Can Using a Copyrighted Photo Get Me Sued?

By Malia K.
Digital Marketing Guide
Magnified Media

Copyright infringement is the act of violating any of a copyright owner’s exclusive rights granted by the federal Copyright Act. For an infringement to occur: the copyright holder must have a valid copyright, the person who is infringing must have access to the copyrighted work, and the duplication of the copyrighted work must be outside the exceptions of fair use, face-to-face instruction, and virtual instruction commonly used by educators. If all the criteria are met, you can get sued.

What is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement is the act of violating any of a copyright owner’s exclusive rights granted by the federal Copyright Act. For an infringement to occur: the copyright holder must have a valid copyright, the person who is infringing must have access to the copyrighted work, and the duplication of the copyrighted work must be outside the exceptions of fair use, face-to-face instruction, and virtual instruction commonly used by educators. If all the criteria are met, you can get sued.

What Are The Penalties?

The law is clear - using a copyrighted photo can get you sued and statutory damages range from $750 to $30,000 plus attorney's fees. You’re financially liable for posting copyright images if it was accidental, if the picture is resized, if you have a disclaimer on your site, or if the picture is embedded instead of saved on your server. Taking another person’s image or graphic and giving them a “shout out,” linkback does not negate copyright infringement as well. Photographers always have the option to pursue legal action and penalties for copyright vary. Keep in mind that costs of resolving a copyright infringement dispute extend far beyond the damages awarded - lost time, attorneys’ fees, court expenses, travel costs, expert fees, and others are more expensive than the photo itself. Removal or falsification of copyrighted management information (CMI) may give rise to additional statutory damages of $2,500 to $25,000 under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). Created in 1998, DMCA offers protection to content such as ebooks, photographs, websites, music, and even databases. Besides the monetary expenses owed to the copyright owner, you can go to jail.

"For content, you better have permission if you’re using another person’s work."

What Does It Include?

Examples of removing or falsifying copyright management information include removing watermarks in Photoshop, republishing a work without the author’s name, removing information about license terms, or placing your company’s watermark on another photographer’s work. For content, you better have permission if you’re using another person’s work. Otherwise, you’re infringing on copyright laws. Many people think that the images on the internet are fair game, but that is far from the truth.

What Can I Do?

Under DMCA, you must request permission from the copyright holder or their agent to scan a photograph, use an image from a website, post an image to a website, and forward an email with an image in the body or as an attachment. Using a stock photo site for images isn’t uncommon - on many sites you can find free and legal images to use for your content without worrying about copyright infringement.

 

Sometimes an image will fall under Fair Use which is determined by its purpose, originality, amount, and value. Usually, anything that is considered criticism, commentary, education, or news-related are able to be used. Be familiar with the copyright infringement laws and be aware of the potential damage that can be done if you post licensed images. Avoid all problems and use public domain images where you can find millions of high-quality graphics and photos. There are several photo-sharing sites where users can allow others to download an use images under one of the several Creative Commons licenses, all of which require attribution. It is important to know that a Creative Commons license in non-revocable. Make a search to find content that you can use, share, and remix.

Need an Agency You Can Trust?

Magnified Media specializes in online marketing for businesses and small companies throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.  We are their trusted outsourced marketing solution, focused on doing three things: getting them more online reviews, clarifying their marketing message and creating content for their social media platforms.  Focusing on these key areas for our clients means they can run their business without worrying about when or where the next customer is coming. We help build their business through reputation. Interested in seeing what we can do? Schedule your Online Presence Audit now.  (Here is a map to our location.)


 

Sources
  1. https://petapixel.com/2017/10/19/yes-using-copyright-photo-without-permission-can-get-sued/

  2. https://www.pixsy.com/academy/copyright-infringement-penalties/

  3. https://www.lib.purdue.edu/uco/CopyrightBasics/penalties.html

  4. https://www.business2community.com/marketing/copyright-infringement-allowed-use-image-01540835

  5. https://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/How_using_Google_Images_can_cost_you_8000_14912.aspx

  6. https://lifehacker.com/5992419/the-best-ways-to-be-sure-youre-legally-using-online-photos

  7. https://search.creativecommons.org/

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