The Positive Side of a Copyright Notice

Hey there, howsit goin’?

I’ll jump right in. When something ugly is going on, there is always something positive to report on as well. To balance out the bad going on in the world of photography, it is also important to write about the good.

While the battle of the Photogs vs Getty is in full swing, some nice things happened along the way, on a completely different level. Only a week ago I was contacted by a law firm who had come across one of my images on Flickr. They asked me if it was OK to use the image for free, but I would be credited on their website. First of all, how cool is that? You would say its normal, but more and more these days, our photos are taken instead of licensed against a fee. But since the photo is for sale on multiple stock agencies I offered them a fair price for the licence. So they came back to me agreeing on the fee and the image is now licensed to them for use on their website and in brochures or ad campaigns.

St Louis Skyline and Mississippi river

Right, while all of this was going on, I was at some point searching the internet with Google Images to see where my photos are being used. Google Images is great for this as you can just drop an image in the box, and Google will search the internet to find matching images. Anyhoo, searching the net, and I found a hit on my Clock Eye image. It was used on a blog written by a lovely woman called Esther Bradley-DeTally. Esther is a talented writer and author of You Carry the Heavy Stuff. The image hadn’t been licensed so I wrote a nice comment on her blog explaining that copyrighted images have to be licensed against a fee. Esther and me then had a very nice offline conversation where I explained how it normally works in the world of image licensing. She was very understanding about it and purchased the image for her blog for a fair price and she will also use the  image for her next book. I am really grateful for that.

I am really happy with the way both stories ended and it does show a few things:

  1. Not everyone is aware of the copyright on images, so its important to share your knowledge
  2. Images found on Google, are most of the time considered to be free to use, when they are not
  3. When you explain nicely that an image needs to be licensed, you have a good chance of a happy ending
  4. Don’t be greedy when asking for a price, it will definitely increase the chances of closing the deal
  5. If you are nice to others, you will get it back one way or another, Karma does exist

Clock face aging or bio clock concept

This brings me to the following story which is somewhat backing up the 5 conclusions I wrote up here. This is an experience from a writer called Roni Loren who is a successful author and National Bestselling Author of The Loving on the Edge series from Berkley Heat. Roni encountered the same thing as I did, but experienced it from the blogger side. She unknowingly used a copyrighted image and the photographer found his image on his blog. For what I understand the exchange between Roni and the photographer was less amiable then my own experience. With permission I quote Roni:

Well on one random post, I grabbed one random picture off of google and then a few weeks later I got contacted by the photographer who owned that photo. He sent me a takedown notice, which I responded to immediately because I felt awful that I had unknowingly used a copyrighted pic. The pic was down within minutes. But that wasn’t going to cut it. He wanted compensation for the pic. A significant chunk of money that I couldn’t afford. I’m not going to go into the details but know that it was a lot of stress, lawyers had to get involved, and I had to pay money that I didn’t have for a use of a photo I didn’t need.

Although it was a rough experience for her, a valuable lesson was learned and she wrote about it in her blog. I think Roni made good list of things to know about images and the internet:


  • if you link back to the source and list the photographer’s name
  • if the picture is not full-sized (only thumbnail size is okay)
  • if you did it innocently
  • if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
  • if you didn’t claim the photo was yours
  • if you’ve added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
  • if the picture is embedded and not saved on your server
  • if you have a disclaimer on your site.
  • if you immediately take down a pic if someone sends you a DMCA notice (you do have to take it down, but it doesn’t absolve you.)

Photographers constantly run into images that are not licensed. We are losing money over lost sales, and it costs us money to chase the (unknowing) infringers. It also costs a lot of time, time we actually want to use shooting and creating new images for the world to see. Some photographers have been shooting all their life and each and everyday they have to spend more time on things they don’t want to do. Some photographers have just stopped wasting their time and take their losses, they rather go out and be creative. I am still very new at photography but these two encounters have taken my copyright virginity. For me both occasions ended on a positive note, knock wood, but I can see it happening that at some point I also have to take my losses. We will see, and I am sure you will hear about it here when it happens.

Well, it would be a missed opportunity if I wouldn’t give you a few pointers on what you can do about making sure you don’t end up fighting with a photographer over copyrights. Roni has it all figured out and I appreciate it that she took the time to educate people about the matter. I quoted her tips but please read her blog and explanation to get the full picture:

  1. If you’ve been using images without approval from the internet on your blogs, know that you are probably violating copyright and could be sued for it.
  2. Search for photos that are approved for use.
  3. Take your own photos and share the love.
  4. Use sites like Pinterest and Tumblr with caution.
  5. Assume that something is copyrighted until proven otherwise.
  6. Spread the word to your fellow bloggers.

And what I would like to add to that is, images do not have to be expensive. You can buy a single image for for your blog for $2 dollar on CanStockPhoto. You can buy credit packages at Fotolia to get a discount if you need more than one image. You can also buy subscriptions at Shutterstock which allows you to download a significant number of images per month. There are many stock agencies out there and I am sure there is an agency that offers something that suits your needs for a fair price. And you can also always contact the photographer, in case you have that information, and ask for a price. Photographers are known to be a bit vain and to have poor business acumen, so when asked to give you a price, after you have wooed them and complimented them on their artistic eye, chances are you might get a fair price 🙂 Dont pin me down on it though, you could get the old film shooter who wants top dollar 😉

Woman working outdoors on laptop showing currency 3D

Well, there you have it; tips, tricks and great advice on how to avoid angry photographers, getting the right image for your blog and most importantly, being able to spend time on what you love to do, instead of wasting valuable energy on things you never meant for to happen. And I will end this blog with some sound advice my dad always gave me when I was a kid; Sonif you don’t know something, ask questions. Just ask questions.



Comments are closed.