A good friend was building his website and passed the task along to one of his interns. The intern finished building the site, and populated it with images that had been purchased off of stock image sites. Little did my friend know, this intern also added images to the website that hadn’t been purchased, and for which they did not have rights or permission to use. Nearly a year later, a notice was received along with a screenshot of the site. A stock imagery company was fining them $900 for their use of a single image without purchasing the rights. This is not uncommon.
There is a common misconception that if an image shows up in search results that it is up for grabs. Most images are owned and are only available for legal use after purchasing. The cost varies depending on what size you need, length of time used, whether you will be selling an item utilizing the image, and purchasing sole ownership of the image.
Automated web crawlers and image recognition technology are constantly scanning websites in search of copyright infringement. If you want to avoid costly fines, pay to license the images you use. The cost of stock photography may surprise you. There are some free resources for images and many very reasonable pricing structures and plans available from the top stock imagery suppliers.
Check out these resources for great stock imagery:
Getty images, and their subsidiaries
Economy class image providers
http://www.dreamstime.com/– has images for as low as .20, as well as a library of free images.
http://www.sxc.hu/– free stock photography
http://flickr.com – has a creative commons, and a search within may yield some pleasant results as far as free downloads.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are many other stock image resources out there, and you may be surprised at the quality of imagery and graphic design you can get. Having great imagery and graphics can completely transform the look of a website.
So please, please don’t download images without a knowledge of where it’s from. If you are informed and go through the proper channels, you can have lovely materials and no fines.