Are your website images going to get you sued, fined or jailed?

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (or DMCA), we developed to protect the intellectual property of copyright holders from copyright infringement. As a webhosting provider, we commonly deal with DMCA notices on an almost daily basis.  The most common DMCA notice we’ll receive is from a product manufacturer when an online ecommerce discount website will sell products that they are not a licensed reseller of. What we hear is that the licensed resellers are complaining that online resellers do not have to abide by the same pricing restrictions or pay royalties that the licensed resellers pay. Since many of these discount ecommerce sites aren’t licensed resellers they simplly ‘find’ (borrow, copy, steal?) images online (usually from a licensed reseller’s website) and without permission and use these images on their website. Eventually, the manufacturer finds out that xyz.com is using unlicensed images and in violation of the DMCA and will send the website owner and/or host a request that the pages with copyrighted materials be removed. 

Now should a website owner not take down the offending images they can be liable to losses incurred by their unlicensed use of intellectual property and have a court judgement placed against them. As per the DMCA should a host or ISP learn that the client’s website is in violation of the DMCA and be provided proper information backing this claim, then should they not take down the offending content or force the client to do so in a timely manner they too are liable for any loses that the true copyright holder man incur. So as a webhosting provider DMCA is very serious. 

Lately, we’ve seen a huge increase in DMCA notices not only from product manufacturers but from stock image companies.  After speaking with webmasters of these websites we’ve found out that the images they are using were purchased as part of so called “Royalty Free Clip Art” library CD and DVD sets.  Several years ago I created a little animated UFO image (I did nothing more than take a stock image and make the lights blink and animated that) about 3 years ago my image resurfaced on a website of a client, turns out they got the image from one of these so called “Royalty Free Clip Art” libraries and I was never contacted or gave permission for my image to be used. I know it was my image because I used a shareware application to create the image and the very tag from the shareware app remained in the GIF comments!  So please be cautious of these “Royalty Free Clip Art” Libraries, chances are they are nothing more than collections of images scavanged from around the web.

Another issue we’ve seen is people blantantly capturing stock images (with watermarks intact) by doing screen captures and using them on their websites (and blogs!, bloggers are the biggest culprits of this) and they don’t even reference where the image came from (not that referencing the image source without permission to use the image would be legal).

Most recently I’ve heard of one client being sued for $17,000 in damages by a stock photo website for an image that they purchased on a so called royalty free image cd and that they are going after webmasters of many successful websites in hopes of curtailing this theft.

So if you can’t purchase Image CD’s where do you get images? Stock photo houses are expensive afterall.  Well, we have a solution. Applied Innovations (www.appliedi.net) partners with Fotolia.com to provide all of their hosting clients a 10% bonus on all stock image purchases (if you purchase $10 worth of images you actually get $11 worth) and all new hosting clients get their first 2 images absolutely free! The catch is you have to link into Fotolia.com through a special url found off our website.  So why do we recommend Fotolia? Because web ready stock images only cost $1!!!! That’s right, not $100, not $25 but only ONE US DOLLAR for full licensed use of any image you want and they have well over 1 million images available today!

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