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Using Images from the Internet: Are You a Photo Thief?

You’ve written the perfect blog for your elective surgery website…designed the perfect website page…posted the funniest social message that is bound to go viral…and on all of them you attach the ideal image/photo you randomly found online. News flash: all images and photos online are not free for the taking. If you simply searched the Images tab in your browser for specific keywords to find the ideal image, chances are you have stolen that image.

Think of using photos you find online just like plagiarizing content. You wouldn’t copy and paste content you found on another website (hopefully!); using online photos without permission is practically the same thing.

Think of using photos you find online from the creator’s perspective. It is possible that a person went to great lengths to snap a breathtaking photo, design an interesting and eye-catching graphic or build an infographic that not only has excellent content but a great visual flow. If it was you that put such effort into your work, wouldn’t you want it treated with care and respect?

Consequences of Using Images/Photos

Copying images/photos from online resources is amazingly easy. Too easy. Original photography, artwork, etc., are automatically protected by copyright law and the creators can actually take legal action for copyright infringement (although this can be quite costly). The creator can also request a cease and desist order or request that the website host or internet service provider (ISP) take your internet content down. If no acceptable action is taken in a reasonable timeframe, the creator can start spreading negative comments about your elective surgery practice on social media sites. Any destructive online reviews can shine a poor light on your practice.

There are images that are public domain, meaning there is no owner of the copyright because the person who created it has passed away or because the creator gave up their rights to the image. In some cases, it depends on when the image was created:

  • Before 1923: all are public domain (in most cases)
  • After 1978: work is protected for the life of the creator plus an additional 70 years later

Online Photo Usage Loophole

There are Fair Use scenarios where you may be able to use images and photos online without getting direct permission from the owner:

  • You are using the image/photo for purely educational or research purposes.
  • The public will benefit from seeing the image/photo.
  • The original image/photo is transformed to such an extent that it is unrecognizable from the original.
  • You only use a small portion of the image/photo.

Keep in mind that these are not hard-and-fast rules for using online images/photos. You still run the risk of legal action against your practice if you do not ask for permission first. In fact, if you simply must have a specific image/photo you find online, take time to contact the owner and ask for permission (in writing) to use it.

Look for Free Image Sources

Rather than living on the edge and using random images/photos you find online, research online resources that offer free stock images such as Google has a built-in tool for searching for open source images that are labeled for reuse. You can also subscribe to stock photo services to gain access to thousands of incredible images/photos.

You can bypass all of these issues entirely by taking photos yourself or by hiring a photographer to take photos for your practice. Likewise, you can hire a designer to create unique images for your practice.

Most marketing firms subscribe to stock photo services. Fast Track Marketing is a full-service marketing agency that not only offers clients access to amazing images/photos that are legal to use, we also work directly with photographers and have talented in-house designers that create unique pieces for our clients. We take the guesswork and hassle out of image/photo selection and creation. If your elective surgery practice would like to improve your online image, contact Brandi Musgrave at 303-731-2634 or to learn what types of services we provide.