In 2013, when Her View From Home was less than a year old, one of our fantastic writers used a photo. Not just any photo, a copyright photo of a celebrity wearing a cool pair of jeans. By “used” I mean, our writer posted the photo on our site in a blog post as an example of how to dress. Cute. Like her. As in, she LIKED the photo that she found on Pinterest or Google or some other fun ole’ site like that. And she had no idea it was illegal to post this photo.
Our site was so small then. Think – 20,000 views per month. We used our own photos or free photos. But this one? Did it slip through? How did we miss it? Not sure. We were small. Just a cute little side business, sharing a cute little photo of a cute little celebrity, wearing a cute pair of jeans. Maybe 50 people saw the post. Maybe.
Cute, right? Let’s move ahead a few years.
We’re much larger (and smarter) now. And suddenly, a company in a fancy high rise building, in a fancy big city, decides that we – our sweet, little innocent Her View From Home team, used that photo illegally.
Me. The girl whose rap sheet includes stealing a piece of gum from our hometown grocery store in 1986.
We got an e-mail from them in 2014, right before Christmas break. I didn’t think much of it. “Internet Copyright Trolls,” I assumed. Regardless, I removed the photo. Because, you know, no one was looking at it anyway.
And then, over a year later, I got an e-mail again. With my name on it. Leslie Means vs. BLAH BLAH random not cute company.
It seemed weird. I probably used some type of foul language my mother wouldn’t be proud of, and sent off an e-mail to our fantastic local legal team.
“Hey – this is probably just a scam. But, you know – can you look into it for me?”
The response I received was less than cute.
“Um, Leslie – this is serious. And they want to settle for $2,000.”
$2,000. Do you know how much $2,000 is for a growing blog business that depends on every penny to pay its fantastic writers and to pay bills from the fantastic companies/people who help them?
A lot. Like, a lot, a lot.
Add in legal fees from our local legal team – and I’m close to or over $3,000. (Dear sweet baby Jesus, don’t let it be more than that. The final bills aren’t cleared.)
This is ugly. Ugly, ugly, ugly.
Could we fight it? Yes. Would we win? Probs. Do I want to spend my time and money defending a stupid photo we stupidly used years ago. Ah, no thanks.
Guys, I can’t use the names of this company because geez whiz – I don’t wanna get sued again. But I want to warn you all, because I know there are so many beautiful, wonderful bloggers in this world just doing what they love, sharing photos they think they can share, just to make the world smile.
Don’t do it. DON’T DO IT.
If you have photos on your blog right now at this very moment that you used from a Google search or Pinterest or any site other than a FREE photo site (or ones you paid for) remove it. Immediately. As in, right away. As in, don’t go get a glass of wine and come back tonight to remove the photo. Do it now.
There are Copyright Trolls whose ONLY job is to search for sites using photos without permission and then sue them. Like, really. That’s all they do. I’m sure they have no friends.
And here’s the kicker – they don’t CARE how big you are or small you are, guys. They don’t care if you were just starting out, if you had no intentions to hurt anyone, if you didn’t make a dime off “their” photo. They don’t care. And here’s the part that hurts.
I don’t blame them.
We took a photo from internet land and posted it on our site. We didn’t claim it was ours – doesn’t matter. It was under our name. And now, we pay the price. You can’t do this. Whether it’s a celebrity or a photo of a chicken from another small, cute blogger in internet land.
YOU CAN’T USE THEIR PHOTOS. The end.
This is a less than awesome situation. But, if I can help you avoid it – then, there’s some value out of this lesson. Do a quick google search on free photo sites. We like, pixabay.com and pexels.com. Or, just take the photo yourself. Don’t get caught in the trap we did. It’s dangerous, expensive and definitely not cute.
I’ll leave you with a couple sites who know this pain all too well and do a great job warning you.
Basically every google search imaginable warns you. But clearly, we were just too damn cute in 2013 to know the difference.
*Note – I have zero experience with the law – except for this little ole’ lawsuit at this very moment. My law guys DID encourage me to write this post but please do not take this as legal advice – I have actual law dudes that help me with that situation. But do take it as a warning. A very serious warning.