The Copyright Smackdown That Made Me Audit My Posts, Pins and Photo Sharing Online
So, I'm no attorney and I can't give legal advice...let's just get that out of the way right now. But I am on a mission to help you grow your bridal business online and one of the simplest ways for me to do that is by sharing my own experience...the good, the bad and the ugly.
Being that we're in the middle of a blog series on the topic of Visual Marketing that essentially requires you to use images online, I thought I'd share my recent run-in with image copyright and how it's affected the way I market online.
I got a copyright smackdown.
Earlier this year the most unexpected and heart-wrenching thing happened. A wonderful photographer that I had a nice casual networking relationship with from back in the day when I was marketing my first bridal business contacted a publication I used to write for, claiming that I had used her images without permission (not true, by the way) on a blog post over 2 years old and wanted over $30,000 in licensing fees.
Naturally, I had asked for permission. In fact, the only reason I had the images or the content was because she had given them to me by email...or so I thought. Well, after a few embarrassing back-and-forth messages that humiliated me in front of the Editor In Chief, she finally admitted that her husband had, indeed, provided the images and the story I covered. She found the email chain, problem solved.
For me, problem not solved.
If someone that I actually DID get permission from to use her images wanted to sue me or the publication I posted them in, can you imagine how someone might react if I didn't have their permission?
I guess it's just business.
Don't get me wrong. I certainly do not blame her one bit for protecting her work...that's her right! But I would have thought that getting some targeted exposure on a highly popular online magazine and receiving full credit for those images, including the appropriate links, would have made her excited...not upset.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way. Not every owner of an image, whether a photographer or an everyday Jane, wants their images shared by others online...even if it results in more exposure for their brand.
It's just business. Copyright is copyright. It didn't matter that I was helping her out by giving her tremendous exposure to thousands of brides. If I really had violated her rights, no amount of PR generosity could save me in court. Thank goodness I hadn't!
Your generosity is not permission.
A lot of us are out there sharing other people's work on Pinterest and our blog without getting written permission first, believing that our goodwill will be appreciated and rewarded.
But it won't...not always. If you don't first get written permission to share someone's images, it's illegal and there could be consequences.
Covering my fanny.
This claim came over 2 years after the post published. Because of the time passed, not only did I forget all about that post, she forgot about it! (Or her husband, rather). It's a good thing those original emails were lying around or I might be in big trouble.
Since this happened, I have been extremely cautious about any image I publish online...probably to a fault. I have taken down almost all of my Pinterest boards that clients co-created using images that they didn't own, losing over a hundred followers. I've started auditing old blog posts from years back and cleaning them up or taking them down, where necessary.
Am I overreacting?
Probably. But after what's happened recently, I don't really feel like taking any chances. It's not worth the potential repercussions.
Staying in the lines isn't fun. It would certainly be a lot easier and laid back to just share whatever I want on Pinterest and blog about whoever I want using their images without thinking twice about it. But that could get me into trouble.
So, what images CAN we share?
I'm not an attorney, so I can't really give you the legal low down. That's why I'm bringing in a REAL attorney to the Bride Appeal blog. I want you (and me) to get the correct guidance we need...both from the perspective of a photographer protecting your own work and from the viewpoint of someone who wants to share another person's work.
Come back tomorrow and check out our Techie Tuesday interview with a photographer attorney (yes, you read that right).
What are your concerns about violating copyrights when sharing images online? Share your thoughts below...