Getting letters from stock photo companies

(This article was originally published on September 30, 2015, and has been updated to be even more accurate and awesome!)
The Internet is a wonderful thing – it allows us to find and share information like never before. Of course, the tricky part is that you can’t always determine the source of an idea, stat, or image – you just see it being widely shared. We can all probably think of 10 times off the top of our heads when people shared something without checking the source and ended up with egg on their faces.
Thanks to the ease of finding and lifting copy, music, images and other material, copyright infringement is a hot topic right now. In fact, a number of our clients have reported receiving letters from stock photo companies demanding payment for using an image outside of the terms of license.
We want to address this head-on because it can be scary getting a letter like that, demanding thousands of dollars! Here’s what you need to know.

Copyright

According to Wikipedia, “Copyright is a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution, usually for a limited time.” That means that the laws are complicated and change from place to place.

Copyright Infringement

Wikipedia states that “Copyright infringement is the use of works protected by copyright law without permission….”
Once again, the definition gets really complicated, which is why copyright infringement cases usually involve a lot of lawyers and a long, drawn-out process.
In the spirit of “an ounce of prevention…” the safest bet is to assume that, unless something clearly states otherwise, anything published online is protected by copyright law. That means no lifting images from a Google Image search, no matter how innocent it seems, or how perfectly the image illustrates your point. You might want to go back through all of the images on your website and blog to make sure you haven’t inadvertently violated any laws. If you’re not sure where a photo came from, you should think about switching it for something else, making sure you are using the image in compliance with its license.
Fortunately, there are sites out there that offer images under licenses that allow others to use them. Near the image information, there will be a description of the copyright restrictions for that image. If it says something like “CC0 (Creative Commons Zero)” or “Public Domain” the image is free to use. And finally, don’t forget that you can always take your own photos – then you own the copyright and there can be no question.
If you’re reading up on this because you’ve received a letter from one of the stock photo companies, read on to see our FAQ on the subject. As you’ll see below, any image that was provided to you as part of your WebDVM Website from LifeLearn is licensed correctly, so contact our Support team so we can take care of it for you.


Image Licensing FAQ

What is this notice?

The owner of the copyrighted material has identified the image in question as being used without a license, or outside of the license terms and conditions. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that the image is being used incorrectly, the copyright owner may not know a third party has purchased the license on your behalf.

What is image licensing?

Images fall under intellectual property, and the creator of the image, upon publication, becomes the copyright holder. This intellectual property owner is able to sell or release those rights to whomever they choose. Image suppliers like; Getty, iStock, Deposit Photos, etc., have purchased the rights to large libraries of images, and they license those images for variable fees that are based on a number of factors, including:

  • Exclusivity
  • Image quality
  • Intended use
  • Image type
  • Content contained in image
  • Demand & other factors

Why did I receive this a notice?

Copyright infringement notices can be issued for a variety of reasons, most often a notice is issued if:
1. An image has been is published without a permission or a license from the rights holder.
2. The rights holder may believe an image has been published without a license because they are not aware the license is held by a third party (in this instance likely LifeLearn) on your behalf.
3. The rights holder is challenging the use of that image believing that it does not comply to the license agreement outlined in the terms of condition documents agreed upon when the license was issued.

Who is this company contacting me?

The rights holder or a third party acting on behalf of the rights holder would likely be the one making contact. These companies have substantial resources to find cases of copyright infringement.
LifeLearn is partnered with a variety of image providers who understand our business and work with us to ensure that none of our customers using licensed material through their services are sent copyright infringement letters.

Is this notice legitimate?

The claimant should be able to prove that the image was indeed published on your site by providing a screenshot, documentation, and a link to the instance for the claim to be legitimate.
All images provided by LifeLearn have been licensed appropriately, and we can assist you in proving payment; please forward any communications to our support team for evaluation and resolution.
If the image was not provided by LifeLearn, then the claim may be legitimate. It is important that when adding images to your site or providing image to be added to your site by LifeLearn, that those images are legally curated.

Am I responsible for paying it?

If the image was provided by LifeLearn with your website, then you are not responsible for paying. Please forward any communications to our support team for evaluation and resolution.
If the image was not provided by LifeLearn with your website, you may be responsible for paying the rights holder. Simply removing the image from your website does not absolve you from paying. Check your records to ensure you have licensed the image appropriately. If you can provide proof of purchase to the rights holder, you generally do not have to pay.
We all make mistakes from time to time, if you have uploaded images to your site that were not properly licensed, or you are not sure if they were properly licensed, remove them from your site. This step may help avoid future claims.

If I take the image(s) down, will that resolve it?

If the image is proven to be used outside of the license, then simply removing the image will not absolve you from paying. Unfortunately the damage has already been done.
Please contact LifeLearn before removing infringement claim images from your site. If you have received a notice of infringement on an image it can sound very scary and your first reaction may be to remove the image entirely. Please know that there may be useful license information held within the data of that image that could help resolve any issues. If you delete the image in question any evidence that could help resolve the claim is also deleted.
If the image was not supplied by LifeLearn and you are not sure if an image was legally curated remove it from your site. Removing an image that has already been flagged will not resolve the issue, but removing potential copyrighted images that may not have proper licenses could avoid further claims against you.

Who should I contact to find out if my image is licensed correctly?

If you’re uncertain, please contact our support team to help you determine the source of the image in question. If the image was supplied with your WebDVM4 website, we’ll be able to resolve this issue on your behalf. If it was migrated from a previous website designed by a different company, we may not be able to identify the source of the image.

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