Royalty Free Images Aren’t Free: Finding and Using Photos to Use Without Getting Sued

Have I ever mentioned that I won our school district’s speech competition when I was in Grade 7? I have always loved public speaking. I’ve been really lucky in the last few months in that I’ve had a terrific number of opportunities to do what I call my “blog and pony” show to internal GoC audiences, talking about how we’re using social media to connect with Canadians in a government context at work, but this opportunity was especially exciting for me. I had the great honour today of speaking at the Social Capital Ottawa conference on a topic very dear to my heart: how to find, use and share photos online without getting sued. (Remember my infographic?) I love this topic because it’s at the intersection of a whole whack of things I’m passionate about: social media, blogging, sharing and photography.

This whole experience has been a HUGE learning curve for me – and I thought I was pretty knowledgeable when I proposed the topic! I learned SO MUCH about copyright and how not to violate it. Did you know, for example, that the DMCA does not necessarily apply in Canada? Or that “fair use” is an American concept and different from our Canadian “fair dealings”? Or that “royalty free” does not mean “free”? (Okay, I knew that last one, but I didn’t know it eight years ago when I started blogging.)

But I learned some other really neat stuff, too – like how to build a Powerpoint deck that doesn’t have 800 words on every slide (unlike almost every Government of Canada internal “deck” I have ever seen), and how to share a presentation on slideshare, and how to administer a quiz and record the results in real time using Google docs, and how to use storify to capture a story on Twitter. And now I’m going to wrap it all up into one big bundle and blurt it out here for your adoration.

This is my presentation from slideshare. I wanted to include enough information on the slides so that you’d be able to get the important bits without actually attending my presentation at SoCapOtt. But there’s enough extra stuff that if you would like to know more, I’m happy to bring the presentation live to you or discuss any of the finer points should you have any questions!

And here’s what some of the people attending the presentation had to say about it, as captured by Storify. (There’s several pages, so you have to click at the bottom to read more.)

(How awesome are these tools? I’m so excited to have the chance to play with them!)

Oh, and about the “quiz” in the presentation? I am SO ridiculously pleased with myself for that one. I liked the quiz idea right from the start, to use some real-world examples of circumstances people encounter every day online. When I originally conceived it, I had imagined handing out pieces of coloured bristol board to all participants and having them hold up a green card for true and red card for false. So quaintly old skool, right? I really wanted people to do more than just sit there and listen to me. Two days before the presentation, I was at a completely unrelated training session, and they used Google Forms and a Google Spreadsheet for a very similar purpose. So I spent most of my afternoon yesterday figuring out how to do it myself. Cuz there’s no time like the very last possible minute, right? And sweet Jebesus, IT WORKED!!

So if you’re curious, here’s the quiz questions and answers:

“I’m just a mom blogger with 15 followers, 10 of whom are relatives. My blog is basically an online baby book. All these fancy copyright rules don’t apply to me.” FALSE!

You find an image you love on a website and want to share it with your graphic designer. You pin it to your inspiration board on Pinterest. Can the photographer sue you for copyright infringement? YES!

Copyright means that you have to pay to use an image. FALSE!

You find a yummy recipe for kale chips on a foodie Tumblr and want to share on your blog. You can use the photo as long as you credit Tumblr. FALSE!

You have a website for your small home-based business, but you don’t have a shopping cart on your site. Can you use an image under this Creative Commons license if you credit the source? (See deck for CC license image.) FALSE! (because it says “no commercial”)

Facebook will consult you in cases of disputes over images before revoking your business page. FALSE!

It’s always okay to use an image if you hotlink to the source or make the image clickable to lead back to the source. FALSE!

Removing a watermark from a photo and then posting it is a much more serious violation than simply posting a watermarked image. TRUE!

You’re legally protected if you put a disclaimer on your site. FALSE! (In fact, you’re sort of calling attention to the fact that you plan to break copyright on your site. Not a good plan!)

Any responsibility for the use of copyright images lies with you as the site owner and not the person who designed your blog or website, even if you were not the one who searched out, downloaded and included the image. TRUE!

As long as you remove a copyright image immediately upon request, the owner of the copyright cannot sue you for compensation or damages. FALSE!

Did you learn something new? 😉

So I have more to say about this. There’s so much that I wanted to cram in and I just ran out of time. Did any of the slides pique your curiousity? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the presentation form or content. As I said, the topic is dear to my heart, so if there’s enough interest I can expand some of these slides into an actual blog post. Another post I want to write soon is on the topic of protecting your own images when you put them online. Any other related topics you’d like to talk about?

And how fun is this? Thanks to the gig at Social Capital, I was recently asked to do a presentation to a local school community about kids and Internet safety. Stand by for another blog post on that topic. Man, I do love a captive audience!

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

2 thoughts on “Royalty Free Images Aren’t Free: Finding and Using Photos to Use Without Getting Sued”

  1. Please give your talk again next year at SoCapOtt. Please. : ) I should have gone! (Since I’m a writer, I was lured to the content (candy) stuff.) Not good. I need to know this stuff about photography. It’s a HUGE deal. I think we all need to do a better job of understanding and respecting the rules.
    Really interesting post, but I need to be there to hear it. : )

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