or where the right to use suitable images can be purchased from Getty Images for a reasonably small amount, is really a risk that is not worth taking.


Image Credit Oxyman

One response to “Why One Unlicensed Photo Could Cost You Thousands”

  1. […] into Google and saving the resulting images from image results. You can read more on the blog post here, but trust me when I say that the short-term gains of using someones unlicensed photo, are not […]