Avoid Fines and Understand Image Usage Rights and Licensing

Choosing images for your website can be tricky. The Internet gives us access to many different types of images, but most of the time, these seemingly free images are not free at all. Understanding the rules behind image licensing can protect you from hefty fines and legal fees.

Searching for images on Google, Yahoo or Bing is risky. There are filters on these search engines that say certain images are legal for commercial use. However, they are usually not. Search engines rely on algorithms rather than actual people to locate and sort images under the different usage rights filters. Unfortunately, most of the images found through these search engines are not licensed.

Google has a clause under its usage rights filters that says they 'can't tell if the license label is legitimate, so (they) don't know if the content is lawfully licensed.' Most people don't ever see this clause and use the images anyway. Incidentally, these same people usually end up with a notice from the stock photography company complete with practically unavoidable fines.

One agent we know received a cease and desist notice along with a large fine. He was able to reduce the amount of a fine but still owed the photography company some money for using an image without the appropriate licensing.

The best thing to do to avoid fines is to not search for free images. Instead, purchase your images from an established stock image provider, such as Thinkstock, iStock, or the like. This blog post has more information about how to find an image and decide which size to buy.

When you buy marketing services with Insurance Website Builder, you have access to the images through Thinkstock for use on your insurance agency website and in your agency marketing. Even though we have a subscription, there are still licensing rules that need to be followed and understood in order to maintain the legality of these images.

The first rule is that the licenses are non-transferable. With some of our services, you are allowed to choose certain licensed images from Thinkstock. These images can be used on your website and marketing. However, we are never allowed to send you the actual image files. If you want to buy images for your use in marketing materials, then you will need to open an account through a stock image provider and purchase the images independently. We recommend the following companies for independent use:

There is one exception to this rule. At any time, you may request for us to send you the source files used to create your website. The images you selected will be included in those source files. Just remember you can only use those images on your website. If you try and use them in any other type of reproduction or project, you may face legal action and/or fines.

Several other rules exist for images, but these are some of the most important ones. A full explanation of image licensing through Thinkstock is available here. If you have any other questions about image usage rights and licensing, leave a comment below.

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