Website owners through the Internet do it, regardless of whether they're running business websites or personal websites or blogs; and many of them do it without knowing the legal implications. I'm talking about the usage of images on your website: more accurately, the use of copyrighted images on your website.
Searching for images online has become increasingly easy as search engines like Google improve their technology and devise tools that not only make it easier but also encourage the search for images. Similarly, social bookmarking websites across the entire Internet thrive on tagging and bookmarking images. There's nothing inherently 'bad' or 'evil' about this practice: it's simply what most Internet users want and like to share with each other.
Where 'the line' becomes a little blurry however, is in how Internet users choose to use the images they search for. On the one hand, technology has made acquiring images through search extremely easy, and on the other, Internet 'culture' and current trends are driving the social media arena to consume images and video almost as a necessity or a key part of participating in the discussion. Thus creating content for the consumers requires, almost by default – or at least a strategy to meet the audience's expectation – to involve images as well as text. And the acquisition of images, easy as it is, becomes a case of searching, downloading and re-using or repurposing other peoples' images for your own (or as you own!) Content.
This is where we enter into legal issues, because most images online are the property or their owners, either by license or by right. This fact seems to be largely ignored by Internet users, and its debatable whether this is a question of ignorance or lack of knowledge on the subject, or arrogance.
Business owners who delegate the running of their company websites to others can sometimes be oblivious to the production of the content in their own websites, including the use of images and their source. Unfortunately this is not something that the law takes into consideration in favor of the ignorant. If you're using images on your website without the permission or the legal rights to use them, then you're breaking the law.
Although nobody is exempt from this rule, when it comes to business websites, a lot of reputation damage can take place through using images unlawfully. The potential costs and ramifications far outweigh doing things the right way and taking the extra time to acquire the images legally.
What to do if you think you're using image illegally on your website:
If you manage your own website then you should have first-hand knowledge of how the images you use were acquainted. If someone else runs your website then it's your responsibility to make them aware that every single image on your website must be owned: either you bought the image or the rights to use it, or you took the original photograph. If this is not the case, it is in your best interest to remove those images immediately.
Where to get images from, to use on your website?
When it comes to using images on your own website, you will most likely want them to be professional or of very high quality. Unless you're a photographer with enough skill and time to produce your own images, then your best alternative is to purchase 'stock' photography.
There are many websites online selling rights of use to great images or all kinds and formats. These are known as 'stock' images or 'stock' photography, and searching for either of those terms online will yield enough results to cover all your photographic needs.
The bottom line when it comes to using images on your website
- Do not steal or 'borrow' images from other websites to use on your own website. Doing this will most likely break the law.
- Take it for granted that almost every image you see online is copyrighted. You do not own the rights to use those images, and doing so can get you in serious legal trouble.
- If you're going to use images or photography on your website to enrich your content, buy the images from a 'stock' photography website. This will give you the rights (usually in the form of a license) to use the image (s) on your website.