copyright

Sourcing images from Google? Why copyright should be taken seriously

When sourcing images for websites, it’s vitally important to remember two things. Number one – the images you choose must be high quality, high resolution and appropriate or relevant to your business or the theme of your website. Number two – those images must be royalty free. Here we explain why ignoring copyright law for the sake of ease and expense could be potentially damaging for your business financially.

What is ‘royalty free’?

‘Royalty free’ refers to images that have been allocated as open source – they can be used freely by anybody for commercial or personal purposes without having been paid for. Some of these images are still bound by copyright law – so you must credit the photographer or creator with use.

Royalty free images can be found on specialist ‘free image’ sites, like Pexels and Pixabay. Their licence will clearly be displayed and you can download them without having to pay for an account. Images that are protected by copyright can usually be purchased from a provider like Stock Photo or Getty Images. As a rule these sources do tend to be better quality and present a much wider variety of graphics and images than free sites.

Images that are not royalty free are easily available all over the internet – and they’re not readily identifiable as such. This is where problems begin for unwitting business owners who simply select a photo they like and upload it to their website, unaware of the potential consequences.

The importance of sourcing images carefully and responsibly

Plenty of businesses don’t recognise the importance of checking out an image before they use it. As a result they source images from Google to use on blogs, banners and marketing campaigns. Even for those who are aware that copyright is often attached to the images they use, the temptation to cut corners is easy to understand. After all, downloading an image from a Google search for free is much easier (and cheaper) than opening an account and paying for photography.

The potential for disaster that comes with risky practices such as this is incredibly high. Hefty penalties are imposed on those who are caught – and owners of copyright rarely back down. Infringement is taken incredibly seriously – and the image sourcing giants (like Getty and Stock Photo) instruct large legal firms to take care of pursuing and prosecuting anyone found to have used their images without payment or permission. At best, you’ll be fined upwards of £500 (sometimes over £1,000) for misuse – with swift removal action and a friendly legal letter fines can sometimes be reduced. At worst you’ll face prosecution in court that could cripple or even bankrupt your company. When the cost of fine naturally eclipses the original licence fee for an image, it’s easy to see why it pays to be responsible and source photography carefully.

How to source good quality images without the risk of penalty or prosecution

The unfortunate truth for businesses that do find themselves on the wrong side of stock photography companies is that avoiding penalties is easy and inexpensive. Therefore it’s important to always factor in the cost of photos before you begin – whether you’re hiring a professional photographer or sourcing stock imagery online. If your budget is lower then make sure you browse royalty free image and graphic sites – of which there are many – instead of lifting straight from Google. This way you can always be sure of their origin and licence.

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