The Internet might seem like one giant, free photo bank but it is not. While there are some sites that offer free images for use not every image on the Internet is free. Many of the images on the Internet are copyrighted and must be licensed from the owner to use. When you hire a website designer to create your website you need to verify if the images they put out there are licensed to be on your website. It is your responsibility to verify that images your web designer used are not stolen! Just because an images is on google, yahoo, bling, twitter or anywhere else it doesn’t mean you can grab the image for free use!
· To start, you should assume that all online images are protected by copyright. Then do your research to determine if the image you want to use actually requires permission.
· When an image is registered with the US Copyright Office, the photographer can be awarded up to $150,000 per image for a willful infringement plus legal costs. Many photographers are pursuing these infringements.
· A copyright image may or may not have a watermark on it. The law does not require a watermark to be a valid copyright infringement. Section 1202 of the US Copyright Act makes it illegal for someone to remove the watermark from a photo so that it can disguise the infringement when used. The fines start at $2500 and go to $25,000 in addition to attorneys’ fees and any damages for the infringement.
· When you see a site that states Download Free Images here this should be a RED Flag these are most likely not a legit site and very likely will install malware on your site at the same time you download the stolen images. Most sites where they have free images without the photographers name should be avoided. All I can say is buyer beware!
· Once you download an image and start using it, the image can easily be traced back to your business and you will be held responsible and have to pay. This includes all other social media sites like Facebook, twitter and many others.