So you’re writing a blog about the importance of travel insurance and you find an awesome photo on Google of Prague. You upload it to your blogging platform, hit publish and wait for the views and likes to roll in.
But what you weren’t expecting to roll in two months later is an official cease and desist notice to remove the photo and a lawsuit to the tune of $8000 (true story bro). Not only is this a complete crap-your-pants moment, it’s also an avoidable one.
Just because Google is full of awesome amazing photos that are easy to download, doesn’t mean you have the right to use them. In fact, as soon as a picture is taken, the taker has sole ownership over how it’s used and that includes selfies taken on a smart phone.
So what is copyright and does it apply to everything? Anything that is created by someone is copyrighted, a song, poem, sculpture, a radio program and yes a photograph. The Canadian Copyright Act defines copyright as: “The sole right to produce or reproduce a work or any substantial part thereof in any material form, to perform the work or any substantial part thereof in public, or, if the work is unpublished, to publish the work or any substantial part thereof.”
So what the heck does all that mean?
Basically it means that the person who created the work has to give permission for it to be used by another.
But everyone does it right? So it’s almost like an unwritten rule that I can. Nope and more nope. Just because the practice is prevalent, doesn’t mean it’s not stealing.
Over the past couple of years bloggers and small business owners have discovered that copyright trolls are real and scarier than pictures of Donald Trump wearing a thong, *shudder*.
Roni Loren of Blogher.com discovered this lesson the hard way when she was sued by a photographer for using a copyrighted photo. Loren had assumed that the disclaimer she posted on her blog, stating that all photos used were copyrighted to their respective owners, was enough to protect her from legal action.
She was wrong.
If you use a copyrighted image and do not get consent to use it or compensate the copyright holder you are liable. Even if you source the owner, were ignorant of the fact it was copyrighted, resized the photo, run a non-commercial site, even if it’s not saved on your server and is only embedded on your site, you can and will be sued. Not only can this have a disastrous effect on your bottom line, if it happens at the wrong time, it can also put you out of business.
In Canada there are exceptions to this under the Fair Dealing section of the Copyright Act. In most cases, however, those exceptions do not cover bloggers using photos to enhance their blog post.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t ever use awesome photos in your blog unless you’ve taken them or spent a bucket load of money to get them. There are a number of resources available that allow you to find and use photos for free. You can either use images in the public domain which means the owner has been deceased for over 50 years and the images are no longer copyrighted. Or you can use photos with Creative Commons licenses. These licenses have varying levels of usage which photographers offer for free. For more information on all the different licenses check out the Creative Commons website:https://creativecommons.org.
Pro tip: A great source to find creative commons images is in the search tools section of Google. Click on the usage rights to specify which type of license you are looking for.And remember, it’s always best to err on the side of caution, always check the usage rights of the photos you post on your website or blog and save yourself that expensive dry cleaning bill.
Great place to find images to use: