Using an image from a Google search is harmless… until $70,000 (or more) is awarded against you in statutory damages. That could be on the low end. Potential damages like that spark a lot of questions in a marketer’s minds. Am I breaking the law? How do permissions really work on images? We asked Shannon Teicher, partner at Jackson Walker LLP and speaker at SMSS ...our burning questions to figure out the essential tips every social media marketer needs to know about image copyright laws.
When It’s Okay To Use An Image
As more photographers enter the blogosphere every day, image copyright has become a hot topic.Who can use an image? Teicher says the answer is simple: “Assume everything is copyrighted. Basic rights exist as soon as the work is ‘fixed’ i.e. done. You are entitled to additional rights when you register the work.” That means as soon as a photographer snaps the photo, they own that photo – absent some other agreement.
Teicher has seen many common misconceptions when it comes to image copyright. “I saw it on 10 other sites so it’s fine for me to use it.” Another she often hears is, “All you have to do is give credit to the author.” Depending on the circumstances, these are unlikely to hold up in court and there can be big penalties associated with non-compliance.
You’ve likely also heard of “fair use.” In short, fair use does not cover the excuse “I thought I could use it.” Teicher recommends you follow the safe route and use an image bank you pay for. Their systems have already worked out licenses for the images and significantly reduce your risk of legal repercussions.
Why You Should Care
The $70,000 we mentioned earlier is just the beginning, according to Teicher. “Copyright infringement carries a range of statutory damages. For each work, you can get damages of $750 up to $30,000 per work. If it’s intentional, a judge can award $150,000 per work, plus attorney fees.”
That means, from a legal perspective, a lawsuit may not be worth defending. If you get a demand letter and you used the image without a viable fair use or other defense, every second that you make their lawyers work, you could be paying for in the end.
If you have more questions about copyright law for your company or blog, don’t miss the chance to learn more in Dallas August 20th and 21st with Shannon Teicher at her session: Hot Topics in Social Media and the Law.
DISCLAIMER: This is not intended nor should it be used as a substitute for legal advice or opinion, which can be rendered only when related to specific fact situations.