Where did your photos come from?

by | Jan 8, 2024 | Guest Blogs | 0 comments

We all understand an online presence is crucial for any business striving to make an impact. With websites serving as virtual shopfronts, the need for captivating visuals has never been more pressing.

Small businesses and social enterprises often navigate tight budgets, prompting them to seek cost-effective solutions for their visual needs. While free images from search engines might seem like a quick fix, these visuals are often protected by copyright, making their unauthorised use a legal minefield.

Agencies and individual photographers invest time, effort, and resources in creating stunning visual content. When businesses use these images without purchasing the appropriate licenses, they infringe upon the copyright holder’s rights. This infringement can result in hefty fines and legal actions, costing far more than it would have cost to hire a photographer.

Many people believe that content on the Internet is freely available to be used by anyone. After all, sharing content is central to how social media works. But in actual fact, all creative content is covered by copyright law and is almost always owned by the content creator. It can seem tempting to think that you’ll never get caught, or that if you are you can just plead ignorance and remove the content, but that argument won’t wash if you are pursued for payment.

I recently heard of a local small business that used a photograph owned by the international news agency, Reuters, on their website, a copy of the email they received is below. They were hit with a bill for £370 and instructed to remove the image from their site. If they don’t comply, court action will likely follow, with the risk of increased penalties and costs being applied. Courts will not accept ignorance of the law as a defence. The likely endpoint is enforcement action and a bailiff at your door.

Unlicensed Use of Reuters News & Media Inc Imagery – Reference Number: XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX

If this matter has already been resolved, please disregard this communication.

PicRights provides licencing compliance services to third-party content owners, including Reuters News & Media Inc:  https://www.reutersagency.com/en/protection-of-reuters-copyright-rights/.
We recently sent you a notice that Reuters News & Media Inc’s imagery being used on your website, social media or in media accessible from your website. According to Reuters News & Media Inc’s records, neither Reuters News & Media Inc nor any of its partners have issued a valid licence to your company for the use of that imagery.

A copy of the imagery and the screen capture of the usage of this imagery found on your website, social media or in media accessible from your website are included at the end of this correspondence and can be viewed by visiting:
https://resolve.picrights.com/XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX / Password: XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX

Copies of our prior correspondence are viewable at the following links for your reference:
Dec 4, 2023    https://history.picrights.com/render/HistoryTemplate/XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX

To Resolve This Matter – Reference Number XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX

We kindly ask you to take one of the following actions within 14 days of the date of this correspondence:

If your organisation holds a valid licence or other authorisation for the use of the imagery, please provide the corresponding document by visiting https://resolve.picrights.com/XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX / Password: XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX and clicking on the “I have a licence…” link.
If such documentation is confirmed by Reuters News & Media Inc, the matter will be closed.

If your organisation does not hold a valid licence or other authorisation for the use of the imagery, regardless of whether or not you were aware of the licensing requirements for the use of the imagery, please remove the imagery from your website, social media or in media accessible from your website and make a settlement payment of £370.00. The payment options are listed at the end of this email.

In simple terms, you wouldn’t go into a sweet shop and help yourself to the chocolates because they were on public display and within easy reach. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you won’t get caught. Agencies exist purely to chase copyright infringements on a commission basis and infringements are easy to find using a simple reverse image search.

For example, a portrait I took of rock star Frank Turner a few years ago, has been used by his management (with my permission) on several occasions. A quick reverse image search using Google Lens brings up several instances. Those are all authorised uses, but if they weren’t, it would be simple for me to track them down and invoice them.

Aside from all that, it’s just wrong to steal. Almost every photographer I know has had their work stolen at some point. This is how we earn our living. For the £370 that the local business now has to stump up, they could have hired a professional photographer to provide them with a whole host of images for their website, marketing materials and social media.

Beyond the legal implications, there are several compelling reasons why investing in professional photography is not just a luxury but a strategic move for small businesses and social enterprises:

Authenticity and Brand Identity:

Every business has its unique story to tell. Professional photography allows you to capture your brand’s essence, showcasing your products, services, and team in a way that resonates with your audience. Authentic visuals build trust and credibility, distinguishing your brand from competitors.

Tailored Visuals:

Stock images are generic and might not align with your brand’s specific messaging or target audience. Professional photographers work closely with you to understand your vision and create visuals tailored to your brand, ensuring consistency across all marketing channels.

Quality and Impact:

High-quality visuals grab attention and leave a lasting impression. Professionally shot images are more likely to engage website visitors, increasing the chances of conversions and sales. In a sea of online content, impactful visuals can make your business stand out.

Versatility and Exclusivity:

Customised photography provides you with exclusive content that can be repurposed across various marketing materials, from websites and social media to print ads and promotional materials. This versatility adds value to your investment over time.

Emotional Connection:

Compelling visuals evoke emotions and storytelling, allowing your audience to connect with your brand on a deeper level. Professional photography enables you to convey your brand’s narrative, fostering meaningful connections with potential customers.

Long-Term Investment:

While the initial cost of professional photography may seem daunting for small businesses, it’s a long-term investment that pays dividends. Quality visuals have a longer shelf life and contribute to building a strong brand identity, ultimately impacting your bottom line positively.

In conclusion, while the allure of free images from the internet might seem appealing, the risks and limitations far outweigh the benefits for small businesses and social enterprises. Investing in professional photography not only ensures legal compliance but also elevates your brand, fostering authenticity, trust, and a stronger connection with your audience.

Remember, your brand’s visual representation is an investment worth making, and professional photography is the key to unlocking its full potential.

Written by Lisa Marie Gee
Lisa Marie Gee has been a professional photographer for 12 years and runs Quirky Photography, an Oldham based portraits, event and commercial photography business.
Find our more at - https://www.quirkyphoto.co.uk/

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