Are You Breaking the Law with Your Marketing Images?

The internet is still a brave new world. Although many of us have grown up in – indeed perhaps were even born since the dawn of – the digital age, this is still a time of rapidly expanding horizons and shifting frontiers. New technologies emerge faster than human society can adapt to them. And if there’s one area which tends to be especially slow at adjusting to new social and cultural realities, it’s the law.

Several decades from now, a sociologist or historian studying these times will likely be struck by the importance of the word “sharing” to contemporary society. The dispersion and redistribution of user-generated and third-party info is a defining feature of our age. And for those involved in business today, the sharing of info online is an unavoidable part of marketing. But a lack of legal clarity, combined with habits formed long before new laws governing the internet came into effect, has lead to a confusing situation where our daily business and personal habits online might unwittingly place us on the wrong side of the law – perhaps even putting us at risk of a stiff fine.

With so much information being shared all the time – especially images – it can be very difficult to understand what is and is not permissible in the eyes of the law. Some people mistakenly assume that because an image is publicly viewable on the net that this means it is not copyrighted material. But try using most photos found online for your marketing purposes without permission and you’ll likely land yourself in serious hot water.

Clearly then, if you ever use images in your internet marketing, it’s in your interests to gain a good understanding of current copyright law. Follow our guide to marketing images and the law to see just where you stand.

Disclaimer: this article is provided for information only and should not be taken as constituting legal advice – concerned readers are encouraged to consult a qualified legal professional specialising in internet copyright law.



What Happens if You Use a Copyrighted Image Without Permission?

If you infringe someone’s copyright by using or redistributing their images without permission, there are several courses of action that could be taken by the individual or organisation owning or administering copyright of the work in question.

In the best-case scenario, the copyright owner may merely demand that you cease using the copyrighted works, and upon compliance you’ll hear no more of the matter. More likely, though, is that you would be asked to purchase a licence in order to continue using the image, and a commercial agreement might be reached after which no further action would be taken. Naturally though, as you have already used the image, here you would be in a distinctly weaker bargaining position regarding usage fees than if you’d attempted to negotiate a deal for usage rights before the fact.

Finally, a copyright owner might resort to taking legal action, which could result in you having to appear in court and perhaps face a significant fine and/or bill for damages.

If you are a business requiring images for marketing purposes, perhaps it’s time to commission your own shoot and avoid many of the above concerns. Do get in touch to talk through your needs.