I got caught

I’m no expert when it comes to blogging. I learn as I go. I’m happy to share what I know and what I don’t, I’m not afraid to ask, although these days I haven’t had much time to ask a lot. I need to make time for learning. When I’m told I’ve done something wrong, I will review what I’ve done and see if there is any validity in the statement. The week before Easter I saw there was no validity in being attacked, so I did something about it. But a little over a week ago I got a letter in the mail that I didn’t expect and it was a big wake up call to me and possibly to everyone who shares images on their blog.

I usually take my own pictures for my blog OR I buy them online OR I download free photos from a reputable site. It can be hard finding good photos for a plumbing blog.

A couple of years ago though I used 3 images that I linked back to the original source thinking I had done the right thing and I hadn’t. I received a letter from D & B on behalf of Getty Images demanding I pay nearly $4000 for using those 3 images without a license or paying for them.

I was shocked. I had done what other bloggers did at the time and even linked back to where I found the images but that was part of my downfall. I got caught. I used the three images as a top header in three of my blog posts over 2 years ago. I experienced a wave of emotions because it was a week out from our 10 year anniversary and we hadn’t organized anything special to celebrate, finances had been tight because of bills and well kids. This bill was not expected and I had my tail between my legs because for a short time after I had Magdalene, I followed what other bloggers did by copying a photo and using a link to show the source.

I deleted the images straight away but the letter stated that wasn’t enough and to prevent escalating the case in court because I had broken copyright laws, I would have to pay the demanded amount.

I created a Getty Images account to see if I was being charged correctly and I wasn’t. Two of the images were being charged with an extra $1000 on top and another had an extra $200 charge.

I decided to ring Getty and see if the situation could be amicably worked out. I knew I would have to pay something, but I wasn’t sure if I could negotiate. From past business experience, using a lawyer for such a small amount would cost me more in the long run.

After leaving three messages, I got a call back last week and after a lengthy discussion and a bit of waiting, I was told the best way to get out of the D & B case was to subscribe to one of their photo packages so that the money I was going to give them, wouldn’t be wasted over 3 illegally used images. The subscription came over $2500. It was an unexpected and massively high bill to pay, but it was better than paying $4000 and seeing it literally go down the drain. But just because this happened to me doesn’t mean it could be the same result for others.

As a result I now have a subscription where I can download 50 images a month for the next 12 months which is complete overkill for my blog. But the point isn’t necessarily how I amicably solved the issue. The greater point at hand is that this could happen to someone else.

If you’re sharing images on your blog that you haven’t paid for or taken yourself, then you are breaking copyright laws. Even if you link the image back to the original source.

If you want to use an image from another blogger, in most circumstances, that blogger will be happy for you to share their photo providing there is a link back to their blog post. For a blogger it means higher traffic, but if you take a photo from a news site, then you are potentially taking an income away from a photographer by not purchasing the picture.

I’m well and truly covered for the next 12 months in regards to sourcing images for my blog, but others may be innocently linking their photos without getting proper permission and it could result in receiving a nasty letter in the mail demanding money. And these bigger corporations have the money to press ahead.

If it can happen to a little blogger like me, it can happen to anyone.

On a slightly funnier or ironic note, while I was discussing my case with the consultant from Getty, we did have a chuckle when I realized the blog post with one of the unlicensed photos was about illegal plumbing. I was encouraging readers to use a licensed plumber, but in the process had used an unlicensed photo!

How do you source images for your blog? Do you take them yourself? Buy them? Download them for free?

I’m linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

  • Oh you poor love! What a drama. I’m paranoid about the images I use on my blog and will be even more so no! It’s such an easy but expensive mistake. On the plus side, you’re going to be sitting pretty with all those images, you’ll be spoilt for choice! And well done you for negotiating – where there’s a will, there’s a way!

    • Thanks Sammie. It was definitely an expensive mistake to make. But it’s all good now. I still need to comb through my blog to remove any other images but I’m fairly certain majority are paid for or were downloaded for free… or I took them myself. 🙂

  • TeganMC

    Eek! I’m glad you were able to negotiate a smaller amount but $2500 is still a lot of money!

  • Oh no! That would have made me cry, getting a letter like that. I’m glad it is now all solves for you and $2500 is still a lot of money but it was much less that $4000. I’m paranoid about photos as well – it’s such a tricky area. This is a good article to prompt me to be more careful!

    • Thanks Jasmine. I think after going to Problogger in 2013 I learned about what not to do and so I reverted back to buying my images but forgot to change the images on those old posts!

  • OH-MY-GOODNESS that is so huge!!! I take all my own images, but this is something else. I’m not sure the $2500 subscription is a better alternative, but it is certainly better than $4000 – wow! I’ll be sharing this post so that others can at the very least learn this lesson too. Big hugs xx

    • Thanks Josefa. Yes, the subscription was a lot but it means I have a year’s worth of images to use for future posts. I asked if that was the lowest subscription and it was so I was stuck in a hard place really. Pay more and get nothing, or pay just a little less and get images. Most importantly I learned my lesson loud and clear. And thank you for sharing. xx

  • Oh Bec. That would have been very worrying. For all the cowboys on the Internet it seems a bit unfair that you got caught. x

    • That’s such a sweet thing to say. Hopefully my post prevents others getting a letter like I did.

      • It did actually. This week I put together a video and after I learned of your story I replaced the music I’d planned on using to be careful of copyright. So thank you.
        (I love the farm and I’d be sad if a bunch of musicians moved in!)

        • Lol. The farm could be called splendour at the glass if that did happen! Baha!! I’m glad you changed the music. It’s not worth the stress! Xx

  • Oh that’s awful! It’s one of those things that even if you know you’re doing the wrong thing, you never think you would get a bill anything like that! I guess you’ll be stockpiling images for the next year!

    • It’s a common thing bloggers do, find an image for their post and link the source. But you can get in trouble with copyright.

  • OMG!!!! OMG. OMG. OMG.
    Now I’m scared

    • Just check your blog and get rid of pics you haven’t taken yourself or paid for.

  • LydiaCLee

    I get scared about this, I usually use my own to avoid this…but when I started out, I don’t remember…I do know there are programmes scanning just for this purpose, so that’s how you get caught….

    • LydiaCLee

      And memes, I worry about memes….

    • Yes I’ve heard about the program scanning and I think that’s how I got caught.

  • Oh Bec, how frightening for you. I freaked out about a year ago and pulled all the images from my blog and replaced them all with pixabay ones so I knew exactly where they came from. I hope your family is OK. That’s a lot of money! #TeamIBOT

    • I use pixabay too but sometimes they don’t always have a big range of photos for some of the topics I blog about.

  • Oh NO Bec!!!!
    You poor thing! That’s horrendous and such a shame. I hope you score a few sponsored posts now to get your costs back.
    I have only ever used my own images (or licensed ones courtesy of the advertiser) so thankfully, this can’t happen to me. Big wake-up call to anyone who does not though. It can be a bit of a mean world out there. x

    • Yeah using your own or licensed images courtesy of an advertiser is the best way to avoid getting a bill like I did! X

  • Simplify.Create

    Oh no, how awful. Such a high price for an innocent mistake 🙁 I use a mix of my own & 2 free stock sites but might go & re-review my images to be on the safe side.

  • …I better review mine! Glad you got something out of it rather than just a huge bill!

    • Yeah that is how I look at this whole experience.

  • Oh wow Bec! That totally sucks. But I guess I see their side of the story. Even though it is just a photo, it’s someone’s job. Just as we would hate someone to use our words I guess. I usually source from other blogs or like places and link back.

    • That’s what I did and it’s illegal and those blogs can sue you under copyright law. The linking back is how they found the pics on my site. Paying for pictures that can be used on blogs or taking your own pics us the best way to avoid any trouble when using pics on your blog. X

  • Wow, scary! I’m off to trawl through old blog posts now… thanks for sharing, hope you’ve recovered from the shock!

    • I’ve recovered but my bank account will take a while to recover. X

  • Haidee

    I did some research on this when I started my new blog and now I am ultra careful about what images I use and where I source them, mostly I now try to take them myself. Sorry to hear this happened to you, it’s pretty scary!

    • It is scary but if you use your own pics, there is nothing to worry about. 🙂

  • Haidee

    Speaking of which – does anyone know what the deal is with sharing Pinterest pictures of quotes on your blog?

    • I would rewrite the quote on my own graphic and note the source at the bottom of the quote.

  • OMG, it’s almost like they are trying to drum up business and force people into subscribing. What a nightmare for you.

    I looked into this and the actual photo taking in public places when I first started the blog and basically I took the same approach as when I coordinate photo shoots and that’s get permission from everyone involved and make sure the person you are getting permission from has the right to give you permission. For the most part, it’s easier to use your own photos. When I can’t I purchase them and follow the licencing that comes with it.

    • Yes using your own photos makes blogging so much easier!

  • Jenni from styling curvy

    Omg bec!! That is a HUGE bill…faarrrk! From memory I’ve only ever used images that weren’t my own once in my blog…I need to check! Thanks for sharing

    • Please check so you can avoid getting a nasty letter like I did! Xx

  • WhoLettheKidsOut

    Bec, Thanks for sharing your story! I am just starting out with my blog so appreciate that you were honest enough to share. Hope things get better from here on in!

  • Oh that is scary. Thanks for sharing your story. I was sent an email about using Pinterest link – even though it linked directly to her pin and pinterest site. She just wanted it gone.
    I’m off to check too.
    How does it go on Facebook though – everything is shared and copied ?

    • I have no idea Trish. And how about Instagram and Pinterest?! Personally I think it was a blackmail technique to get more business. I was damned whatever decision I made really. At least I will be set with images for a while!

  • Thanks so much for writing this post Bec but OMG that is such a huge amount of money for an innocent mistake. Let’s hope that you can get some great use out of the images that you have paid for during the next 12 months.

    • It was definitely a big shock and a large bill I didn’t expect to pay!

  • Oh goodness, I had no idea! I can’t believe that this happened, and I cannot believe that such a company would want to profit from a small mistake. So sorry this happened Bec. xx

    • They made a profit alright. They actually got new business from me innocently using three of their pics. I will be going to town to make the most of my subscription that’s for sure!

  • Oh no – that’s shocking Bec – and such a costly thing. I know I am guilty of using images so I’m going to check on my posts. You poor thing, very unfair to have to pay so much.

    • Yes I’ve had a range of emotions about it but I sorted it out and I won’t be making the same mistake again!

  • Ouch Bec, I’m devo for you 🙁 Such an expensive lesson to learn alright. Good on you for sharing the message though. I’m intrigued (as a nosy journo) how they spotted the images…. you must be big time now girl xx

    • Ha no way am I big time. I think Getty have some sort of program that can search a blog for their images and the code in the way you save and upload the image to your site. Anyway they found 3 photos on my site and it was expensive to avoid being sued!

  • Ooo no! How devastating. I’m sorry that this was such a costly lesson for you. So many of us I’m sure could be doing the same thing unknowingly. I will certainly be more cautious and careful going forward. Thank you for sharing this huge lesson x

    • I think I had better review my posts and stick to using my own images. Thanks again

      • Thanks lovely. Using your own images is the best way to avoid getting in trouble like I did. Although I’m now set with images for the next 12 months. 🙂

  • I read this first thing in the morning and have been going through my blog ever since. I so wish I didn’t have over 300 posts to go through because its going to take AGES. Glad you were able to work out a solution that wasn’t as expensive and I agree with previous comments, how unlikely that out of all the people out there who are probably knowingly stealing photos, you got caught! Hugs Bec x

    • Thanks Toni. I went through my media database on my blog as opposed to each blog post because as long as it’s deleted it won’t show up on the post and then I went back and added images to those blogposts with missing graphics. When you delete the image make a note of which blogpost it’s been inserted into so you can go back to the post to fix up. X

  • Oh no Bec! That’s terrible that you had to pay so much for only using three images incorrectly, especially when you thought you were doing the right thing by crediting them as the source. I will certainly be more careful in the future. I mostly use my own images but I do regram quotes on Instagram. And I also have put a couple of quote images up on Pinterest? Is that illegal also? Should I get rid of those quote images both on Instagram and Pinterest?

    • Yes I believe sharing quotes is illegal too but so many people do it! Not that it means to still do it but it’s such a hard thing to manage online. The best way to fix it is to make your own graphics with the quote and put the source at the bottom of the quote is you didn’t write it. And with Pinterest, I’m not sure about images there because pinning other peoples pics is what Pinterest is all about!

  • I’m sorry to hear this happened! I use Creative Commons C00 (or CO0, I never remember the name correctly) images. This means they’re permissible with no attributions even for commercial use. This post did go back and remind me to clear out some old free stock images, because while they were free to use, it wasn’t clear if they would consider blogs as commercial or if they wanted specific attribution or what, so best to just remove them!

    • Yeah I use Creative Commons and my new subscription tells me which photos I can or can’t use on my blog.

  • Oh that’s not cool. I’m going to have to go through my blog roll. I use images all the time.

    • Yes, please do! I’d hate for you to get a letter like I did. It’s not nice at all. X

  • Jo

    Oh my word!!! You hear about fines but never realise it can actually happen to you or a friend. Thank you for sharing this Bec. I’ve been spooked of late and started purchasing images and using my own. Do you know what the go is for timblr? Must look into! I often wondered about images and how they are all sourced!

    • Hmm not sure about Tumblr but purchasing your own pics or taking your own is the best way to go. Xx

  • Oh Bec! What a shock this must have given you. Such great timing too. I have always been nervous about copyright law and images. I have heard you can use creative common images, but I still haven’t been brave enough to. At least you’re sorted for photos now!! And how did they find it after two years??

    • Apparently Getty have a program that can find images on your site. Plus I linked back to the original source so whether that produced a ping back and Getty got a hold of it. It is strange they only sent the letter to me now after 2 years.

  • Oh that sucks 🙁 🙁 I use my own photos otherwise photos from other bloggers (i always check their blog as most will have a disclaimer about using their images – i have one myself). Expensive lesson!

    • I LOVE your photos! And I also check blogs before sharing their pics on my blog. But back in 2013 the three images I linked to we’re commercial sites who had paid the license to use those images. Using your own pics is the best way to avoid a bill like the one I received in the mail.

  • Oh Jesus Bec what a debacle! I can imagine how your stomach dropped when you opened that letter.
    A really good lesson though and I’m very grateful you shared it. Thank you.
    Meanwhile I’d be downloading every conceivable image I could in the next 12 months so you’ll never need to buy another image again!! Get yourself a 1TB hard drive and go to town!! xx

    • Lol, I am downloading like a maniac! And the hard drive is a great idea! X

  • You already know my thoughts on this xx

    • I do and I’m so glad I could message you about it as soon as I got the letter. Life is freaking crazy isn’t it? X

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    Omg that is unbelieveable … I need to go back and check all my pics

    • Please do. I don’t want anyone to experience what I did. It’s a bit stressful and then I felt like crap for doing the wrong thing. 🙁 x

  • Oh my that is just awful, but thank you for sharing your story to make others aware. I’m quite paranoid about the images I use. Having worked in the communications/PR industry before I started blogging I understand copyright and the use of images. I prefer to take my own or create graphics to go with my blog posts, rather than use stock images. If I have ever used stock images, I always make sure these are paid for to avoid any trouble.

    • Well my subscription tells me which photos I can download for my blog. Most of the ones I do are signature or common photos. Taking your own photos is the best way to avoid any trouble though.

  • Literally going back over my blog to check any potential issues in early posts! Thanks for the heads up, I feel like you’ve just flashed headlights as I’ve driven by 🙂

    • No problems Beth. That’s how I got caught- with my earlier posts because since the end of 2013 I’ve been using my own images or buying them. It’s a good idea to go through your pics in the media part of your blog, delete ones not paid for and then upload new later on.

      • I missed this post until cate linked to it today. Thank you for sharing (and big belated hugs). I use my own pics now but in the early days of my blog used pics with attribution (mostly from creative commons but a few earliest ones were probably not) I kept meaning o go back and change them but been busy. Will take them down immediately and not stress that I don’t have replacement pics ready.

  • Eeek! I always try to use my own images or common ones, but I thought it was ok if you credited the source. Hmm. Shit!

    • I thought crediting was right too but it’s not. Using your own photos is the best way!

  • sarah @theroutinequeen.net

    Oh I’m so sorry this happened to you! This is the stuff that scares me about blogging, making an honest making because I’m still learning so much! Thank you for sharing your story so that others can learn from it.

    • Thank you Sarah for your comment. There are bloggers that are getting caught and sent bigger bills than mine and I only had three! Imagine blogging everyday and having a few 100 pictures to pay for!

  • Hugzilla

    OMG this is freaky. Thank you for sharing.

  • goldcoastmum

    OMG! Thanks so much for sharing your story and reminding us all to be careful re image copyright! I use mostly my own but will go through and double check! :-O

    • Please check. I don’t want anyone else I know getting a bill like I did. It’s best to use your own or buy images. xx

  • I used to use any image when I first started blogging, until I read about this exact issue! Now I use my own, or free photo websites like: http://www.pexels.com which outlines the attributions needed. But I’m pretty sure I still have some old blog posts with illegal photos so I’m off to check!

  • rimkus01134

    Thank You.. I will go back and check each photo!

  • Thank you for sharing your experiences Bec x

  • This is so useful to read and I’m so sorry it happened to you. Live and learn,and you are very good and kind and helpful to share this.

  • Thank you for sharing this. I use my own images on my blog. They may not be the best photography, but I know exactly where they came from. However on a recent zip-lining adventure, I purchased the photos they took off us and they said I could use them as long as I hashtagged their business.