This blog post is for any blogger who just started out or has been writing and creating content for a little while already. I must admit that I’ve been thinking about this blog post for over a year now since it isn’t exactly a typical post from me. It’s one of these “should I or shouldn’t I write about this” posts. If you are one of my clients, please feel free to skip this one. I have some amazingly useful series for you coming up very shortly.
With the encouragement from a lawyer I met last week at one of the networking events I go to with my magazine, here it goes..
If you don’t know me or my story, I got into blogging almost 3 years ago. I wanted to write about my interior’s inspiration, my style, projects and my business experiences from running 2 previous businesses. Because I didn’t know any better, I took some of the formats of my blog posts from other bloggers out there, who have been doing it for much longer than me. I created, what I thought, inspirational digital moodboards, collages and wrote case studies. And to do that I used images which I found on the net. Over time my blog posts accumulated to over 500 posts, since I was blogging everyday. I wanted to get experienced in creating various content formats. To become faster and more creative. I was learning tons about the industry and particularly about myself.
Until one day, some 18 months later, I received an email. I was accused of copyright infringement on an image which I credited properly through a source I found online. Even though I got very suspicious of it, since they couldn’t and didn’t provide their UK trading details, I decided to remove every post with an image or images that didn’t belong to me. Yes, it was over 300 of them!! So much thought, work, time and energy went into them and they are gone. Off the website. Since then I’ve decided to only use my own images and photographs.
And so, if you ever receive such email, make sure that you check the legal aspect of the business. The things you should be looking for are: registered address, registered number, VAT number, business bank account in the UK, not abroad. Then go on the Companies House and verify that those details are correct and that they match up. Through this I found out that they didn’t match up at all. Plus, the only payment method they accepted was through a link, which was generated by Paypal. Red flags all over. Too many red flags actually.
After speaking to my accountant and a short telephone discussion with a lawyer I was advised not to respond. However, last week when I met the other lawyer who specialises specifically in copyrights and intellectual property, I was sharing my experience with her and found out that many people are so scared of the emails and letters that they pay out. I was told that there are many fraudsters using this aggressive method to get money out of bloggers and content creators knowing that they are not correctly informed. They target you specifically for this reason. They use website crawlers to identify images on their databases and identify them even if you screenprint, crop, alter or rename the image.
I see many blogs out there that use images credited as “source: Pinterest” or specific publication titles. As I’m now working on my own magazine I learnt this: The magazines don’t always necessarily own the images, the photographers are the main copyright holders. The images may have been used with permission from the photographer, but this doesn’t mean that they can be used with crediting the publication only. From this experience my advice to you is simple. Never use images which you don’t have copyrights on. If you really want to use a particular image, contact its owner and buy the copyrights, if necessary. Use it only on agreed platforms and in the correct format. Altering and renaming images may be prohibited by its owner, so have a clear understanding of what you can and can’t do with the images in question.
If you know that your blog has some images (lifestyle, editorials, situ and retail) which you don’t have copyrights to, remove them. Make it a priority and do it asap, so you avoid these emails landing in your inbox because they probably will catch up with you, even if you don’t have your email address or contact details publicly displayed on your website. From now on, create your own!
Hope you find this helpful. Please share this information, if you know someone who might benefit from it. xkb