Are Your Photos Legal?

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Sometimes we’d love to include an image of something on a vacation rental web site to create more appeal and to attract visitors to explore further. We did this with our UK holiday site about 10 years ago when we were trying to portray the Ontario experience, and what better to do this with than a picture of a moose. I set one of my staff on the image hunt and we were delighted with what he found, and published it on the site. Very naïve at the time we never really thought about where the photo had come from and it sat there for several years before we received a ‘cease and desist’ letter from a US lawyer advising us that we were in breach of copyright and demanding a five-figure sum along with removal of the image from the site.

It was a scary time as we scrambled to recover but since we had closed the company by then and moved to Canada, we were able to get out of the situation without recourse to legal help. Webcopyplus were not so lucky and it cost them $4000 to get out of their copyright mess. It’s well worth reading what happened to them as a cautionary tale. Here’s some quick pointers to avoid a similar situation:

  • Never use a photo obtained from the web without permission from the owner
  • When using image sharing sites like Flickr, read their Creative Commons Licensing thoroughly and always attribute ownership as required. Don’t use any photograph that is not licensed appropriately.
  • Sites like IStock Photo allow you to buy web ready images for a very small amount – great for blogs and web sites.
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Moose image by Jonathon Brennecke on Flickr