Here is something every business owner should understand if they own a website: the consequences for using copyrighted photos or images without permission from the artist. Using photographs or images you do not have the rights to or have not purchased on your website is illegal. This includes the images found in a Google Image search. Many think that these images are free for anyone to use. This is far from the truth. Although many business owners post unlicensed images on their websites, this like everything else in life, will eventually catch up to you. Rarely does the owner of artwork contact the business owner directly to ask them kindly to take down their illegally used photos. Most of the time, the owner of these images will simply contact their attorney. We recently heard of a case where a business owner with illegal photos on their site received a letter from a big city law firm.
This letter began like this:
"We are the attorneys for (The Person Who Owns The Photos You Have On Your Website) Our office is contacting you concerning violation(s) of the United States Copyright Law, Title 17 of the United States Code, which either you and/or your organization have committed. Provided are copies of the copyrighted material in question along with proof of your unauthorized usage of these images on your website."
This letter went on to explain...
"If you have already removed the photographs in question from your website, we thank you. However, please note that simply ceasing to use the copyrighted photographs does not absolve you of the responsibility to pay for the material you have already used without a license."
No one ever wants to open a letter like this from a big law firm. If you think you are saving money by not investing in a professional photographer or buying licensed photos for your website, then you better think again. After everything was said and done, this business owner had to pay the owner of these photographs money for "every single day" the photo appeared on their website. Furthermore, with these significant license fees came the photographers’ significant legal bills attached to them no doubt.
Here at Sprout Creatives, we stress to our clients the importance of professional or stock photography. We insist all our clients either hire a professional photographer or choose appropriate stock photography. The licensing rights to a great photograph can start at a mere ten dollars and run up to hundreds of dollars depending on the photographer. Buying images legally will always be cheaper than a lawsuit.