We live in a digital age where a large majority of small businesses either currently have a website or will be creating one in the near future. In 2019, any business without a digital presence is losing out on massive opportunities to grow their brand and revenues. However, the seemingly innocent action of creating a website is now resulting in scary situations for small business owners: copyright infringement.
When many think of copyright infringement, they probably think of large corporations battling it out in the courts over one company stealing their ideas, intellectual property, or even music. Apple vs. Microsoft in the ’90s, record companies vs. Napster in the 2000’s and the recent Spotify vs. Wixen Music Publishing lawsuit are all high-profile copyright infringement cases which have garnered the most media attention in recent years.
Despite the attention paid toward these high-profile cases, most businesses do not imagine they will ever be involved in legal situations relating to copyright infringement. Enter: the copyright bots. Companies like Copypants and Pixsy are using algorithms (think Facebook and Google) to sift through millions of images and search for sites that are using other’s images or photos without access to the proper permissions. These companies have also teamed up with law firms who will send out threatening letters asking for money to settle licensing disputes or threaten litigation, with penalties up to $150,000. No small business needs this type of threat, as it takes away from serving clients and meeting objectives. It is time for small businesses to fight back against the copyright bots scouring the internet.
Tips to Fight Back Against the Copyright Robots
Below are a few tips on how you can ensure your business steers clear of this digital risk moving forward:
- Never post a photo or image without checking for copyrights; this can result in adverse financial penalties
- Audit your current website’s photos and images to ensure all are in compliance with today’s copyright laws
- Try using a subscription service or free image library for your website. Unsplash.com is a great website where you can use photos for free with no risk of copyright infringement
- Always verify copyrights for photos found on any major search engine, such as Google. Just because these photos are free to view does not mean they can be used by anyone
- If you do receive a copyright infringement demand letter, make sure the company is legitimate. You do not want to end up sending money to a prince in Nigeria
- If you are ever not 100% on using certain images or photos on your website, consult legal help to do a double-check
A digital presence is almost a necessity to compete in today’s market, so make sure your website is protected from copyright infringement claims by ensuring compliance with all copyright laws. Dealing with these issues takes time and money away from running your business. With just a few quick tips, you can avoid costly demands and litigation related to simply posting images on your site.
Cory Mangum, MBA, CPCU