If you’re not sure you have all the rights to your website images, stock photo companies have vastly improved their capability to let you know if you don’t. They’ll let you know you are in violation in the form of a letter…and a potentially hefty bill for several years of back usage.
To protect their legitimate interests, many stock photo houses now use sophisticated image recognition software that allows them to identify un-purchased photos, or images with expired licenses. No matter how obscure the photo is on your site, and even if it has been altered, the software can spot it. And the site owner will be billed.
The site owner is responsible even if a third party company provided the photo such as photos included in one of those bargain-basement priced website templates. The “I didn’t know” defense is no defense at all.
So if you’re not sure, check it out now, especially those photos that have been up for years, racking up potential fines. Be in the know. If you find you do have an unlicensed image on your site, you have two options.
- Contact the stock photo company and negotiate payment for past and future usage, or
- Immediately remove the image(s) everywhere it appears in your website – even archived e–newsletters, blogs and other website pages. Once the image recognition software has trolled your site, it may be too late to remove them to avoid fees.
What’s our advice going forward?
Avoid using rights managed photos whenever possible, unless you find “just the one” and are willing to pay and keep on file proof of payment, are willing to monitor license expirations so they stay current, and willing to assume the risk factor. You can’t assume the stock image company will notify you of expiration, and lack of notification by them is not a defense against unlicensed usage.
Take the safe route with royalty free stock images that never expire. You could save yourself a lot of headache….and thousands of dollars.