Frequently Asked Questions
Have you received an unauthorized use letter from Image Protect?
If you have received a Settlement Demand letter from Image Protect, it is because we have identified an image or images on your website for which we have been unable to locate a valid license. The purpose of our correspondence is to provide you with an opportunity to locate a previously purchased license, or if no valid license exists, to reach a fair settlement for the prior unlicensed use of the image(s) that have been identified on your website.
If you are unable to provide proof of a valid license (in the form of a sales order receipt or invoice),Image Protect is requesting prompt payment of the settlement fee. If you have located license details or have any other questions related to this issue, please Contact us.
If no valid license exists,Image Protect is also seeking prompt removal of the image(s) from your website, unless licenses are separately obtained for continued use moving forward. Please note, removal of the imagery alone does not resolve this matter.
What is Copyright Infringement?
As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner. Examples of imagery infringement include:
- Use of whole or part of an image without permission
- Use beyond the scope of a license or permission
- Adapting an image without permission (art rendering)
- Asking another photographer to recreate the image
- Actual copying without permission
Who is responsible when infringements occur?
Responsible parties may include:
- The company that directly infringed, even if unintentionally
- Employees or individuals who participated in the infringement
- Anyone who published the infringing image, whether they had knowledge or not
- Anyone who authorized or encouraged infringement
Am I responsible for an infringement if a 3rd party, employee or intern developed my site?
If a third-party designer, employee, contractor or intern designed and developed your company’s website, you are responsible to ensure they have licensed images for your use.Image Protect is willing to work with any third party that is interested in resolving the issue on your behalf.
Is an infringement matter resolved after image removal?
We appreciate the removal of our clients’ images from your website; however, removal alone does not settle the issue. We still require payment for the past use. Please contact us so that we can settle this matter with you as soon as possible. Because our clients expect to be paid for the use of their images,Image Protect may continue to pursue payment of the settlement amounts until the matter is resolved.
The image(s) were included within a template product offering that we purchased. Are we still liable?
As the end user of the imagery, you’re ultimately responsible for ensuring that you’ve obtained the appropriate rights to use the imagery. That means, if you acquire imagery from a web template provider, and that provider or other such company did not properly license the imagery, you’re still liable for copyright infringement.
What if I wasn’t aware that I was using copyrighted materials?
Copyright infringement can occur regardless of knowledge or intent.Image Protect approaches unauthorized use matters with the assumption that the uses were likely unintentional in nature unless there is specific evidence suggesting otherwise. While being unaware of license requirements is unfortunate, it does not change liability. Anyone who copies, publicly displays or publicly distributes a photograph without permission, infringes the copyright whether they were aware that the use was infringing or not.
I found images via a search engine and there were no watermarks or notices of copyright. Can’t I use content that I source via this method?
The ability to view content via search engine results or other internet searches does not mean that the content is not protected by copyright. Nor does it mean that permission to use content has been granted. An internet search merely provides responses to the query entered. Indeed, most search engines warn that the content displayed within the search results may be subject to copyright. Further, copyright exists the moment a work, including a photograph, is created. Watermarks or notices of copyright are not a requirement for copyright protection. Nevertheless, our clients do include watermarks and copyright notices on their website.
Can I use royalty-free images for free?
Although Royalty-Free (RF) images are different from Rights-Managed images, all of the clients that we represent require an appropriate license for the use of their work. “Royalty Free” means that once licensed, the images may be used many times for certain uses without paying further fees. But the initial license does require payment and is necessary to protect yourself and your clients. When you license an RF image, you can use it in nearly any application*, for as long as you like. The cost is based on file size and the number of permitted users.
*Note: Some uses need to be specially licensed at different rates and are limited in scope and duration. An example of this would be images used for website templates.
What is copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of “original works of authorship.” By virtue of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, works are protected in all 160 countries that are party to the Convention.
When does copyright begin?
From the time it is created, a photo or other image is automatically protected by copyright.
What are common misconceptions about copyright?
- If an image is on the internet, it’s in the public domain and I don’t need permission to use it.
- If there’s no copyright notice on the image, I don’t need permission to use it.
- If I don’t profit from the use, I don’t need permission.
- If I alter the image X%, I don’t need permission.
- If I don’t use the entire image, I don’t need permission.
- If I remove the image after notice, I don’t owe any money to the copyright owner.
- If I can download it, I can use it without permission.
What rights do copyright owners control?
Copyright owners control the rights to:
- Make copies of the work
- Distribute copies of the work
- Perform the work publicly (such as for plays, film or music)
- Display the work publicly (such as for artwork or any material used on the internet or television)
- Make derivative works (including making modifications, adaptations or other new uses of a work, or translating the work to another media)
Are there limitations on a copyright owner’s rights?
“Fair Use” or “Fair Dealing” doctrine allows limited copying of copyrighted works for certain purposes, including education and research. These limited uses do not require permission from the copyright owner. Whether a particular use is a fair use depends on the facts of each case. Since allowable uses can vary by country, it’s wise to seek independent legal advice before using any copyrighted material without permission.
Are the images that I used registered with the U.S. Copyright Office?
Copyright exists the moment a photograph is created, and copyright registration is not a requirement of copyright ownership. Image Protect has contracts with contributing photographers who own the copyrights in their images, and who represent and warrant that they are the sole copyright owner. Consequently,Image Protect does not require contributors to provideImage Protect with certificates of registration and leaves the option of copyright registration to the individual photographer.
How can I find out more about Copyright Law?
How are license fees calculated for Rights Managed images?
Rights Managed (RM) content is priced and licensed based on usage, including how the image will be used, in what format, in what size, and for how long. Rights Managed content is also available for licensing with exclusive rights either by usage type, industry, territory, or combinations of all three (e.g., to prevent competitors from using the same image in a similar advertising campaign). This is high-end creative content that often has high-production costs, and is suitable for license by large corporations for major advertising campaigns as an alternative to custom shoots.
How are the unauthorized usage fees calculated?
Settlement demands are based on the fair market value of a license, taking into consideration usage, size, placement, duration and territory. The settlement demand is calculated by taking the average duration and average costs of licensing for that period, plus a portion of costs incurred in the pursuit of the unlicensed use. Using the image without a license ultimately costs more than properly licensing the image before use.
What is public domain?
Public domain refers to content that is not or is no longer protected by copyright. The duration of copyright varies for different types of work and from country to country. The following are examples of public domain in the U.S.:
- All works published before 1923
- Works out of copyright or works that fell out of copyright for failure to register or renew under 1909 Act or for lack of notice before 1989
- Works created by the US government
How can I ensure that the imagery on my site is properly licensed, especially if someone else created my company’s website?
If a third-party designer, employee, contractor or intern designed and developed your company’s website, you are responsible to ensure they have licensed images for your use. If no valid licenses exist, the liability of any infringement ultimately falls on the company (the end client) who used the image. You/your business should be named as the “end client” of the license when the images are purchased.
Don’t assume your designer or image provider will contact you about an expiring license. It’s also wise to keep all your licenses organized so that you know the scope and expiration dates of each license.
Additionally, you could let us perform a website copyright audit.
I don’t know who designed my company website or where they might have found the imagery that appears there. How can I find out whether the imagery is licensed?
If you have any question about the origin of the content on your website, you may want to proactively remove that content until you can locate proof that the uses were legitimately licensed, since the content could be from a number of sources.
I’m just a blogger and my site is non-commercial. Can I use images for free?
In most cases, no. Unless your use is specifically permitted by copyright law, all the images on your website must be properly licensed, regardless of the nature of your site. You can, however, license very inexpensive images from many imagery providers that are perfect for web use and will be properly licensed.
I paid for my image, does that mean I can’t be sued?
Not necessarily. Even if you license an image from a reputable supplier, copyright disputes (as well as various other disputes) can still occur.
So how can I make sure that I am covered against these potential legal disputes?
You should always consult with legal counsel for the greatest certainty. The best way is to source your image from a supplier that offers legal protection with its images. The first lines of protection are in the form of model and property releases if the image includes people, or items that are not public property. Some image providers offer additional legal protection either for free or with an additional fee attached that is basically an extension of the warranty. This provides additional peace of mind so that if a dispute arises, for example around the copyright, you should in most cases be covered.
When you license an image that comes with legal protection it offers you an umbrella of some protection around that image. For instance, if someone who claims to own the copyright of an image issues a claim against you for copyright infringement, the supplier who licensed the image to you in the first place can step in, fight the legal battle and cover the legal costs (assuming that the user is otherwise in compliance with the applicable license agreement).
Suppliers that provide legal protection in the form of model and property releases, as well as extended protection, may also have inspection processes in place for the images that they offer.
What’s the difference between “personal use” and “commercial use”?
Personal use may be commonly defined as use that is not for commercial gain. Examples of personal use (or non-commercial use) might include social newsletters or wedding announcements.
Commercial use may be commonly defined as use that is intended for commercial, promotional, endorsement, advertising or merchandising purposes.
Examples of commercial use could include a branded company website, brochure, advert, presentation or product.
Do you need a different kind of license for commercial and non-commercial use?
It depends on the imagery provider. Different types of licenses may be available for commercial and non-commercial use.
Do I need to buy images for personal use, or can I use them for free?
You will need to acquire a license for personal use and for commercial use. There are various sources of free stock images and free clip art that you can use, but these free images must still be accompanied by a license unless the use is specifically permitted by copyright law.
I’m a business owner, but I also have a personal blog, through which I get a number of referrals. Would this blog still constitute personal use?
As long as your blog is for personal use only and does not have any commercial purpose (i.e. ad revenue or promotion of commercial operations) it could be considered personal use, as the site is not designed for the purposes of monetary reward. Images used must still be properly licensed though.
I set up a group on Facebook for my business, does this constitute personal use?
This could be considered commercial use, as the Facebook Group is designed for the purposes of promoting your business. Additionally, note that Facebook has a section on ’Protecting Other People’s Rights’ within its terms (www.facebook.com/terms.php?ref=pf) which provides some further guidance for users of its website.