The Gray Area

Lessons learned from the inadvertent use of copyrighted images by sharing articles online from alternate sources other than your own.

The purpose of this post is to raise awareness of the issue so our followers do not get caught in the same situation.

When sharing articles that other sources have written and posted on their website for others to read and share, be wary of image copyrights. Sounds like a no brainer, right? In our company’s case, we shared an article from an Inc.com newsletter on our website and via social media. The image that accompanied the article was licensed through Getty Images, but was paired with the text by Inc.com independent of the article author. We posted the article and assumed the image was compliant, the fact it was an image licensed to Getty and independent of the article was not noticed. As a result, we now have an unlicensed image on our website and hundreds of people have shared this same article via social media. We received a cease and desist letter in the mail from Getty Images asking us to stop use of the image if we do not have a valid license and we owe them a significant sum of money.

Next time you share an article, double check the image and be sure it isn’t licensed to a stock photography site. Often times there are images in the public domain that are free to use, which are comparable to those on stock sites or use your own image to accompany the article. Remember to give credit to the article author and photographer, as well as post the original source of the article. Copyright information is often located in the bottom left corner or underneath the image.