Picture pitfalls: 5 tips for staying the right side of copyright law

Once you’ve ticked all the boxes on your website under your local legal framework – the Companies Act 2006 in the UK, The Companies (Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2008 and The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 in the whole EU, for instance – it’s time to take a closer look at the content of your site.

Once of the biggest pitfalls for business is what images they use. It’s vital that your pictures are good quality, or visitors to your website may see poor images and think this represents you, too. However, try to avoid the temptation to grab pictures from the internet without thinking where they might have come from. Every image started with a photographer, who quite rightly should expect some recognition or payment for their work.

Here are our tips for staying the right side of the law!

  1. Use your own high quality images on your website – the personal touch beats stock photos hands-down.
  2. License fees are not prohibitive! You can legally use images for free or for a small fee from plenty of good sites like Stock.Xchng, Shutterstock, or Fotolia. If you decide to use the free embedding service from Getty Images as a shortcut to cheap, top class photography, remember that they still own and control that image – and you may wake up one morning to find a blank space on your site!
  3. Be aware that most images have an owner. Use a tool like Google Image Search to check where the picture you like actually came from before publishing it. If you really like the picture, why not contact the photographer? Remember too that if you can find where a picture came from, a photographer can use the same tools to find out who’s using their work. This story from the Guardian last year shows the kind of trouble that awaits the unwary!
  4. If you’re using images of you and your business, be nice and credit your photographer. They have to make a living, and your endorsement helps.
  5. Don’t be too quick to share images on social media. Copyright applies there, too.