Don’t Even Think About ‘Borrowing’ an Image
Copyrights, apply to all of our images, even those distributed on social media. The photographers worked hard (in most cases) to get these images for you to be able to use, not to mention all the money they spend on equipment, taxes and transportation.
COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS PIRACY
You cannot use copyrighted images without permission. Period.
Our customers are completely honest about respecting the copyright protections of intellectual property, and we make no assumptions to the contrary. This info is for those few who have not purchased their images, may be thinking of ‘borrowing’ our images, push the envelope, or those new to the creative field who may not understand the implications of copyright infringement.
Mistaken Thought One
Thinking that the worst thing that can happen to you if you “steal” an image is that you can be forced to pay what you would have had to pay anyway…
Think again. Copyright laws provide for statutory penalties of up to $150,000 per infringement. “Borrow” a picture that you should have paid $29 for? Who’s gonna know, right? Somebody “catches” you, you pony up the $29 bucks, right? Nope. You have “infringed” a legal copyright, and THAT’s what they’re going to come after you for: $150,000.
Mistaken Thought Two
Thinking, hey, let THEM prove I DIDN’T pay for the picture.
“Intellectual Property” issues are different from a lot of things in the rest of the world. (“Intellectual Property” is how the law describes things like books, symphonies and…photos.) In the rest of the world, if somebody thinks you stole something, they have to prove you did. In the world of “copyright infringement”, you have to prove that you DIDN’T. Yep.
Let’s say, for example, that someone sees one of their pictures used on your website. They can prove that it is, indeed, their picture. They own the copyright on it. They can make a demand that you prove that you have legally acquired the right to use the picture. If you can’t prove it (usually in the form of a paid invoice) you’re in big trouble. Very big.
Mistaken Thought Three
Thinking, “Hey, I’ll just use Photoshop to remove all these pesky little copyright identifiers on this picture. Who’s gonna know?”
Watermarking involves digitally embedding into an image a symbol that identifies the copyright holder. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 makes it a criminal offense to remove watermarks meant to protect copyright. Under US copyright law, it is specifically illegal to remove a watermark from a photo. Not only is the act of removal prohibited, the courts assume that the very attempt indicates a willful intent to violate somebody’s copyright. And that’s something the courts come down really hard on.
Mistaken Thought Four
Thinking, hey, I’m too “small potatoes” for anyone to care.
To the contrary. The Internal Revenue Service figured this out long ago, which is why they focus on the “small” cheaters, not the big ones: There are a lot more “small fry” than there are “big cheeses”, and the message you send when you attend to the smaller entities is a powerful “word of mouth” engine. If you’re doing a little out-of-the-way website or a local-distribution brochure and thinking you’ll just grab a few images because “who’s going to care”… guess what? You are smack in the bull’s-eye, exactly the “profile” that is being targeted.
We hate talking about this stuff…
We find that our customers are very honest and straightforward with no desire to cheat anybody. As creative people themselves, they understand the importance of “intellectual property” (because they produce it themselves) and are a pleasure to deal with.
We hate talking about this stuff because it makes us sound like we don’t trust our customers — and nothing could be further from the truth. We just have experienced people who don’t know about this, accidentally breaking the law.
Why we have to talk about it…
Some stock agencies don’t mind keeping beginners “ignorant” — and then pouncing when they make a mistake. We’re going to tell you why you shouldn’t even THINK about “stealing” an image — and let you know that you could be getting yourself into much bigger trouble than you might imagine. Nobody wants trouble…
What does “Intellectual Property” mean?
“Intellectual property” refers to original creations in the fields of literature and the arts. Most countries in the world provide automatic copyright protection to any item of intellectual property at the instant the item is created. At the instant a photo is taken, it automatically becomes the “intellectual property” of the photographer who took it. It makes no difference what the subject is or why the photograph was taken.
What is “copyright infringement”?
Legally, the person who holds the copyright to a photo has the absolute right to control how you use that photo — or to deny you the right to use that photo at all. Any unauthorized usage is an “infringement” of the copyright. This INCLUDES using the picture for “reference” in a derivative work. It also includes use of images BEYOND that which has been purchased.
Many people don’t realize just how all-encompassing a copyright is. For example, there’s a misconception that any image appearing on a website may be downloaded and “saved” to disk. This is absolutely not the case. The very act of saving a copyrighted image to your local disk without invitation — regardless of whether you ever do anything else with the image or not — constitutes a copyright infringement; And infringements large and small are “actionable” (i.e., can be grounds for a lawsuit.)
On this website, you ARE allowed to download “comping versions” to “try out” in your layout. But the terms are that you are specifically NOT allowed to use the images in any OTHER way, unless you license the image. And, by the act of downloading, you are agreeing to those terms.
How to keep yourself out of trouble
All you really have to do is respect both the letter and the spirit of the copyright laws — and use common sense. All stock agencies include Terms and Conditions for downloading images right on their website. Read them. Observe them. They tend to have a lot in common but they’re not all identical.
Agencies typically permit you to download an image to use for creating comps and for “pitching” a client. But that doesn’t mean you can use the image as an “end product” in itself without paying a fee — even if the use is internal to your company. Whether or not the image is watermarked, you may not use it in any other manner except as specifically permitted in the Terms & Conditions listed on the company’s website — unless you pay the license fee, of course.
Why are penalties for copyright infringement so severe?
Copyright laws exist to encourage people to be creative by giving them the right to control — and benefit from — the products of that creativity.
Because it’s so easy these days for one person to “steal” the creative output of somebody else, lawmakers have recognized that for copyright laws to be effective, they must have sharp teeth. Lawmakers in the US figured that $150,000.00 — the maximim fine that can be awarded per infringement — is a figure large enough to discourage most people from stealing intellectual property.
So, if you have larceny on your mind, think — one hundred and fifty thousand dollars! (That’s just not worth it.)