Thank you Pro Pet Mentoring (Cindy) for the great question (and inspiration for this blog post AND one of my daily PeriShows!)
Before we go any further, I will re-quote a portion of Laura Roeder’s blog “3 Killer Sources of Copyright-Free Images to Avoid Getting Punched in the Face with a Lawsuit“:
This is a true story that came from our own community:
Not long ago, small business owner Anne received some surprising news in the form of a cease and desist letter. It came from a very large company that sells stock photography to businesses all over the world. I’m going to call this company Lots of Stock Photos, Inc. for the purpose of this post. The reason for the cease and desist letter? Anne had used several stock images without paying for their license.
She believed that the images she used fell under fair use – Anne’s blog is free to the public, not monetized with ads or anything, and the post in question was educational – she had even credited Lots of Stock Photos as the source! “I seriously doubt exposure on my humble blog would affect the value of 15 year-old previously published photos, not to mention that there are entire social media platforms like Pinterest and Tumblr devoted to sharing images – most of which are not owned by the people sharing them.”
Anne immediately took down the blog post that featured those images, and contacted Lots of Stock Photos to sincerely apologize for her mistake. Their legal department accepted that it was an accidental infringement, so they offered to reduce the fine from $2,340 ($780.00 for each of the 3 photo violations) to $1,650 ($550.00 per photo). Lots of Stock Photos gave her a little less than a month to pay the fines or be faced with a lawsuit.
Out of curiosity, Anne called the licensing division of the same company to find out how much it would cost to license the same photos for her blog. The answer? $49.50 per photo.
Anne’s lawyer confirmed that unfortunately, the law was on Lots of Stock Photo’s side here; she was better off just paying the fine in order to avoid losing the case and having to pay so much more. Anne learned that big stock photo companies now have software trawling the net for any unlicensed usage of their photos, and they do not have to ask you to take photos down before charging you for them and threatening to sue.
Now that’s an expensive lesson, but it actually could have been a lot worse.
So where can you find images you ARE allowed to use in your work?
- Create Your Own !
- Check out these collections of great images that are 100% license-free:
Death to the Stock Photo. Sign up for your free subscription to get a zip file of free high quality images every month, straight to your inbox. There’s a different theme each month, the images are gorgeous, and you’re just going to feel good flipping through them whenever they’re delivered via email.
Unsplash. More beautiful photos, completely free for your own use. Their tumblr accounts gets updated with 10 new photos every 10 days. You’re welcome!
morgueFile. Ignore the slightly creepy name (there’s a reason for it, they swear) and dive into another collection of great free stock photos that don’t require you to cite the source when using them.
- Use Images with Creative Commons Licenses
Do you have any other tricks or sources for great images? If so, please let us know what they are in the comments – we believe in sharing the wealth around here, so tell us the ways you’re styling for your blogs and presentation below!