Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Sunday, 2 February 2014

A Costly Mistake, by Mary Smith

I am sure most of us are aware of the consequences of using pictures without checking the copyright and/or usage permission. I remember a couple of years ago getting in a bit of a panic over an image I used on this blog. I can’t remember where I came across it but it fitted the theme of my blog post and it seemed to be on a free site. When someone asked where I’d found it I panicked and pulled the image. It actually turned out the person wasn’t checking up on whether or not I was avoiding paying a fee but because she wanted to use it on her blog.

It taught me a lesson about checking the royalty/fee situation thoroughly before using any image. And I was lucky; I learned my lesson without any financial cost – unlike author Martin Crosbie. When he posted a feature on Indies Unlimited ‘Getty Images sued me for using one of their images’ and I asked if it would be all right to share his post on Novel Points of View blog.

He agreed and here it is:

“When I needed a cover for my first novel I purchased a few from several different royalty-free image sites, and then picked one. As I was perusing images, I saved a few in case I wanted to buy one of them later on. Months later, I inadvertently used one of those saved images in a blog post I wrote for my personal website. There was a small ‘Getty Images’ watermark in the corner of the image but I didn’t see it. Getty did though.

“The image ran on my site for six months and then I received a letter from Getty’s legal department claiming I owed them $1200 for copyright infringement. After several weeks of discussion the amount was reduced to $500.

“I do things a lot differently now. My cover designer charges less than half of that to put together a professional cover for one of my books and I don’t buy any pictures for my blog posts, or anything else for that matter. It was a lot of money; I paid Getty though. I’d used their photo and I owed the money, and when I checked their website $500 was the amount they were charging for that very expensive image. So, if you think your little blog isn’t being examined, think again. As their letters to me pointed out, even if you’ve purchased the image elsewhere, or don’t understand copyright laws, you’re still liable. I don’t put a lot of effort into my website, I devote my time elsewhere, but one of Getty’s bots saw the picture and they were happy to send me a letter. Be extremely careful that the pictures you’re using are either free images or that you’ve paid for them.”

I know I’ll be extra careful about using images – how about you?

Many thanks to Martin for letting me share his post. Martin Crosbie was born in Scotland and now lives near Vancouver, Canada. He is the author of the Amazon best-seller My Temporary Life and his self-publishing journey has been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online Magazine, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. He has also published an excellent guide to ebook publishing called, How I sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle: An easy-to-follow self-publishing guidebook.  Learn more about Martin at his website http://www.martincrosbie.com or his Amazon author page

15 comments:

  1. Oh my - Mary, that's a real scare story.

    I use my own pictures I can, and if not I source from Wikimedia. There are some things it's useful to know - for example, anything produced by the US Government or its agencies (e.g. NASA) is copyright free unless otherwise specified but for other governments that isn't necessarily the case. But even bearing that in mind - I'll be checking much more carefully in future.

    Jennifer

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    1. I didn't know that about the US Government - | still think I'd check!

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  2. Oh my.....a salutary lesson, eh? I was once told that if photos are in the public domain put there by the likes of Getty or whoever that we can use them....and I have. I await the knock on the door!

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    1. Apparently not! You need to look closely for the wee watermark.

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  3. That's terrifying! I think I've only ever used pictures that are my own, or which say they have free copywrite, but this makes me v. cautious indeed! I might just go and delete everything I've ever used, just in case...

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    1. Martin Crosbie bought his images from a royalty-free site but that didn't save hime from Getty. It's the thought of those little sypbots which I find so alarming.

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  4. Thanks for the warning, Mary. I once used some lines from a song in a published children's story . I took fright when someone (not the publisher) asked me about copyright. I wasn't prepared to lose sleep over it, so I emailed the writer, explained the situation and asked his permission (a bit belatedly). He very kindly allowed me to use the lines provided I attributed them (which I had, thank goodness) and sent him a copy of the story.
    That was how I learned my lesson.

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    1. A close encounter, Joan! I'm glad it turned out well.

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  5. The writer Blake Morrison had a horrific tale about quoting song lyrics:
    http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/may/01/blake-morrison-lyrics-copyright
    Kate

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Kate, and for the link. Makes the Getty fee for an image look quite reasonable.

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  6. It's a very necessary warning, Mary! I remember a few years ago when everyone started panicking over the photos they used on blogs - some very costly mistakes were made there. I always to try to use my own images, or occasionally from Wikimedia Commons.

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    1. Definitely the best policy, Rosemary. Thanks for dropping in.

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  7. Well worth reminding us about, Mary - thanks! Caution should be the watchword.

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