Unfortunately, I’ve noticed quite a few wedding planners and other “professionals” that use pictures that don’t belong to them on their websites and social media – sometimes without any credit given whatsoever! That is why I’m really excited to have a guest post for you today – Annette Stepanian is an attorney and creative business owner who helps creative professionals and entrepreneurs lay a legal foundation for their business. To learn more, visit www.annettestepanian.com.
Can I use someone else’s photos on my website?
One of the most common questions I receive from event planners is how they can go about using other people’s photos on their websites, blogs or social media accounts.
Let’s get something cleared up from the get-go: it’s a common misconception that linking to the source is enough to protect you from claims of copyright infringement. Giving credit and getting permission are two different things. Linking to the source is not enough because 1) the source you’re linking to may not be the one who owns the copyright and 2) linking does not mean that they have given you permission to use the photo.
Owning a copyrighted work gives the owner certain benefits. Among them, the owner has the right to keep others from the unauthorized use of the work, the right to commercially exploit the work or by licensing the rights to another; and the right to sue in federal court if the copyright is violated. When someone uses another’s copyright work without permission, they are infringing on these rights. So if an owner of a copyrighted work learns that you are using their protected work without permission, the copyright owner has the right to take you to court and seek monetary damages as well as injunctive relief (i.e. get a court order preventing you from using the work). Whether someone will actually do so, is a different issue. However, it is always best to get permission from the copyright owner before using the work.
So how do you avoid potentially infringing on someone else’s copyright?
- Create your own original work.The best way to ensure that you are not infringing on someone else’s copyright is to create your own original content.
- Ask for permission before using someone else’s work: If you know who the copyright owner is, a simple solution may be to just ask for permission from the copyright owner. Some owners may want to be compensated in exchange for using their work, whereas some may forego compensation, so long as the work is properly attributed to them.
- Use works in the public domain. Work that is not protected under copyright law falls within the public domain, meaning that anyone can use the work without obtaining permission from the author or their heirs.
- Search the Creative Commons website: Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that encourages the sharing and use of works through easy-to-use copyright licenses. The site enables copyright owners to give the public permission to share their creative work under certain specified conditions.
- Pay for Licenses: If you really want to use a specific copyrighted work, you may just have to pay for the license to do so. There are plenty of websites where you can purchase rather affordable licenses to utilize another’s copyrighted content, like stock photographs, for example.
© 2015 Annette Stepanian
This information is for educational and informational purposes only; it is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the author. You should not act, or refrain from acting, on the basis of information provided here without first consulting legal counsel in your jurisdiction.
My name is Annette Stepanian and I’m an attorney for creative entrepreneurs. A few years ago, I was working my dream job at a national law firm in San Francisco where I practiced litigation for over five years. Although I love the intellectual challenges of the law, my life started to feel a bit, well, beige. I longed for more art and color in my life. So I took a leap of faith and started my own jewelry line – Confetti by Annette. As I grew my jewelry line I came into contact with more and more small business owners – photographers, graphic designers, or consultants, for instance. What I discovered were creative entrepreneurs flying by the seat of their pants when it came to understanding the law. Peers came to me seeking out legal advice about starting or running their own business. I saw an opportunity to merge my legal education with the creative community. Through one-on-one consulting, speaking at workshops, and easily understandable guides and templates, I now work with creative entrepreneurs to help equip them with the legal knowledge they need to confidently grow their business.