The internet continues to shake up the world of copyright law. Most people don't know exactly what copyright infringement entails, and it's constantly getting them into BIG trouble.
One of the more popular cases over the years that ended up favorably was Lenz versus Universal Music Corp. In 2007, a very proud mother posted a video of her daughter lip syncing to a Prince song, then posted it on Youtube for all the world to enjoy. Universal Music Corp was not amused and forced Youtube to take the video down because they felt the mother's video violated their copyright of the song.
Thankfully, Lenz (the mother) filed a suit against Universal for misrepresentation of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and won. This case set the stage for what is considered fair use and good faith use of certain mediums.
Not all cases end so favorably. That being said, this case was years ago, and the internet has many more times the amount of images floating around. The issue and question remains: what images can you use for free and what do you need to pay for?
Fair Use is not Free Use
There is no hard, concrete line of what is considered fair use and copyright infringement. It's more of a balance between the rights of the creator and public interest. There is much room for interpretation.
Currently, the fair use image copyright laws state that you are liable financially for posting copyrighted images, even if you:
Used the image by accident
Take down the image after receiving a cease and desist notice
Modify the image from the original
Link back and give the creator credit for the image
Have the image embedded in your site instead of on your server
Currently, it is within the creators legal right to sue a person or company for a million dollars or more (Agence France-Pesses paid 1.2 million) for copyright infringement. But does that make it right? The best advice I can give is: "buy it or don't use it."
Here are some ways to ensure you are getting your hands on the images available to you for:
Don't find yourself in a copyright infringement suit. They are ugly and are completely avoidable if you follow the rules. If you find yourself biting your nails trying to figure out which images you can use and hate the stress of it, consider hiring a web marketing company like Tribute Media to come alongside you and your marketing team. We know what we're doing and will help keep you out of copyright trouble!