We’ve had a few copyright claims lately, so I wanted to cover best practices to help you avoid these.
Anybody using third-party content (images, fonts, videos etc) in their work is at a higher risk of being accused of copyright infringement.
Whilst you think this may not apply to you, we've had a surge of customers in the design, development and tech field facing these claims. This is either because they’ve used assets on their blog without the correct permission or a licensed image on a customer’s website.
Usually it's an oversight—a misunderstanding about what permissions are needed. To date the claims haven’t been large and none of them have exceeded £2000. They're also generally straightforward requests. Remove the infringed asset, settle the payment…
Despite this, it still helps to be insured in these scenarios. The legal experts your policy provides you with can make the claim go away, or negotiate a lower rate of compensation for the person whose copyright has been breached.
Best Practices To Avoid Copyright Claims
There are many royalty-free images available online. Here are a few platforms you can grab images from without worrying about copyright claims. (Always check the license).
If that isn't enough, Buffer have compiled an excellent resource of websites to find free images. With these resources, there's no need to pull images from Google search or third-party websites. That's a recipe for disaster.
If you can't locate a photo's original source, don't use it.
Keep Proof of Purchase When Obtaining Licenses
Believe it or not, we’ve even seen a copyright claim from somebody who didn’t own the license of the image in question. It's a scam used to cheat you out of money or bully you into linking to their website.
Our customer had obtained the license from a reputable site and had proof of purchase. This made it an open and shut case.
Working in insurance means we see many situations where somebody tries to take advantage. Make sure you keep proof of purchase so you can easily dispute claims of copyright infringement.
Have Internal Processes For Team Members To Follow
Don't assume that just because you understand copyright that everybody else will.
If you have an intern or a team of people working with you, create a document that outlines your process for using content on your site, client's sites or social media ads.
Here are some of the factors to include:
- The websites you recommend obtaining images from
- The criteria it needs to meet
- An overview of licenses (if it's a Creative Commons attribution license then give credit etc.)
This doesn't have to be a lengthy document, but simple guidelines that can get interns or colleagues up to speed.
Here's What To Do If You Have Infringed Someone's Copyright
As a photographer, I've been on the receiving end of my work being infringed. I've had companies distribute my photos in promotional material without obtaining a license or the correct permissions. It's frustrating to see others profit for free from something you've created.
However, sometimes it really is an innocent mistake that ends up costing you +£1000 to fix. Here's what to do if you are accused of copyright infringement:
- Remove the asset in question immediately
- If you have professional indemnity insurance, unintentional copyright infringement should be covered (check the wording)
- Contact the insurer with your policy reference, detail of the claim and any communication you've received
- Don't reply to the solicitor or person accusing you until you've received guidance from the insurer
As I mentioned earlier, these claims tend to be quite small and relatively straightforward to address. Being insured gives you that extra protection both legally and financially.