Do you have something on your website that could get you sued?
It was November of 2013. I had opened the doors to Innovative Coaching services just 4 short months earlier. Things were moving along and I was learning a lot each day about being a Solopreneur! It was a Tuesday… November 12th to be exact. I had gotten the mail and found a letter addressed to “The Legal Department of Innovative Coaching Service”. I said out loud… “Oh isn’t that cute someone thinks we are big enough to have a legal department!” I chuckled and opened the letter. My laughing quickly turned to panic and I admit… tears! I was being SUED for copyright infringement of a photo I used on the blog portion of my website. (The Blog had been written and posted way back in JUNE!)
Of course I called my attorney, which began the months long process finally ending in a settlement of a reduced fine, yep… a fine plus now attorney fees to boot! So what happened?? It is a case of “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” I THOUGHT I was searching for “FREE” images when I used Google Image search. Turns out the image may be free… but you may need a license to use it. There are also people out there who plant seemingly “Free” images then hire an agency to follow it’s “rights and recovery”… in plan words… these images are planted on the internet waiting for someone to use it… they hire college students to troll the internet to “find” them… then sue people for using them without permission or the proper consent. It’s a legal loop hole that makes them thousands, sometimes even millions!
It was a horrible experience so when it was all said and done I asked my attorney and numerous web designers how I can protect myself from that happening again. The only REAL way is to ALWAYS take and create your own images. ALL of them! You can either get pretty good at taking creative photographs or you can hire a photographer to help you create stock photos for yourself. You can purchase pictures online, BUT I warn you to be sure you have the proper licensing for distribution if you plan to post it on your website or blog. My suggestion is to hire someone you trust to take relevant picture for you! If you need referrals just ask! I know a ton of Fantastic Photographers… even some who specialize in stock photos!
There are some sites that are 100% free. As long as you read the fine print and can ENSURE you are using them up to the terms intended… maybe give it a try. I must admit I am a little gun shy even with those sites!
My new plan when I am not feeling creative is to browse Google images and find one I like… then recreate it! I am not a perfect photographer, but it sure beats getting sued! So I encourage you… take a moment to check your website… take down any images you don’t OWN or own the rights to distribute. I don’t wish that letter on ANYONE!