If it happened to me, it could happen to you!
Do you know where all the photos come from that you use to spice up your blogs?
Some of you may have noticed my sparse visits around blogtown and social media these past few days. That was because I’ve been a busy beaver, trying to protect myself from FURTHER copyright infringement. Yes, you read correctly – further.
We’ve all read enough articles on the perils of copyright infringement, but do we understand the rules completely when it comes to adding photos to our blogs?
Apparently, I thought I was adhering to the rules, but Thursday morning I woke up to an email sent to me from LCC, telling me that I was being fined for unlawfully having used a photo which was posted on one of my blogs.
At first I was shocked at the email, but after discovering what the photo was that caused the fine, I was even more shocked. It wasn’t a photo that I had chosen myself to post, it was a reblog I posted, and as I always like to write a little bit about what I’m reblogging about as an intro to the reblog, I had chosen to copy and add the photo pertaining to the reblogged post, to highlight the post. I unknowingly trusted that the photo on the reblog was safe to use because it was used on the original post. Had I just wrote the intro and only linked to the reblog itself, without adding the photo from the post on my page, I wouldn’t have been incriminated. By including his photo on my page direct, I was displaying his illegally obtained photo.
Incidentally, the post in question was written 2 years ago, which brings me to another important fact; many free photos have stipulations. Some are free only for a certain amount of years – usually 1 or 2. It’s possible someone used that photo thinking it was free and the free part expired in 2 years, because ironically, the post in question was posted in December of 2013. So never assume a photo is free to use unless you’ve checked the licence rights on the little blurb that always accompanies a photo from the site you’re on when you click on it to download.
What you should be looking for is CC0 – Creative Commons Zero, which is public domain.
If you aren’t sure about where a photo originated from, use the site Tineye.com to upload the photo in question, and it will show you where the photo came from and where it’s been used and it’s licence permissions. (No doubt, this is where the person checked his photos to find the one on my site.) Here is a link to a post I wrote about this last year https://dgkayewriter.wordpress.com/clean-illegal-images-blog-its-late/
Naturally, I called the number listed on the email notice, and asked them a lot of questions to be armed against future fines, and of course, to share here with all of you. It hurt to have to pay $130 for a photo used that I wasn’t even aware was copyrighted material. And even though I removed it immediately, I still had to pay the fine.
The woman I spoke with told me I was lucky it was only $130. She said there are photos that incur thousands of dollars in fines. She also told me (when I asked), that they send out plenty of fines all the time.
Now, you may all be left wondering, what about posting cute little memes off Facebook and other social media sites?
Rest assured, I didn’t forget to inquire about the rules of sharing social photos we copy and paste from social sites. The woman told me that because social media is all about sharing everywhere, there’s no way of controlling all the shares. BUT APPARENTLY, if you share something off social media on YOUR BLOG, there is always a possibility you can be fined, if caught.
Needless to say, I had almost 500 blog posts since I began blogging in 2013. If you go through all your posts in your dashboards, you’ll find there are about 20 per page. Each page took me about 45 minutes to an hour to go through and check on photos I’ve used. If I didn’t know where they came from, I deleted them. Due to time constraints (as this is a daunting process), some photos I replaced and some remain photo-less, as my main objective was to delete unknown photos from further penalizations down the road.
This process took me well over 30 hours to clean up my posts. Certainly, this was a grueling exercise, very time consuming, but I never want to wake up to another scary email from Creative Commons.
RECAP: 5 TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM USING PHOTOS WITHOUT LICENCE:
- Use only your own photos or check licence for all photos copied from the web.
- Use Tineye.com to check any photos in question.
- READ THE FINE PRINT
- Be careful when reblogging and including the photos of other’s on your page.
- Go through old posts to make sure you haven’t used any photos unlawfully.
*Note: After posting this article and it was shared around virally, it got picked up by http://paper.li/ConlinLaw/1446436017?edition_id=84ed2470-a670-11e5-b314-0cc47a0d1609 . While I was visiting the site and my article, I came across another informative article on, What to do if you receive notice of copyright infringement. Read it here, by Hannah Konitshek.
Coincidentally, I came across 2 articles this week that cited some excellent photos sites to use FREE on our blogs. There is also some excellent information about paying attention to the licence usage. The new photos I’ve added to this post were obtained from Pixabay.com Just remember that FREE doesn’t always mean there’s not an expiry on the licence. CHECK THE FINE PRINT!
For another great explanation of how using photos from other people’s posts can be infringing copyright, check out this blog post https://jewelant.wordpress.com/2017/12/26/copyright-whats-the-biggy-deal/#comment-10751