I had a panicky moment a few days ago when I came across this post online. It was written by a blogger who had a pretty awful experience after she used an image she found on the internet in one of her blog posts. The photographer who owned the picture sent her a takedown notice and then demanded compensation for her use of the image. You can read the full story if you follow the link, but in short the whole affair involved lawyers, money and stress – all for the sake of one random photo which she did not really need.
Of course, when I read the blog post my mind buzzed straight away to the images on my own blog that didn’t belong to me. I have never used a picture that I knew for certain was copyrighted, but I suppose I have been a bit liberal in the past in my practice of copying and pasting images from various corners of the internet when I thought they would be useful in a particular blog post that I was writing. I usually went to Google Images for my sources and have to admit I had no idea where the images originated from beyond that.
I started imagining worst case scenarios and decided it was best just to get rid of them all, rather than risk finding myself in a situation like the girl above. I scoured all sixty blog posts which I’d written over the past three years and in the end found a total of 24 images that I could not say with absolute certainty I had the right to use. I proceeded to delete them and either replaced them with pictures I had taken on my own camera or made the post text-only if I had no alternative image to fill the gap.
At first, I debated whether or not to leave in the internet memes. I didn’t know how far the copyright laws stretched in relation to them and I really liked the ones I had used because they added a fun or humorous element to the posts. Then I read this article about a big company who traced down all the users of its meme and made them pay compensation for it. So I deleted all the memes too.
And that’s today’s cautionary tale. From now on, any images I include in my posts will be my own or, if they belong to someone else, I’ll have their permission to use them. Better to be safe than sorry and extremely out of pocket.