Corporate Portrait Photography

Do not steal pictures online

  • March 31, 2015

Anyone who has any photographic or publishing experience, or for that matter, even a basic academic qualification, should know that “lifting” pictures from Google is essentially “stealing”.

Despite this, at our web design business we still frequently get requests to “just find a picture on Google”. There is a perception that stealing pictures from the internet is just fine – because “everyone is doing it”.

We usually take the time to educate our clients around copyright. There are literally millions of pictures available at affordable stock agencies, so generally there is no excuse for using another person’s photograph without their permission.

A lot of photographers are fed-up with their images being stolen. And now there is recourse for their loss. For a nominal annual fee (nominal when it comes to legal fees, anyway) photographers are now able to protect their images with Image Rights.

See what this professional photographer had to say about the situation.

As the photographer points out, this is not some flimsy, half-baked Getty collections department. This is the real legal deal and the photographer is contractually bound not to speak to the image thief until the matter is “settled” by Image Rights.

What this means for image thieves is that stealing photographs online – especially for commercial use – will soon become an expensive legal transgression. The onus is on Image Rights to enforce compensation for the transgression. It looks like the bulk of their fees depend on it.

If you have a business website, public Facebook page or another online entity, we suggest going though the site and removing images that you know you don’t have the necessary image rights for.

Instead, you can:

  • Take your own pictures. Even modern cellphones have more than sufficient resolution for website pictures.
  • Hire a real photographer to develop a portfolio of business “stock” photographs for your use. We feel this is likely to be a growing trend with businesses wanting to develop real value for their brand. As it turns out, we are in final discussion with a major international telecommunications company to deliver just that – develop their own comprehensive library of business images for their exclusive use.
  • License images and video from an “affordable” stock photo and video agency like Shutterstock. We have been contributing to agencies like Shutterstock for almost 10 years now. Sadly, some agencies like iStock have gone off the boil after pushing their contributors around too much. Traditional agencies like Getty are generally too expensive for website images and their rights managed licensing options are complicated.
  • Use images licensed under a “creative commons” or another type of “free” license. Sometimes, an appropriate image can be found for free. Just note that a “royalty free” license is not free.

Admittedly, it looks like this legal enforcement is likely to impact the first world, specifically the USA, hardest at first. But if I were an enterprising South African copyright legal expert, I’d be getting in contact with Image Rights for a slice of the local image enforcement action.

As far as we are aware, South Africa is also a signatory of the Berne Convention. So it’s likely only a matter of time before South African image thieves start facing similar legal action from a “partner” local legal firm.

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