If you’ve never experienced it, let me outline it. And if you have, then you know:
It starts with that dreaded email notification! Your heart skips a beat as you read it. “Your website is using copyrighted images.” Cold sweats ensue, panic sets in, and you feel sicker than a dog in a centrifuge. Especially when you read how much they want from you. But it’s too late. Just like you can’t reverse and drive through that speed camera again, but this time at 30mph instead of 43mph, you also can’t remove the images and hope it goes away.
You’ve been busy conquering the recruitment industry and it’s fair to say that image licensing was not at the top of your list. It is about as exciting as watching paint dry, and probably someone else’s job. But ignoring copyright law can give your accounts a soggy bottom.
You’d be surprised how many recruitment firms think swiping images from Google is harmless. Well, think again! Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s fair game for your website. That’s like thinking you can take a CV from a recruiter and use it 6 months later without a fee – I don’t think so! In short – if you find an image don’t assume you can use it for your own commercial purposes for free.
So, rule number one: steer clear of the copyright minefield. Only use images from royalty-free stock photo sites. No ifs or buts.
Create a standard operating procedure for your staff. And for the love of all that’s cheap and cheerful start by making it mandatory to pick pictures from the likes of Pexels, Unsplash, Pixabay, and Canva. They are FREE. If you need to step up your image game, then consider paid subscriptions to stock image libraries (a list is at the bottom). But make sure you communicate the strategy to your team.
Now, before you dismiss the notion of spending money (because who doesn’t hate that?), remember this: the fines or charges levied by the companies for copyright violations average around £700 per image. We did some digging, and the average non-compliant recruitment website has about 5 copyrighted images. You do the maths, and you’ll see how quickly that can turn into a financial fiasco. Don’t pay and you are into a whole heap of court misery.
Recruiting top talent is your jam, not copyright law. So, let’s make this simple with 15 top tips:
- Check Your Licenses: See what licenses you’ve got and if you’re actually using them.
- Procedures Rule: Create those snazzy operating procedures we mentioned above.
- Image Check: Give your website a thorough image inspection – know where they’re from. Especially the blog section
- If in Doubt, Yank It: If you’re unsure or they’re copyrighted, remove or swap them out pronto.
- Referencing or linking is no excuse: Even if you reference where you got the image from, it’s not good enough. If you don’t have a licence, then you are on the hook.
- Auto linking or news feed: Just because you are pulling in a news feed to your site, do not assume that you are safe. Same if you are pulling a news story and copying it word for word. If you have the image on your commercial site, you should have a licence for it.
- Your Marketing Team Might Not Know: Your marketing department might not be up to date on the law. They don’t teach this stuff at uni. Don’t assume they are on top of this.
- Your Website Supplier?: They might not know the law either, so don’t bank on them. The same goes for your outsourced marketing agency.
- Verify the licence your website supplier used: Some website providers or designers have access to image libraries. They then use these images on your site. Be warned. Unless you have paid them for a transferable licence (Which is normally more than buying the image), you do not own it. You must buy the image in your own right. Double check with your designer as they are not renowned for their legal prowess.
- “But it’s edited”: It doesn’t matter if it has been edited in any way. Would you be happy to see your face used on the advertising boards of Tena but with a green wig instead? I rest my case.
- No Time to Argue: If those images are on your site, you’re on the hook. Don’t argue with me about it (you would not believe the number of people who want to argue the toss). If you don’t believe me you keep them up and see what happens. It might be annoying to you, but the images don’t belong to you.
- Fine or No Fine?: If you get a fine letter, don’t just nod and pay up. Challenge that amount! But never ignore it.
- Verify and Double-Check: Before you open your wallet, make sure that the fine letter isn’t a scam. Do your due diligence and seek legal advice if you need to.
- They’ll Sue, Don’t Assume: These copyright folks aren’t afraid to take you to court. Trust us, we’ve seen it.
- Whilst you are at it: Check wording too because not only does it crash your SEO, the same rules apply as above.
It’s a frustrating truth that images are inexpensive or even free. So, don’t be lazy and grab any old Google image. The cost of laziness? A whopping £3,500 on average and that’s no laughing matter. Remember, as wise modern-day and underrated philosophers the B-52s once said, “I know you’re busy so you don’t have time, But you gotta listen to this rhyme, Prevention is the best medicine”. And I’ve waiting a long time to quote them.
Yes this is boring, but believe me, you’ll be kicking yourself if you ignore this or make assumptions.
Other image libraries in order of expense (cheapest to most expensive):
Just make sure any images you choose are labelled for “commercial” use and not “editorial use only”.