Are you Accidentally Infringing the Intellectual Property Rights of Others?

You’ve probably heard stories about people receiving nasty letters from attorneys representing copyright owners – where the letters are asserting copyright infringement.  Maybe you received one of these letters yourself!

If you’re worried about the images (and other content) you use in your business and don’t want to receive one of those nasty letters, this article will show you how to safely use images and other content on your website and throughout your business.

If you use a copyrighted image without permission, that’s copyright infringement even if it’s “accidental” (you didn’t know the image was protected by a copyright).

Many of the letters I’ve seen for infringing the copyrights associated with photos “invite” the recipient of the letter to pay $2000-3000 to settle the dispute.  Although you may negotiate a lesser amount, it’s a headache and a disruption to your business.

As an Intellectual Property Attorney, I help my clients protect their intellectual property.  Just as important, I help them avoid infringing the intellectual property rights of other people.

Here’s a simple rule:  Do not copy images or other content from the Internet (or any other source) without permission. 

Even though an image, article or other creative work does not have a visible copyright notice, it probably has a copyright owner.  If you want to be safe, assume that all images and other content on the Internet are copyrighted.

Safe Use of Images (and Other Content)

The list below discusses the safe use of images, but the same principles apply to all types of content, such as articles, books, diagrams, infographics, product names, and company names.

To avoid receiving a nasty copyright infringement letter, follow one of the approaches below to safely obtain images used in your business.

  1. Create an image yourself by taking a photo or creating a graphical design on your computer. You are now the copyright owner of the new image. Look through the images on your cell phone or camera to see if you already have the perfect image for your project.
  2. Hire someone to create the image. If you use this approach, I recommend a written agreement clearly stating that you (or your company) own all intellectual property rights to the image created.
  3. Purchase the image from an image source. Many companies sell images for use in your business. When purchasing an image, check the rights you receive so you are able to use the image in the desired manner.  For example, some images may be restricted to print-only use or website-only use.  Read the license agreement to understand restrictions on use of the image.
  4. Get permission from the copyright owner. I recommend getting the permission in writing along with details regarding any restrictions on how you can use the image and what type of attribution to provide to the copyright owner.

By using one of the techniques discussed above, you can focus on growing your business instead of worrying about receiving a copyright infringement letter from an attorney.

For more information about protecting your intellectual property, click here to download my Free Intellectual Property Checklist at

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