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Using images on your website: have you got the right?

Chances are that if you have a website, you'll use some kind of imagery on it – whether it's a photograph, logo or some other graphic. They can help to bring your website to life and add a bit of colour and interest to your business, but do you know whether you have the correct rights to use those images? If you don't, you could potentially face a fine or legal action. Read our top tips for finding and using images online to avoid the pitfalls of copyright law.

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Chances are that if you have a website, you'll use some kind of imagery on it – whether it's a photograph, logo or some other graphic. They can help to add a bit of colour and really bring your website to life, but do you know whether you have the correct rights to use those images? If you don't, you could potentially face a fine or legal action. Read our top tips for finding and using images online to avoid the pitfalls of copyright law. 1. Don't use any old image you find online Google's image search has made it quick and easy to find relevant images online, but this does not mean that all images you find on the internet are free to use (unless you're on a free image website, of course) and the copyright will almost always belong to the person who created the image, regardless of whether it's accompanied by a copyright symbol ©. If you want to use an image, you must first find out who owns the rights to it and whether the rights can be bought, or whether its rights free. 2. Don't think the image won't be found Even if no one but you visits your website, publishing an image without owning the copyright or buying the rights to publish it infringes on the rights of the person or company that owns the image. Large stock photography companies have advanced technology to find people who use their images without paying for them. Plus, photographers and designers can use a free online service such as Tin Eye to track down people using their images without consent. If you're found to be displaying an image without the appropriate licenses, you may be asked to remove the image, credit it – or worse – pay damages for using it! We've received calls from members in recent weeks who have been notified by Getty Images, one of the world's largest stock photography companies, that they owe money because they're (unwittingly) using unlicensed images on their websites. 3. Always ask your design company Our guess is that few of you will be sourcing images and building websites yourself. If you're working with a web design company to build and manage your website, you are responsible for ensuring they have licensed the images for your use. Ask them where they have sourced the images from and ask to see proof that they have purchased the appropriate rights (or buy them yourself). If no valid licenses exist, the liability may fall on the end client - your company. 4. Only use the image within its rights When you buy from a stock photography website, you're usually not buying an image itself but the right to use it in a certain way. For example, if you want to use an image commercially, i.e. in your logo, the license might not allow it, or you may have to pay more for what is known as an "extended license". The rights to an image may also only be available for a limited period of time, so check the terms and conditions carefully when you're buying. These are often known as ‘rights managed' images and they only allow you to use the image in the way you state when you purchase it. 5. Free vs. paid-for images While free images are available under the Creative Commons license scheme, often used by bloggers, they are not always appropriate for use on business websites as many licenses don't allow for commercial use. By buying images from reputable stock photography websites, and using them in an acceptable way, you can prove that you bought the rights to use the image. Some companies even offer a legal guarantee to protect you in the case of being accused of copyright infringement by the original artist.

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