Over the 20 years that I was a contributing editor with BodyShop Business magazine I wrote several articles about people getting hammered by lawyers because they did not adhere to copyright and trademark laws. These mistakes can cost you thousands of dollars. Here are the two most common mistakes I see businesses make with images online:
- Using images on their websites and/or social media sites they don’t own the rights to
- Using trademarked logos on their websites they don’t have permission to use
When it comes to images, you can pay for them now, upfront prior to using them, or really pay for them later when you get caught violating copyright law- which can be very expensive. I do not know about you but the only letters I ever want to get from a lawyer are about some inheritance from a long lost relative. But letters are going out every day from teams of lawyers. These lawyers make a lot of money protecting the copyrights of images that belong to someone other than you. These belong to the creators or owners of those images. These letters are demanding big money for violations of someone else’s copyright.
How Do The Owners Of Copyrights Protect Their Images?
How would they ever know you are using their images? How can they identify that? Your business is a small business, no one would ever bother to check your website, right? Wrong… Images are searchable, just like text is. There are automatic ways to search for images using search robots that electronically do so. This is where the real problems arise for people who violate copyright laws.
Imagine millions of searches completed in the blink of an eye. If your website or social media accounts have unauthorized images that are managed by services like iStock, Shutterstock, Getty Images or others, you could be the unhappy recipient of one of those letters I was talking about earlier. These image services will want lots of your money, thousands of dollars. It would have been simpler, and by far cheaper, to pay around $30 for the license to use that image from the beginning. You would now be facing a demand for exponentially more. I believe these image services make more money on copyright violations than they do on licensing them, it would not surprise me. You have been warned.
Content Creators Protect Their Assets
Photographers spend thousands of dollars on their equipment, lighting, backdrops, drones, travel, models, etc. They are in business and want to get their investment back. Using images you do not own is like stealing. You would be benefiting from their hard work and investment. That is not fair. Photographers hire these stock image providers to help them sell licenses and protect their copyrights, and protect them they will, with vigor.
OEM Copyrights and Trademarks
That brings us to unauthorized use of OEM logos and images on their websites. While it is true that you, as an auto repair shop, work on all makes and models, this does not give you the right to use a manufacturer’s logo to illustrate this fact, unless you are certified and authorized to do so. Even then you must follow their strict guidelines. Manufacturers are required by law to protect their trademarks and could come down hard on you for any violation. Other logos we often find on body shop websites are insurance company logos. Rarely is this ok, you must have expressed, written authorization to use them.
Copyright Scams Via Email- DO NOT CLICK ON LINKS
As with pretty much anything else online, there are scams related to copyrights. We recently were contacted by an alarmed client who received the following on their Contact Us form on their website:
This client was upset that maybe they were going to be dragged to court for violation of copyright law and were concerned that we had built their website and put this image on there. According to this completed form, all they had to do was click on the link provided and download the “proof” of their culpability. This is what is known as phishing, a classic scheme where a malicious ne’er-do-well is attempting to get an unsuspecting victim to take the bait, click on the link to a Google Drive hosted file which would then create serious problems, like ransomware or spyware. See my blog on Cyber Security for more information, or take my online, AMI Approved workshop on this topic. Click HERE
At Optima Automotive we take copyright and trademark laws very seriously and never, ever use unauthorized images.
Who Has Your Back?
When it comes to images used online, who has your back? Do not assume that your developer does. Have a clause in any agreement you sign that states any images used on the site are free and clear of any copyright or trademark violations. Ask your developer to show you proof that any images they are using, have used, or will use in the future are not going to ever cause you future legal problems. Get that in writing!