If you think that you can just grab any picture that you’d like off the Internet, you’re wrong and in big trouble if you get caught. It’s called Copyright Infringement.

Don’t let this happen to you! A photographer has the right to sue for copyright infringement!

I’ve had 3 of my past clients be caught with pictures on their websites or blogs that were downloaded from the web that were not free-use graphics. (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. If you are being sued for copyright infringement, consult an attorney in your state.)

Two had to settle a copyright infringement suit, one for $2500 and another for $5000. The photographer has absolutely every right to sue. The latest one got lucky. She accidentally grabbed a picture from Getty Images and they only wanted $249, which would be the cost from the time the page was created till the picture was removed.

If you find a picture online that would be perfect to use on your site, first see where it came from. Who’s the photographer or graphic artist that created it. Does it have a watermark? (text or logo across the picture). What are the usage rights?

To use Google Images, click on “Tools“, then “Usage Rights“, then “Creative Commons Licenses“. When you click a the picture, see where it’s from. If it’s from Flickr, click on it to see what are the licenses rights of that particular photographer. You may have to give the photographer credit (attribution) and a link to his or her page on Flickr.

If you don’t want to take the chance that you don’t have a free-use graphic, check out these sites where you can get FREE license-free pictures and graphics:

If you’re sharing a picture that’s already on one of the social networks within that same network, you’re OK. You’re not on your own platform (website), you’re on theirs and each network has its own usage rights. If you have more questions on copyright infringement, check out Ruth Carter’s YouTube channel. She’s an Arizona lawyer who specializes in IP (intellectual property) law and she shares a lot of great information.

This post originally appeared on the AZ Social Media Wiz Blog.

About the Author(s)

Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media Wiz

Giselle Aguiar, founder of AZ Social Media Wiz is a social media, content & digital marketing consultant & trainer. She specializes in SEO keyword and market research, strategic planning, search engine optimization (SEO), copywriting, social media setups, training and coaching.

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Trainer and Coach, AZ Social Media Wiz
How to Avoid Being Sued for Copyright Infringement