• Writer for DDI on Medium

Not Owning The Images On Your Website, Can Cost You!

Updated: Nov 11

I guess that's why they call them web designers!

I know this will rub many local creatives and small business owners the wrong way, but being in the business of building credibility online, it will be negligent of me to ignore addressing this very common practice of illegally using images for visual branding.

Images play an important role in your visual branding because it’s easier for people to retain 65% more of the information you put out when it’s paired with an image. So it goes without saying that you need an image or two on your website to secure the retaining power of the messages you send.

Whether you’re freelancing or working with a company, as a designer in Trinidad, more often than not, it’s “understood” that the nature of your job surrounds surfing the internet for images that will most likely be illegally repurposed. In my 14 + years working in both capacities, especially early on, I did this all the time not knowing better, and only one of my employers ever paid for images. Until then, I was ignorant this practice of “purchasing images” even existed. Yes, I was so ashamed.

The truth is there’s a group of Trinidad employers out there that’s just not interested in spending “unnecessary” money on this stuff. And some of our local small business customers aren’t exactly jumping at the idea of photographing their own products, or capturing the magic around the service they provide, regardless of the credibility and the authenticity it brings to their work and creates for their brand.

I had a client once literally complain about doing this work. He even tried rationalizing why using other people’s images was ok until he was on the receiving end of his own BS, and called me thankful for helping him see the value of having his own images early on.

And that’s another thing clients nor designers consider when conspiring to steal images off the internet and social media. The fact that they’re ripping off someone else’s work; stealing a piece of another person's identity; committing fraud.

The Misconception

Clients believe no one will ever know or care about the images they illegally use. Some may even believe they can place the blame on the designer if crap hits the fan, and this is under the assumption they are pre-informed of the copyright dangers before hand. This misconception completely misses the point. This is your website after all, so in the eyes of the law, that makes YOU liable for the images you use without permission.

On the other hand, designers fail their clients when professional integrity isn’t their main focus. When their jobs become more about what the client wants, and how much money they can make than it is about doing things in a way that’s successful for all involved.

Being professional is about setting the tone for what the customer should be focused on. Even I had to re-evaluate myself: am I truly doing the best at helping the people that want to work with me? And If not, am I willing to go the distance to quell that problem? Because doing so means restructuring the way I was accustomed to doing things. More often than not, if we’re not conscious, the things we do will fail to measure up to the things we say.

I didn’t want to make promises that I wasn’t prepared to focus on keeping. Think about it. Someone says, “I help my clients niche” yet, they’re doing everything else but that. Are you truly helping anyone?

You can’t exactly sell credibility while you’re stealing images from the internet or social media. So, late last year I dug a bit deeper and decided to do some house cleaning for the benefit of the those who trust and need me. Because, according to an article by LifeLearn, clients are liable for photos taken from the internet even if they:

  • Attribute the photo to the original photographer/illustrator in the caption

  • Link the photo back to the original source

  • Make changes to the copyrighted image

  • Only using the image on social media

  • Place a disclaimer on your website stating that you don’t own any of the photos and that all rights belong to the original creator

  • Embed the photo into your website using the original source URL instead of hosting it on your server

  • Upload a smaller-version/thumbnail of the image

  • Use an image that doesn’t have a copyright symbol or watermark on it. (The lack of copyright notice does not indicate that the image is free to use.)

  • Take the image down immediately following a DMCA notice. (Taking the image down is necessary but does not remove your liability.)

Google takes this matter of image infringement seriously as well. So, it's important that you put your best foot forward holistically with the content you put out on the web because no one is trying to have their business held accountable, and by extension hurt their brand because of your negligence.

Get Your Thinking Straight

The cost of using an image illegally is around $8000 USD, the cost of purchasing your own image, can start as low as $1 USD according to the stock image provider. My personal favorite is Stocksy.com, the high quality of the images and creativity incorporated in each picture does a great job of omitting that stock photo vibe royalty free images are known for. Still, Stocksy can get a bit pricey according to the size of the image. A lower cost option for me is sketching my images, but only do this if it makes sense for your brand. On the pricer end of options, investing in your own branded photography is another way to go if you got a good photographer and $3000 TTDs to spend. Work it out, so you can get the most of out your sessions as far as repurposing is concerned. Anything is better than thinking Trinidad is too small or insignificant to pop up on sites like Lenstag.

I am the Founder and Visual Brand Strategist at The BrandTUB

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