Image Compliance in the World of Digital Marketing

Marketing |  By on Tuesday, January 23, 2018


In the digital age, website owners, social media managers, bloggers, and writers all need attractive images to draw in visitors and users. Where these images come from, however, is crucial, because legal technicalities come into play. Copyright images is very important.

What is copyright?

Copyright is federal law that protects original works of authorship, which includes artistic, musical, literary, dramatic, and similar types of work. It is an automatic right that does not need the author to file any legal document for their work, although registration is needed to enforce it. A couple of exclusive rights of the owner include the display of the copyrighted work publicly and distribution of copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale, rental, or lending, and/or to display the image.

What is fair use?

This is where the source of an image that you intend to use for your website, blog, or social media platform becomes important, and where the technical legalities become blurry. According to the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use Center, fair use is “any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and ‘transformative’ purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner.”

Unauthorized use of images

Fair use means that you can only use a copyrighted work—in this case, an image—when the public can benefit from it. The problem here is that the word “transformative” has no strict definition, and is subject to interpretation.

Think twice about using copyrighted images, especially from big and well-known entities, because they have legal teams that specialize in finding—and suing—infringing uses. If you receive a notice, it means you may have infringed a copyrighted material and might have to pay a penalty of up to $25,000, plus lawyer fees. Also, beware of using works by copyright trolls or persons or parties who aggressively and opportunistically enforce copyrights that they own for the sole purpose of making money. Getty Images, for instance, makes money off infringers by sending extortion letters asking for huge sums of money, when images from its stock photo site are usually quite affordable.

What’s next?

To avoid legal trouble, assume that the images you are considering using are copyright protected. If you really need to use an image, try contacting the creator of the image to ask for permission to use their work. You could also consider purchasing stock photos. Whether you choose one or the other, know that you can rely on reputable digital marketing agencies to deliver informative and compelling content with eye-catching and trouble-free visuals.

SearcherMagnet is a full-service digital marketing agency that helps companies increase ROI and promote their brand online through a customized digital marketing strategy. We devise and implement design strategies using a wide selection of properly licensed images, so you won’t have to worry about copyright infringement. Click HERE to call our master strategist, Aaron Opfell.


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