Copyright issues with photos on your site: how to prevent them?

PhotographerCopyrights are indeed serious considerations when building and maintaining a website. Unfortunately many people believe that anything on the internet is in the public domain and can be used freely. This is simply false and is actually very far from the truth, and can be quite costly if ignored. The bottom line is using photos, videos or content that comes from another person is simply theft. Nobody in their right mind would go to the work of creating and publishing photos with the express purpose of letting someone else take what is their livelihood. Copyright on the internet should be taken very seriously.

Photos are particularly vulnerable to online theft because everyone wants their websites to look good and basically they do not want to pay for photos. But whether photos are marked with a copyright or not, it is generally assumed that they are owned by the person who created them and published them.

It is equally important to know that some webmasters do not necessarily realize that they are using copyrighted photos. As a result, we want to help you avoid copyright issues with photos on your site and here are SEVEN ways to prevent these problems.

    1. Most obviously, do not take photos from other sites and you will not have problems. Do not hotlink to photos on other sites either. Hotlinking means using the photo direct from another person’s server. Both situations are the wrong way to do business online.
    2. If you allow photos to be uploaded to your site from the public at large, you must have a statement clearly visible on your site where copyright complaints can be made. You must tell others that if a photo is their property and they see it on your site, they may contact you to have the photo removed. It is then incumbent upon you to complete the task of removing the photo within a reasonable amount of time.
    3. Likewise, if you have employees or freelancers uploading photos with content, ask where they found the photos. Make sure they understand that your intent is not to use copyrighted material and that they must use specific sites to obtain images. Give them the sites that can be used and bar them from using anything else.
    4. If someone sends you, your web host, or your ISP (Internet Service Provider) a letter and says you are using his work, unless you have solid proof that the photos are your own property, just apologize and remove the photos. It does happen sometimes to all webmasters that they publish copyrighted material without malicious intent. The key is to fix the issue immediately without a lawsuit or without your host taking your site down. We’ve mentioned DMCA misunderstandings on our blog, and suggest you read up on the DMCA rules before you have a chance of getting into trouble.
    5. Any photos that have “watermarks” are considered copyrighted. For example, if a webmaster enters a contest to make you a logo and he “marks” the samples with his name, then you may not take those graphics. You may choose the one you want and pay for it but the designer still owns the others.
    6. Scour the internet for sites that permit usage of photos without a fee or licensing. But make sure you follow their allowable usage policies.
    7. If you really like a person’s work, contact him and inquire about using the photo in return for a credit link or some form of payment. Keep the written dialogue so you have proof in case of any dispute.

In conclusion, be diligent about what you use and act fairly when someone complains. This will prevent most copyright issues with photos. We suggest using free-to-use stock photography when you can.

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