27 Jul Copyright Infringement Letters for Website Images
Companies cannot just download images from a Google search or social media and use them on their website or printed materials. There needs to be permission from the photographer for use and in most cases, a license for use needs to be issued.
Photographers are contracting with Getty’s Images to manage all the licensing of their work. Getty Images is aggressively policing and seeking large restitution fees for images that are being used on the brand’s websites without a license.
If you are hiring a company to create your website or to do graphic design for you, they most likely will purchase the image on your behalf. This license they obtain is non-transferable which means, they hold the license, and they performed the work on your behalf to use but you cannot use that image for any other purpose outside of the company that obtained the license. The best option is to purchase the license yourself if you want to use it again.
There was a very high-profile case that was made into a documentary about a photograph that a graphic designer used and edited for President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign Hope Poster. Fairey based his poster on an image that was owned by the Associated Press. After many years in the judicial system and several appeals, Fairey lost his case and settled out of court with the AP. He was also convicted of destroying and fabricating evidence related to the civil case which sentenced him to 300 hours of community service and a $25,000 fine.
All of this could have been avoided if Fairey had purchased a license for the image for around $25. Purchasing a license is very simple and, in some cases, must be renewed but the whole point of this story is that this case has set a precedence in the judicial system that the courts will uphold copyright infringement, so you don’t want to get in the crosshairs.
When hiring a marketing company, make sure to ask them if the images they are using on your behalf are licensed. This includes social media, email marketing, website, and graphic design. If you get a letter in the mail saying you have used an image on your website or your marketing without a license don’t assume it is legitimate. I have seen scams and extortion where the law firm is sending out letters phishing for someone scared enough to pay. My recommendation is to never respond to these letters yourself. Always seek advice from your lawyer and/or the company that created the work first. My experience is the calls and harassing emails come in overwhelming waves once the law firm feels they have a “fish on the hook”. We have hired a federal attorney to represent us and our clients that were being wrongly accused of not having a license. I took this as an extra precaution because I didn’t want them to harass my other clients. Our attorney wrote a cease-and-desist letter to the company which immediately stopped all harassment.
If you have any additional questions regarding a letter, you may have received for copyright infringement or trademark infringement, please contact our office. We are happy to help guide you on reviewing this letter and we have excellent attorneys who can help.