In the past few months we’ve heard more and more reports of people being contacted by photographers and agencies claiming copyright violations and improper use of photos – sometimes even demanding compensation. Guess what? They’re probably right. Chances are you’ve illegally, and unintentionally, used a copyrighted image on the internet. In our digital age, where finding an image is as simple as Googling it – we often think we have the right to use them for whatever purpose we want – for a blog entry, to post to our website, to share on Facebook. The ease of access to photos is misleading; just finding a photo does not give you permission to reproduce it.
We often mistakenly think we’re covered if we:
- link to the source
- don’t claim the photo as our own
- didn’t know it was copyrighted!
- didn’t make money off it
- if we have a disclaimer on our site
- we immediately take it down if requested
None of these protect you. So then, what do we do if we want to use photos on our sites, etc? Here are some options:
- Use your own photos!
- Search for photos that are approved for use:
– Creative Commons licensed pictures – search for photos which are approved for free use (with some attribution and other restrictions)
– Flikr Creative Commons – some users allow use of their photos.
– Wikimedia Commons – offers free media files
- Buy rights to photos that are offered through stock photography sites, like
– Corbis Images
– Getty Images
- Get explicit permission from the photographer (sites like Flikr and other photography sites often allow you to contact the photographer directly) – it can’t hurt to ask.
While we’re not legal experts – we do encourage everyone to stay on the side of caution. Assume photos are copyrighted unless proven otherwise.
Andrew Violante is the Social Media and Communications Coordinator at Alain Pinel Realtors where he oversees social media strategy and implementation for the brokerage.