The web is a great source of inspiration: you can find anything you need or you are interested in, from photos to information and advice, most of them for free. How you use them, however, is a completely different story.
While you may be tempted to download the images you like and simply post them on your blog or website or incorporate them in your presentations, doing it without permission would mean breaking the law and making yourself guilty of copyright infringement.
It is true that this will most likely not send you to prison, but it could bring about huge fines, and you surely have other expenses to cover from your already limited budget. Perhaps you hope you will not get caught, but, just as you found those materials, their owner or author can find you.
Copyright Infringement Basics
Copyright infringement involves violating creator or holder’s rights. Imagery infringement, for example, may include:
- Using a whole image or part of it without permission;
- Using that image for different purposes than those covered by permission or license;
- Adapting images without permission;
- Having an illustrator or photographer recreate images.
What are the penalties applied in cases of copyright infringement?
- You will have to pay profits and damages that go anywhere between $200 and $150,000 per work infringed;
- You will have to cover the fees of the attorneys and the costs of the court;
- The court will most likely force you to end your infringing acts through an injunction.
- The court may impound any illegal works.
- You could go to jail.
Most of those involved in cases of copyright infringement work in marketing. The decision to use copyrighted material without permission often comes from above, and they just go with the flow, disregarding what getting caught could do to their reputation, finances and even freedom.
Just being aware of the infringement makes one guilty. If you find that difficult to believe, here is what the law states when it comes to parties considered responsible:
- The person who found and stole the image, even when it was unintentional;
- Anyone participating in the original infringement;
- Anyone publishing, aware or unaware, the image being infringed.
- Anyone authorizing or encouraging infringement.
What alternative do you have? Whenever you need images or ideas for a website or some other materials you are designing or promoting, focus on stock image houses or websites, on materials that are free or cheap and safe to use.
The whole thing may take a little more time and some money, but the risks you eliminate by doing so are worth it. It is your career, your savings or even your own freedom on the line, so why jeopardize any of them using copyrighted images and breaking the law, when there are so many alternatives out there?
If, however, it is too late, and you are already guilty of copyright infringement, your best bet is to stop any infringement acts and consult a copyright infringement attorney that specializes in such cases. It is always better to be safe than sorry!