One Picture = 1,000 Words OR a Lawsuit

08.10.2013
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As the old saying goes, a picture is worth one thousand words. Pictures are great, they show potential customers what we can build for them and give them ideas about what is possible. They are an effective way to communicate an idea without the need for endless words trying to explain something. Pictures can also cause problems.

The internet has made pictures of everything available to anyone with a quick image search. This is great for getting ideas for projects, and quickly accessing images for all kinds of projects. However, keep in mind that simply because an image is available for viewing online, that does not mean that you can copy and save the image for your business use.

In the past few years I have had a few clients that have received letters from various stock photo companies demanding licensing fees and payment for images which a client had used on their website. Demands for payment can exceed $1000 per image and can be even more, depending on the type of image and how it was used. Bottom line is if you don’t know where an image came from, and don’t know if you have permission to use it, don’t use the image.

Another important item to take note of is the fact that even if your business hired someone else to design your website, your business can still be held liable for using an image without permission. A good way to avoid having this happen to you is to make sure any contract you have with a web designer is specific regarding where images will be coming from. Also make sure that the contract provides that the designer will be responsible for defending any lawsuits relating to content which they provide for your website.

Hopefully you are now thinking about the best way to get some great images on your own that you can use for your website or marketing materials. One of the best things you can do is take some great pictures of various projects you have completed which showcase the various types of work your company does. This way your prospective clients can see an accurate portrayal of the projects your company works on.

When gathering pictures of your projects, you still need to get the permission of the property owner. It doesn’t matter that your business did the work, or that you are the one taking the pictures. A property owner can still object to the use of images of their property for your business benefit.

One of the best ways to obtain property owners permission for pictures is to have a “promotional use” clause in your sales proposals and contracts. It can be a small paragraph that grants your business the right to take pictures, make video and record written accounts of the construction and completed project. This clause is also the place to have the property owner grant your business the right to place a yard sign advertising the work on the property for a certain number of days before, during and after the construction of the project. Should a homeowner object to the promotional use clause, you can always agree to remove it from the contract. If you do remove this clause, make sure you do not still use pictures of the project for promotional purposes.

While pictures are a great way to show what your company can build, they can also be the source of problems. In the end, it all centers around permission. Do you have permission to use pictures you found on the internet or elsewhere? Do you have the property owners permission to take pictures of construction and of the completed project? Cover your bases and make sure you aren’t exposing your company to unnecessary problems.

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