Content creation for online marketing purposes necessarily involves issues of ownership. Small business owners who aren’t online marketing professionals might think that occasionally “borrowing” content from competitors is alright, but we’re here to tell you that that’s not actually the case.
Getting caught with copyright infringement can lead to everything from getting a “Cease and Desist” notice to take the content down, to having your social media accounts deleted (thereby losing your hard-earned following), to having to pay large sums of money to attorneys in a lawsuit. This is even more true for businesses than individuals, because the owners of the images in question tend to view businesses as more likely to pay exorbitant amounts of money for this type of minor misstep.
So, we can’t stress this enough: Copyright infringement is an extremely serious issue that is worth learning about and avoiding at all costs.
The two largest copyright problem areas for small and mid-sized businesses are text and pictures. We’ll leave text aside, as not committing copyright infringement there basically consists of not copy-and-pasting other people’s words.
Small business bloggers are also in a constant crunch for images to use. Posts with cool images have been scientifically proven to get more clicks, after all. The problem is that some bloggers don’t realize the pictures they find on Google Images do actually belong to someone, and are protected by copyright. Saving them to your computer and using them for your own blog is not an acceptable method of finding images to post.
There are several ways of finding images that you can legally use in your content:
Use your own images – this is the simplest solution, but it requires a little bit of work on your part, as you have to take photographs or design unique images.
Use a wordpress plugin, like PhotoDropper, which allows you to search for images right from the blogging platform, with an option to search only free images.
Use an image service – platforms like Flickr and Stock.XCHNG have sections of images available for commercial use.
None of these are terribly inconvenient, so we suggest you see which one works for you and build it into your business best-practices in order to avoid any potential for future copyright infringement.
Of course, free images can often leave something to be desired. As businesses strengthen their online media strategy, they often graduate to either paying for higher-quality images (these are available in some places for as low as $2 to $5), or having an in-house designer create their own graphics.