Having been a victim of others copying my work, my design, and words- I understand the feelings and violation of one’s original work being given credit by someone else. It is distasteful and makes me angry. But what can really be done about it? The internet is so vast and wide that does someone actually go around and police the text or images and control what is being plagiarized or downloaded illegally?
Even in doing my research for this article, I performed a search on Google for “copying images on the internet”, all results displayed me how to accomplish this and none really spoke about NOT doing it which prompted this article. This article is not about the specific laws for copyrighting or the robbery prevalent on the web. It is about real life experience and ethics.
It is better to heir on caution and not copy anything from the internet unless it specifically indicates its okay to do so or if they give terms asking you to create a link back to the image owner’s site. You also want to make sure you take a snapshot of that website that indicates permission for you to download or copy images. You never know if there policy may change in a few years and you don’t want to get in a situation that leaves you without documentation of their approval.
There are a large number of stock photo companies on the web today. These companies have their terms of usage agreement on the website however, if your like me- its often difficult to understand the legal jargon that is indicated on these long contracts. I have known several people who have been fined a large some of money for copying images from these large stock photo companies.
In case you’re not familiar with why these stock companies allow you to register and then download images which have their watermark on the corner of the photo, its mainly to be used for “comping” purposes only. “Comping” refers to the process of drafting a design and using the image with the hope of purchasing that image when its distributed publicly.
In speaking with one stock photo company in particular, I was informed that they have software to comb the internet a section at a time to find violators of their usage terms. If you have a website that is indexed by Google, it is considered to be a live website to the stock photo company. So if you have unlicensed photos on that website, you are open to being fined and are in violation of their terms.They come up with a list of violators regularly who use their images for websites and print illegally. This is the sophistication of software and internet technology that we are in and continue to head towards. Once you get a letter from these company’s legal department, you must produce written documentation on your license to use the images or pay the fine indicated in their demand letter. If you do not have a license, you need to pay the fine and remove the images within a certain time frame.
The safest thing to do is purchase your images from a stock photo company. There are many inexpensive companies that offer reasonable rates per photo. I have found several discount image companies on the web that offer great, discounted packages with the largest amount of variety. If you are unsure of the terms, contact the stock photo company and speak with a representative to make sure you are clear on how you are able to use the photos you purchase.
Another alternative is to take your own photos and use them on your website or print material. Of course, then you risk people copying YOUR images. Make sure you put a watermark or statement on your website regarding the copying of your images are NOT permissible or if you do allow copying, then state that as well.
Remember, that if you are unsure, don’t do it. It’s not worth the aggravation and headache you later may face.