I recently discovered that someone was using one of my original graphics on her website. It was a fluke that I even found it, really, but as soon as I saw it, I contacted her and politely asked that she take it down. What was her response? “How was I supposed to know it was yours? I did a Google search and found it. Next time, you might want to think about adding your name to your graphics or something.” What?
I spend time creating my own graphics for my website. The mere fact that I don’t always include a © on a photo, graphic, graph, Infographic, etc. does not mean it then automatically becomes copyright-free. That is most definitely not how copyright laws work. Just as copyright laws apply to written content, they also apply to photos and graphics as well.
I thought about this a bit and realized that I’m sure many people do this all the time. They do a quick Google image search, find something they like and suits their purpose and, voila, it suddenly becomes theirs to use, as they like. Unfortunately, this search and grab can get you sued for big bucks. So how can you be sure you’re not using someone else’s content? Simple:
- Do a search for images, find one you like and ask the owner for permission to use it. Finding the owner is easy. Click on the image and it will lead you straight to the website. In fact, when you search Google for images, all you need to do is hover over the image and the original website URL is visible (yes, my URL hovered right there in black and white). 9 times out of 10 the owner will give you permission as long as you give them credit for the content. Sometimes, they’ll want a user’s fee. Unless you really love the content, you should probably move on to number two.
- Search copyright-free graphics and photos websites. There are plenty of these sites on the internet. Read the terms and conditions to be sure you’re using the graphic or photo properly. Some sites state that their content is for personal use only. Some sites allow free use of the tiniest, poorest quality versions of a graphic (making you pay for the better version, of course). You must be sure to use the content in the manner specified or you could very well be in danger of committing copyright infringement.
- Make or take your own. Make your own graphics using any number of graphics software. Or take a photo of your own. This is the safest, easiest method, which is why I use it. I’m certain that I’m never infringing on anyone’s property. I never run the risk of being contacted by the content owner and quite possibly being sued. Yet, since I’ve had content stolen on numerous occasions, this certainly is not without problems for the content creator.
What can you do if you find that someone is using your content without your permission?
- Contact them politely and ask them to take it down. Give them the benefit of the doubt and let them know you’re sure they didn’t mean to infringe on your property. Be sure to give them a specific amount of time to delete the content, before going to the next step.
- Contact the website hosting ISP and file a DMCA Takedown Notice. Do this by searching whois.net to find who owns the site and who is hosting the site. Here’s an article that explains the DMCA takedown process in more detail.
Remember, website and business owners are supposed to be professionals. It reflects poorly on business owners who promote themselves as experts in the fields of publishing, marketing, etc., yet who are blatantly ignorant to some very basic business dos and don’ts. Educating ourselves on copyright laws can save us all hassle, time and money.