Keeping it legal!

copyright stamped

Web-Sourced Imagery

We all want our web and social media marketing to look good and a picture is worth a thousand words right? But if you’re sourcing your imagery from the web, your picture can also be worth a thousand dollar fine.

Recently, the CVB has been hit with three separate copyright infringement notices from images supplied by our members for calendar submissions or online marketing. And although our site is more high profile, which attracts more scrutiny, you are very likely to be at risk too if you’re using web-sourced images.

We are very scrupulous in making sure we can attribute the images we use to specific photographers/designers, and on the rare occasions we use a commercially copyrighted image, we make sure to purchase the appropriate license. And that, I’m afraid, is the rule for everyone. Simply doing a google image search for “copyright free images” for the perfect photo for your blog is, unfortunately, not good enough. The rule is: when in doubt, assume copyright.

If you are really in love with a photo you’re currently using and are hoping to find it’s not copyright protected, you can try a google image search to find its origin (although results aren’t guaranteed). First go to and you will see this search bar:

google image search

Click on the Camera and you will open a window which allows you to select an image from your desktop to upload by clicking on the “Choose File” button:

Google Image Search 2

For this example, I chose to upload an image of the Hotel Léger that we have obtained usage rights for from the photographer, Jerad Hill, (as long as we attribute the photo to him), and although the search results below show that Google correctly identified the image, it didn’t show us the provenance. So, this search didn’t successfully guide us to information that would let us know it’s copyrighted. More research would have been necessary.

google image search 3Even the “Visually Similar Images” section did not show the original image that would have led us to the Jerad Hill Photography website where the copyrighted image is located.

So, when you submit events for our calendar, or marketing emails for dissemination through our social media channels and include images, you will encounter our new policy. We will simply email you back requesting the name of the photographer or artist who created the image, and ask for verification of your permission to use the image. If you have simply found the image online, you can provide us a link to that image, and we will determine if it is safe for us to use. If in doubt, we will post the information excluding the imagery.

However, I would highly, highly recommend, that you use original photography/artwork generated in-house by you or your own employees. As a reminder, you MUST obtain signed photo releases from any identifiable people featured in your photos – crowd shots are generally okay.

I hope you use this knowledge as an incentive to grab your smart phone or camera to capture some images of your next event for future use. Images captured at your business about your business are far more powerful than generic imagery. And, as a side benefit, you can submit your photos to next month’s photo contest for the 2016 cover of the Calaveras Experience Guide 😀 Next month’s newsletter will have full details.

Meanwhile, if you have any questionable imagery on your website… be sure to permanently delete it so you don’t get dinged for something you posted two years ago. Also, WARNING: adding text and additional images to a copyrighted image does not make it your original artwork, exempt from copyright laws.

For more information, I recommend reading this short, informative and well-written article from Paragon Digital Marketing on avoiding copyright image infringement on the web.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice. Consult a qualified lawyer for legal advice. 


Share this:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.