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What If You Use an Unlicensed Photo?

May 6, 2022 • Web

Picture the scenario… 

You are looking for the perfect image to fit your blog post. You spend several minutes scouring the interwebs and find the perfect photograph. You save it and input it into your post and hit publish. 

Have you done this? If you answered, yes, we are certain you aren’t alone. However, using an unlicensed photo can lead to some pretty unsettling consequences. 

The Government of Canada clearly states the rules that apply to images and copyright. Under the Canadian Copyright Act, photographs are protected in the same way as original works like poems or songs. 

Simply put, the Act prohibits others from copying your work without your permission. Its purpose is to protect copyright owners while promoting creativity and the orderly exchange of ideas.”  

Government of Canada 

What if you use an unlicensed photo? 

Whether it be for marketing, or for your website, using an unlicensed photo can have major consequences. Doing so could not only land you, but also your business, in hot water. The law protects original work, which means that any individual who infringes these rights could be sued as it is grounds for litigation.  

Lawyer giving legal advice

If you have used someone else’s image without permission, it is also important to be aware of potential risks. For example, you may receive a phishing email from an unknown party who is attempting to trick you into paying them money for use of the photo. In this case, we suggest contacting a professional to establish you aren’t being scammed. If you receive a message from the copyright owner, their lawyer, or a company hired to represent them, seek professional advice to ensure the claim is valid, and to determine next steps. 

So, what can you do to avoid this happening?  

Let’s discuss a few options for you to consider: 

Use Trusted Stock Photography Websites 

This is our top tip! If you have the means, we highly suggest you subscribe to a stock photography service such as Envato, Shutterstock, or iStock (to name a few). With these subscription services, you have a plethora of images to use without stress or worry.  

Of course, using your own photographs or photography is strongly encouraged. However, it is important to ensure they are high quality images! 

Standard and Extended Licenses 

There are different types of licenses when it comes to using an image. Depending on what your license denotes is what you may use the image for. For example, a Commercial or Retail License is required if you plan to use the image on products that are sold to your customers (think t-shirts or apps). 

When purchasing your stock photos, be sure to select the appropriate license for your needs. 

Avoid Google Images 

This is not an image from Google

We know the internet is full of tempting images. We also understand that it is quick, convenient, and free (at least you might have thought so before reading this blog!). Yet, when you do this, you have no idea where the photo originated, which opens you up to risk. If you use an image for which you don’t have permission, or didn’t pay for, consider replacing it. 

Hire a Professional 

When it comes to branding and marketing, especially regarding your logo or website design, we suggest hiring a professional. There are other options that are available that might be less expensive or more convenient: be cautious. If you use one of these services, and the logo they create for you infringes on someone else’s work, the liability falls upon your shoulders.  

You want to ensure what is being created for your business and your brand is authentic and will not get you in legal trouble down the road. Do your research, and make certain you are hiring a reputable company. Our team would be happy to answer your questions or chat with you about your branding

We hope you enjoyed our first installment of What if…, and that you feel more educated after reading. If you have questions about branding or marketing, or would like more information regarding this topic, please contact us! We are here to help you with all your digital needs. 


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