Did you know that by grabbing an image on Google images and using it on your website or in any other marketing materials, you’re most likely breaking the law? It’s true. If you have not secured permission to use another person’s image, or have not properly licensed an image from a reputable stock image company, you may be infringing on someone else’s copyright—which means possible legal action and fines… yikes!
Now you might be thinking, “but it’s a picture of the Brooklyn bridge… that’s a public place!” And you’re right, it is a public place—but the person who took that photo owns the copyright for that specific photograph of that landmark. And you can’t use it without permission.
So, how do I find images that I can use in my marketing materials and on my website? Good question, and the answer is actually quite simple. If you are working with a design firm or creative services agency, ask them to find images for you. They know where to look for the best images, and will also know where to look for images that suit your budget and usage requirements. Because they also have a lot of experience licensing images, they can often negotiate better pricing than you could on your own.
- With “Royalty Free” images you pay once and have rights to use the image as long as you want (typically the only main limitations are if you use it in print and do over 500,000 pieces or use it on a website with an extremely high volume of traffic, you need to pay more).
- “Rights Managed” images are much different — these types of licenses mean you have to license an image for a specific use (brochure cover, for example), and at a specific size (1/4 of the page, for example), for a geographic region where it will be seen, and for a specific time frame. This type of licensing can get complicated, and costs significantly more than Royalty Free, but if exclusivity is important, they’re well worth the cost. We often use Rights Managed images when a client doesn’t have the budget for a photo shoot, but wants an image that’s not as likely to be used by other companies at the same time.
There are many other scenarios including special licensing for items that will be resold, and licenses that allow you to use images for personal or limited business use—but the two above are the most common.
As a creative services firm, we understand copyright law better than the average business person. While we certainly don’t claim to be as knowledgable as our favorite intellectual property attorney, we do know enough to help our clients stay out of copyright trouble.
One final thought… beware of images on the internet that claim to be in the public domain. It’s still your responsibility to check the copyright of any image you use, even though the person or website hosting it claims it is in the public domain.