Oh, my babies. I’m here to tell you a harrowing tale. Well, maybe not a harrowing tale, but notably painful, as my butt hurts from all the sitting and researching I’ve been doing on the subject of using other’s work, namely images, on your site.
It all started with this post: Blogger Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Photos You Don’t Own on Your Blog.
Go on. Go read it. We’ll wait here while you scare the daylights out of yourself.
* If you’re using images that aren’t your original work, you might be at risk of copyright infringement.
* Using a disclaimer on your site/blog about the images you took from any source, does not give you immunity from the law.
* Agreeing that the copyright remains with the owner of the images (even by disclaimer) is not a safe practice.
* It doesn’t matter if you reposted the image with no malice or intent, IE innocently.
* I think, but I’m not sure, that since the time the article was originally published ( a couple of years back), Pinterest’s rules have changed. Someone want to weigh in?
After I read the article, and then clicked into the other articles, growing more enlightened with each page, I started doing extensive research on my own. The resounding evidence I found: I might be infringing on someone’s work.
Listen, as a writer, nothing makes me crankier than to have someone use my work as their own. You know, without credit. Writer’s see a well-written article and understand the work that went into such a thing. Writing is hard work, yo. This one fact, makes me hyper-aware and respectful of the hard work of other writers and, by extension, photographers.
After ALL THE WORDS had been read, my head was spinning, but I knew what I had to do: I had to go through each and every post/image on my site (over a year’s worth) and re-research each image to the source to make doubly sure I wasn’t doing something I shouldn’t.
I spent three days, 8 hours each day, butt in chair, doing my homework. With each image that got the all-clear, my confidence grew that I had known what I was doing all along. Until…
…my inbox dinged with the very polite, very understanding, very sweet message that I had stolen two pics and could I be a peach and unsteal them?
To say the blood drained out of my head and a chill settled in my chest, is not overstating my physical reaction after I had been so, so, so careful to do the right thing.
The woman whose photos I had inadvertently lifted (I checked twice, just for good measure, and still got it wrong) was incredibly kind to me. She asked me to remove them, which I promptly did, and pointed me to a stock house where I could buy pics for about a buck a shot.
I was horrified and embarrassed, yet thankful she was understanding. After I told her I had taken them down, and apologized again, she thanked me for being so nice about it.
No, no, no….thank you!
Not long after that conversation, I made the decision to only use my original work or stock that I buy.
I sat, butt in chair, for 12-hours on that last day. I felt nothing was more important than setting my site right, which meant taking down all the images that weren’t mine. Not only on my OMT! site, but on all my social media. Holy crap. So much work.
The next bleary-eyed morning, my site/s looked like small bombs had gone off…OMT, where are some of your images?! I told myself that it was a new day. No use crying about the unexpected bumps in the site-building road, just get to work fixing what I could.
Later that morning, feeling like I had my shit handled, I spoke to a wonderful friend who happens to be a lawyer. I recounted my story and told her about my new rule of only using original work/stock photos. She sent this chilling gem my way:
* There’s not even a guarantee that you’ll be safe using stock photography. I had a lawyer friend who works for a company call me to ask me what to do, the company had paid a graphic designer to do their web page, and the dude had used stock photos, and turned out, the site licensing them didn’t even have the right to do so!
1) Note to self: you now have permission to crack in half.
2) Everyone should have a lawyer friend that says dude, especially a badass gurl lawyer. Shout, J!
My new new rule is this: Only my images/graphics get to grace my site. Mrs. Tucker wants to sleep at night; this should do it.
I belong to two facebook groups of bloggers, where we talk about and share all things bloggy, and it’s interesting to see the responses to this issue. Each group has someone that knows someone (or themselves) that have either been threatened with a lawsuit or had to get lawyers involved. Before doing my research, I would have never suspected this issue to be so prevalent.
Dear bloggy/site-building friends, let this be a cautionary tale from me to you: even if other bloggers are putting disclaimers on their site, even if all your well-meaning blogging friends tell you it’s OK, even if you do your due diligence, even if you think your chances are slim-to-none to getting caught, even if you spend hours with butt in chair going through all your images, double-checking to make sure you aren’t violating the copyright…you still might be.
Horrible, but true.
Like the gal who wrote the article linked above, OMT! is not a lawyer and this should not be considered legal advice.
Consider it sound business advice. The benefit of using an image you love that doesn’t belong to you, does not outweigh the risk of running afoul of the law. Period.
Unless you’re just trying to get sued.