Journal

A Warning For All Bloggers – That Photo Could Get You Sued

A Warning For All Bloggers - Beware of Copyright Infringement www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Leslie Means

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. 

Living For Naptime

The Content Factory

Roni Loren

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. 

I never imagined a simple image on a blog post could cost us so much. This is a warning to all bloggers, be careful where you source your images from. Because using someone else's images on your blog can lead to you being sued.

About the author

Leslie Means

Leslie is the co-founder and owner of Her View From Home.com. She is also a former news anchor, published children’s book author, weekly columnist, and has several published short stories as well.

She is married to a very patient man. Together they have two pretty fantastic little girls ages 8 and 6 and one little dude born March 2017!

When she’s not sharing too much personal information online and in the newspaper – you’ll find Leslie somewhere in Nebraska hanging out with family and friends. There’s also a 75% chance at any given time, you’ll spot her in the aisles at Target.

  • Alan Paone

    I’m an artist who uses one of those services because it *does* hurt to see things that i made used in advertising or as a block of pixel filler next to words that are just as much filler. The pictures i make are a part of me, and I don’t like to be used to make money without sending some money or some eyes my way. The person trawling through their image matches can’t tell that you were small then, they can only see that you’re successful now, and using their art. The success you have now was built on something you got from a cute photo on a cute post from when you were a cute blog, and as small as it is, it’s infinitely more than what the person who created that content for you got.
    Creative Commons licenses are so easy to use, hell most of us will settle for a photo credit or via link. If you can’t be bothered to do even that, it says to us that you don’t value us or what we do, but you’re happy to stick your name and a banner ad next to it. $2k isn’t a small amount of money, but the inflated charges are meant to teach site owners a lesson, i hope you’ve learned it.

    • Stephanie

      I found this comment a better read than the post. It’s disheartening that an author wouldn’t understand and respect the protection of intellectual property.

  • This is why I use photos from sites like Unsplash and Pixabay in my content. I’ve seen too many horror stories to even take a chance.

  • Oh no!! I’m so sorry about the lawsuit!! (Also, since I was a dumb blogger starting out…looks like I’ve got some archive editing to do!!)

  • laurenbonk

    I think it’s important to note that A) the author is using this opportunity to warn others from making the same mistake, B) using the term “cute” as a form of showing that it doesn’t matter how “cute” you are, it doesn’t make you exempt, and C) reacting emotionally to getting slapped with a suit. She had already taken the care to have actually hired a legal team (in order to respect and protect intellectual property), and missed a picture in the process. The phrase “a block of pixel filler next to words that are just as much filler” is a blatant lack of respect for another person’s art coming from someone who is lamenting the lack of respect for another person’s art… which is obviously an emotional reaction to something that hits close to home, which is familiarly understandable. So. Looks like a lesson has been learned and a reaction has been issued in the hopes of spreading respect of intellectual property. I think that turning this into a dead horse to beat out creative resentment might be a little counterintuitive. A large group of people who didn’t know the laws before now do, and are doing everything in their power to right their wrongs bred from lack of knowledge, and now the case for intellectual property has been spread that much further. Now we all move on in our creative efforts.

    • 🙂 Thanks.

      • Alan Paone

        yeah, sorry, the filler coment isn’t really meant to be about this blog specifically. I’ve enjoyed reading about two or three of the hundreds of blogs that I’ve found using my pictures, most of that part of the internet is really terrible, this blog seems to care, but you still end up in the same dragnet as the people who don’t.

  • Design3R

    Does stating the source of the photo count?

  • Nancy Ewart

    When I write art reviews, which I do for the Examiner.com, I use the photos given to me by the gallery or the museum. Otherwise no photos. If the copyright companies had their way, the Internet would be text only and those of us with no resources, would never show an image.

  • Cathy Canen

    Thank you for this article. I have a couple of photos on my site for which I have no idea where they came from (weird syntax, sorry). Is there a way to find out now, way after the fact?

  • In my opinion, sad greedy people out there,maybe just my ignorance,I feel like the guys are out to get money that does not belong to them.