A copyright image that our webmaster shot that has been used on other sites without his permission

A copyright image that our webmaster shot that has been used on other sites without his permission

In our previous blog Copyright Laws and your Business – are you on the Right Side? we started to talk about how businesses need to protect themselves from infringing on copyrights and having their copyrights infringed upon. This blog will concentrate on the content a business uses and the content they create on their websites, blogs, brochures and social media.

The first thing that needs to be addressed are the graphics and photos that are used. The key to having a good website and blog is having images that help to convey the message and improve the optimization of the site and blog. We have all heard the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But what some people fail to mention is that when you use a picture that is protected by copyright on your website or blog, the picture might only be worth three words – “cease and desist.” While the image you find online may fit the theme or your blog entry or a page of your business (or personal) website, this does not mean you should use it.

The first thing we should tell you is that anything that is created or captured by someone can be considered copyright even if there is no © symbol to indicate that it is protected. The fact is that copyright is attached as soon as the original work is created, as soon as the words are typed, or as soon as the click of the shutter on a camera is activated. What many people fail to understand is that copyright is an automatic right and does not require the author or creator to file special paperwork. Bottom line: Proof of creation is all that is needed.

The common error that many people make when finding images they like online is believing that because they are on the Internet, it’s okay to use them. Many also believe that  providing an attribution and/or a link back to the original means they’re free and clear to use the image. This is not true. In order to use an image, you need expressed permission or an acquired license to use that image from the creator or an agent who represents them.

The images and graphics that are found on our office space Toronto website and blog were created by photographers that we have hired – or purchased from photographers over the past several years. But some bloggers and website developers do not have access to photographers and original graphic content creators, so they have to find images or graphics on their own. The best way of finding those images that will not get them in trouble with copyright infringements, is to purchase images from stock photography sites or use images that are free to use (with conditions) from creative common sites.

If there is an image you find on the internet that really works for the message you are trying to convey or the theme you are presenting, do not be afraid to track down the owner of the image and ask if you can use it. You would be surprised at how many content owners are willing to let you use their copyrighted images because you reached out and asked for their permission, rather than just stealing the image and hoping not to get caught. There are also other ways of finding images to use on your blog or website. About.com has an article called “Top 6 Sites to Find Free Photos to Use on Your Blog” that could prove helpful to you, but you still need to ensure the particular images you choose are licensed for the type of site or blog you have.

So what about protecting your copyrighted materials that you post on your website, blog or social media? There are many different methods businesses can use to help protect and prevent other websites or blogs from copying, hotlinking, or otherwise using your image without your consent. The first way is to watermark your images by simply adding your company name, the photographer’s name, website or blog URL or copyright statement. This is one of the easiest and quickest methods of helping to protect and identify the images you create and post post online, though it is not always the most visually appealing way.

There are also paid image services that digitally watermark your images and can search to find where your images may be in use on other sites. Depending on the number of images on your site, this could prove to be an expensive way of monitoring your copyright images. One method that one of our office space for lease Toronto tenants suggested to our webmaster was to use reverse-image searches to randomly check images on the website to see if they are being used elsewhere. The same can be done for written content. Simply select a small section of text from your site or blog and google it to see if it is being used or is similar to content on another website or blog.