I got caught

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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.