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Q: What’s more painful than having to pay $8000 dollars for image copyright infringement penalties?

A: Being sued for $150,000 dollars.

Not too long ago I was asked by someone if they could re-use an image that I had used in a recent blog post. Without thinking twice, I said yes — as long as they credited the original source.

A couple of hours later I stumbled across this post by Roni Lorin on image copyright and it got me thinking: what if I actually didn’t have the right to use that image to begin with? I asked permission, but what if the image didn’t actually belong to the “owner”? What if I am violating a copyright?

That led me to research a bit further and I ran across these two stories: one about the use of a low grade image of Nebraska by the Content Factory, a company that consults to small businesses, and the other about a community fan photo posted on Goodreads.

The scary truth about Roni’s story, as well as the other two incidents, are that they are not far fetched or something you would shake your head while saying “duh, they should have known better”.  They were going along with what most of us to believe to be best practices, attributing where needed and for the most part, being “thoughtful” about where the images came from.

Images are a crucial in today’s marketing mix and research shows that posts with visuals drive 180% more engagement than those that don’t. As marketers make the shift from longer form content to using more visuals in posts, ebooks and white papers, the good old “use and give attribution” isn’t enough. Your images need to be your own, or classified under Creative Commons or outright purchased.

Put aside visual content, the pressure to create any kind of “more entertaining and engaging content” increases the risk of copyright and plagiarism. After all, creating good content is hard work — taking someone else’s content and calling it your own, isn’t. Imagine how surprised Orbit Media was when they found out their entire website had been knocked off. An entire website!

So where is this leading?

If you are a content creator, it’s your business to know the following:

  1. What is legal, and what isn’t, when you use other people’s content or images in your post or on your web site
  2. What you can do to protect the images, graphics, posts and website in the case your find your content being used on someone else blog or website without your consent

This Tuesday on #BizHeroes Tweet Chat, 2pm EST,  we’re thrilled to have attorney, writer, educator and content marketing expert Kerry Gorgone as our Tweet-Guest to guide us through what we need to know to keep our content creation, and use, legal.

We’ll be covering copyright, attribution, curation, plagiarism and any other questions you have from the viewpoint of content creator and curator. If you’re a hobby blogger, solopreneur or small business owner this chat is for you!

The articles hyperlinked in this post make great pre-reading, as well as this post by Kerry on Protecting your Creative Works Online.

Image credit: CC, Kristina Alexanderson
Co-editor: Magda Torres

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