It is so easy to steal; you can even steal unintentionally with the help of the internet. A blogger who takes a picture from another site to share on her own, a writer who uses a picture to complement an article – they could be committing copyright infringements without even being aware of it. This is exactly what happened to web content writing service Webcopyplus, and $4000 later, they are hoping to share with other “creative types” what they have learned.
A writer for Webcopyplus used Google Images to find a picture that related to his article. He assumed that because the image had no copyright, that is was permissible for him to take it under “fair use” rules. Several months later, the company was contacted and given a “cease and desist” order for violating copyright laws. They immediately took down the picture and sent a letter of apology. In some cases, such as the blogger who inadvertently takes a copyrighted photo, this is where it ends. Not so with Webcopyplus. They ended up settling their case for $4000.
Senior web copywriter Rick Sloboda says, “While we accepted responsibility and were willing to settle from the start, we felt the amount was excessive.” Especially, as Sloboda points out, they could have saved themselves a lot of time and money had they purchased a photo from a stock image site.
Copyright laws are extremely complex, and it is unrealistic to expect a copyrighter also be fluent in copyright law, but in general, if you didn’t take the image, don’t use it unless you get permission from the original source. This rule is widely ignored online by amateur bloggers and others, and it can be very difficult to determine what, exactly, is the original source. But professional copyrighters need to be aware of what is considered fair use and what is not. Not only could it cost them a fine, it could cost them clients.