The Photos and the Copyright Act

At this day and age, you might think using other people’s photos is totally fine. If you aren’t cautious, you could end up violating the Copyright Act.

Person Holding Pen in Front Of Contract

What is the Copyright Act?

  • According to the copyright.gov, the Copyright Act safeguards photographic works whether it is captured by a camera, it is a digital file, or it is a film. The website also cited examples like black and white photos, color photos, and many more.

What does this mean?

  • When you search for photos on Google, the search engine is just giving you suggestions basing from your search query. It does NOT mean you can just download and/or copy the photo. Without permission, you CANNOT use the photos especially if it is for commercial purposes.
  •  It could cost you hundreds of dollars. Unfortunately, a lot of people think that when an image appears on Google they use it freely and put on their respective websites. The United States Copyright Office ensures that even online properties are protected through the  Copyright Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Here comes the DCMA.

  • Aside from the 1976 Copyright Act, there is also the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA, as it is popularly called, was enacted in 1998. This act states that the Internet Service Provider (ISP) is not accountable for copyright infringement. It is the user that is responsible for the unauthorized use of digital media files. The ISP has the power to remove materials from a user’s website if they confirm a breach of the Copyright Act. Many of these violations affect photographers.
  • The DMCA specifies certain fees when you infringe someone else’s work. The section 1202 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act states that a violation could mean paying from $2,500 to $25,000. Take note that is just for ONE violation!
  • Additionally, under section 1204, penalties could go up to $500,000 fee for a first offense. The fee could increase if there are subsequent breaches. You may read more about it here: https://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf

That photo on Google.

  • So, the next you Google something, be careful because that photo might belong to someone else. Ask permission when you wish to use a photo that is not yours because authorization is not implied. You actually have to give the proper credit if you are permitted to use it.
  • Whether you use it on your website, or post it on social media, the photo is still protected by the law. You can get sued for using something that is NOT YOURS. It’s not just your website that is at stake here, but also, you could lose your hard-earned money.

Related: Where to Sell Your Photos Online?

  • Other people choose to sell their works online. They might have chosen to upload their photos on premium stock photography websites. A fee might be needed in order to properly use the photos.
  • However, there are also free stock photos available online. So, do not worry because there are countless websites that offer free photos. You can even them for both commercial and personal use.

Related: 10 Websites Where You Can Get FREE Photos