Website Photography

What you don’t know about your website photographs might cost you
By Ben Landers, Blue Corona
May 24, 2016
THE TALK... | Codes & Standards

Imagine you come into the office one spring day and find a letter on your desk from an attorney. The letter claims you are using his client’s photograph on your website without permission—either pay several thousand dollars or risk a six-figure lawsuit.

Is the claim is legitimate? Your website may have hundreds of pictures, the majority of which came from a manufacturer’s website or from the website of the architect and/or builder involved with the project, who gave you permission to use them.

But, even if you have the manufacturer or builder’s permission to use an image, the photographer may claim money because she didn’t specifically give you the rights to use the image. This happens a lot more than you might realize, many thanks to companies like TinEye that have developed technologies that allow photographers to instantly find all the places online where their photographs have been published.

While I can’t provide legal advice on how to handle these claims, I can give you a basic strategy that not only helps avoid these situations, but also results in higher Google rankings through the use of images.

It’s simple: hire photographers yourself to take pictures of all your projects. Your contract with the photographer should state that you own the rights to the photos and can do whatever you want with them—including share them with others involved with the project. Lawyers call it “work for hire.” If you hire the photographer to take specific photographs, the work belongs to you. But you have to put it in the agreement.

Post-project, you can email every company involved with the project and offer them the ability to use your photographs as long as they reference and link back to your website. Keep a copy of the contract you have with the photographer in case the photographer later decides to start harassing the companies you granted permission to use your photos.

Window and door companies often spend considerable sums on advertising and marketing to generate qualified leads and sales. This is a form of truly organic marketing. Each of your images published to a partner website becomes the equivalent of a marketing annuity generating traffic, leads and sales for years to come.

Have you found yourself in a legal situation over photos? Do you hire a photographer for your projects? Post a comment, review this week’s poll or drop a line to share your thoughts.

Survey Results for 05/25/2016 :
Do you own your photography or use pictures from your partners (manufacturers, suppliers, builders, etc.)?


We have some of our own pictures, but also use those from our partners.
We only use other companies' images, with permission.
We contract with a photographer for all images we use.
We copy images from partners' websites; not sure if we have permission to use them.

 Ben Landers is the president and CEO of Blue Corona, an Inc. 500 online marketing company that helps window and door manufacturers and replacement companies accurately track the results of their advertising programs and use the web to generate more leads, sales, and raving fans.

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Our company used photos given to us by a client of ours. The client used our products in her business. She gave us the photos she took to use in our business. Kind of a quid pro quo for "free stuff" over the years. Out of nowhere, we get a lawyers letter to stop using the photos. She wanted $350,000 for the use of the photos claiming permission was never granted for their use. Now we had to get a lawyer. After a round of depositions we eventually found emails proving permission was granted. However, my insurance company eventually had the final say. They told me, "we can win in court, but that will cost us (the insurance company) more than $100,000 to go to FULL trial". About $40,000 had been spent on just my lawyers fees to date. To make the lawsuit go away, we settled for a $15,000 payout for the use of the photos which we had verbal and email permission to use. Plus, we had to stop using the photos now and forever - the payout didn't even cover their continued use on printed promotional material. Moral to the story? Get WRITTEN permission (signed contract) from the actual person who took the photo(s) & include special wording that covers ALL uses and forever timeline. Even then, they can STILL sue you! Guilty till proven innocent. This is what America is all about now.

A smart photographer would/should not agree to those contract terms any more than a Consumer goods company would agree to them for any Brand it owns, or a musician allowing their music to be sold after GM uses it in a video advertisement.
Intellectual Commercial property should always be contractually licensed with specific use, time & purpose bound terms of use. Intellectual property rights should always be leased or rented, never sold.
But, I'm sure there are photographers out there in need of the work who would compromise on fair use of creative property. I'm surprised to read a marketer proposing that creative work, once paid for, can be beneficially commercially repurposed by the now "owner".
Sell out if you want to, its your business, but I choose to always retain my copyrights and proscribe any clients ability to re-use my creative work for their own gain, without paying residual recompense to me for every single use. That's just good business.

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