I've written before about why you should never copy photos from Google. Often those photos are protected by copyright law, and while cases that go beyond a cease and desist demand letter are rare, it only takes one incident to cost you a year's worth of blog revenue.
A super-shady incident that manipulated copyright law in a scam that cost one blogger $7,500 strengthens that argument even more.
In February 2014 Christie at Living for Nap Time was blogging about a green pepper coupon (at the time she ran a blog about coupons), so she did a Google image search for a photo of green peppers. She found the perfect one—weirdly, on a travel site—and uploaded it to the post.
Several months later she received an email from a lawyer saying that photo will cost you $750, please. Christie was like, wtf, it's a green pepper photo you can find on a stock photo site for a few dollars. The lawyer's response? The law is on my side and come to think of it, my client and I would like $7,500 for damages. Also by the way you better hire a copyright lawyer, missy.
Christie did some digging and found that these folks owned many domains where they seemed to be planting clearly-tagged photos to boost the photos' SEO in hopes that bloggers like Christie might happen upon them. That's right: they optimized the photo to encourage copyright infringement and then sued for it.
The lawyer had been called out on several sites for being unethical and predatory.
So Christie hired her own lawyer who advised her to settle the $7,500 claim. If the small possibility of the claim going to court happened, she could be liable for the claim plus all of the court costs, which could reach $100,000 or more. Because, regardless of how comfortable we've become with copying photos from the web, copyright law protects many of the images that turn up in a Google image search—yes, even if you link back to the original source.
Don't let this happen to you! Try out stock photo sites like Allthefreestock.com, scan Flickr—or you can search Google using “Usage Rights” under “Search Tools”—for Creative Commons licensed photos, or take your own. At IFB we use Shutterstock, which charges a subscription fee, but it will cost you less than $7,500 possibly in your entire life.
Photo via Shutterstock.
Do you copy photos from the web? Does this story convince to to stop?