timeforcake: Don’t become a horror story
Ryan Summerlin December 23, 2012
During my last two articles I shared with you a recent experience surrounding a client trying to use a stock image as the basis for their brand marks or logos.It seems the topic hit a little too close to home for several readers.I received multiple emails from people who shared their personal stories about stock photos, stock illustration/images and the problems experienced due to their unintentional illegal use.Here’s one of those stories, told in the first person by a Summit Daily reader. (To protect his identity, I’ve removed all references to his name as well as his business name.)In 1999, as the Internet blossomed, I commissioned a graphic artist to design some graphics for my newly created website for my consulting practice. She incorporated into the design a graphic that, as best she and I know, she obtained from a CD she purchased. As best we knew, the purchasers of the CD had the right to use the graphics on the CD. The graphic in question could not have been worth more than 50 cents at the time, had it been purchased via a download from a graphics sales website. In 2010, 11 years later, my company was sued for copyright infringement by a company I now believe is in the business of “shaking down” small businesses for copyright infringement. They showed that they had obtained a copyright for the graphic in question just a few months after we adopted it, and we couldn’t prove that we had obtained it via legitimate means prior to their acquisition date. This company wanted thousands of dollars in damages (several multiples of the net worth of the company) and the removal of the graphic from my website. Satisfying this monetary demand or handling the necessary attorney fees had I attempted to challenge them via normal procedures would have bankrupted the company. There are actually multiple websites created by attorneys about this specific company, which basically preys on small companies that use their copyrighted graphics but don’t have documents to prove they have the right to do so. The websites are by attorneys offering their services to defend the accused. Fortunately, my wife is an attorney, and after many, many hours of “pro bono” investigating and (on my part) sleepless nights, we were able to settle with this company for a smaller amount. Not everyone is sued for such a small amount.Not everyone has an attorney for a significant other.And not everyone is able to settle for smaller amounts.Be mindful of the work your graphic designer completes for you. Especially when working with freelancers or smaller companies, do not take it for granted they understand copyright law or legal usage of stock images. Whether you’re hiring designer to create a new logo for you or design a brochure, product packaging, or PowerPoint presentation, make sure you’re clear on whether the final artwork is 100 percent original or if it contains stock art. If it contains stock art, make sure you’re 100 percent clear on the rights you, as the purchaser, have when it comes to using that art. You don’t want to become another one of the horrific, too-common horror stories out there. Erin Pheil is the owner of timeforcake creative media – the Web Design & Strategy company voted #1 in Best of Summit. Visit the timeforcake website at www.timeforcake.com or email Erin at email@example.com.