Myth: Images online are free for anyone to use.
When was the last time you reviewed your business website and marketing materials? You may be at risk for a claim of copyright infringement for the photos that you, or your website developer/creator, placed on your business website and marketing materials. Those photos can include any kind of content, such as people, scenery or objects. As a business owner or manager, it is not only your responsibility to know this, but to know that it is a liability for the business.
Photos, including those in electronic formats used on websites, are covered by copyright protections. Generally, the actual photographer owns the copyright to the photo, unless the photographer was hired and assigned the rights away. Copyrights cover: (i) the right to reproduce (copy) the copyrighted work; (ii) the right to modify/prepare derivative works; (iii) the right to distribute copies of the work; (iv) the right to perform the copyrighted work; and (v) the right to display or show the copyrighted work.
How does this affect you and your business? If your website or marketing materials use photos that you do not have express authorization to use, or that you did not pay for, then your business is at risk for a copyright infringement claim. Many businesses believe that their website developer knows the law and has all the appropriate permissions/rights. The opposite is often true. Your website developer contract may include a provision that disclaims all liability. Your lack of knowledge about copyrights is not a defense for liability to these claims. Also, just because you provide some link or watermark with attribution to the photo does not mean you’ve done enough to avoid copyright infringement.
There are some solutions to this problem. You may choose a stock image website, and purchase a license to use authorized photos. However, not all stock photo licenses are equal, and you need to ensure that the license is permissible for commercial purposes. The fine print actually matters, and your business should avoid unnecessary liability. The rising cost of copyright infringement litigation should scare you. For this reason alone, take a moment and conduct a business evaluation and risk assessment of the images used on your website and marketing materials.
This topic and more Intellectual Property issues will be covered during the presentation by Darren Spielman, Esq. of the law firm Kain Spielman P.A. entitled “Intellectual Property Law Protection: Trademark, Copyright and Internet Related Issues.” During this 2016 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show session, attendees will learn about protecting important business assets through intellectual property laws. This includes a discussion of trademark selection, adoption, registration, and enforcement, and can cover business names, food and drink names, and services. Additionally, a review of copyright law, the protections it can provide for original content and materials and the use of images online. The session will also cover website issues including terms and conditions agreements, privacy policies, domain name selection, and enforcement. Lastly, attendees will learn about online defamation and strategies for public gripes and complaints.