Mark Twain channeled the frustration of many artists when he wrote, “Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.” from Mark Twain’s Notebook, 1902-1903. Michael Kahn wrote this line in Photography, Copyright, and “Derivative Works” in November 2009. The quote applies to those who want to control the use of their work as well as to those who think that with the advent of the internet current copyright laws are archaic. As inbound marketers we have learned the inbound marketing tip concerning the "article appeal rule" that states that pictures make a huge difference. Our blogs, our social media, our websites all need big dynamic pictures. So where do we get them and what does Mark Twain have to do with it?
The first and best way to have photos on your inbound marketing sites is to take them yourself. Don’t forget to get model releases from all the people you take pictures of. Don’t have time to go shoot tons of photos and get all those model releases? You can always draw or paint using real paper and pen or digital paint programs. Oh, you aren’t a painter? What now?
You can buy pictures from companies that sell stock photos. Many of the photos I find I like best come from Getty Images. They are rather pricey at $500 to $700 each. We will talk more about Getty in a little while. There are other companies that offer good pictures for more reasonable fees, say $15 each. But let’s do a little math here. You put out your blog 3 times a week, you want to put 3 pictures on each and there are four weeks in a month. That equals 36 pictures a month. Now get out your calculator and multiply 36 by $15. You have just spend $540 for one month’s worth of pictures. That isn’t feasible. Even if the pictures were only $5 each you would have spent $180. So you need this little inbound marketing tip:
Get Creative – Commons, that is
So now we come to photo sites like Flickr with Creative Commons pictures. This is generally a good alternative. However, sometimes people have been known to upload photos that were from those very expensive companies and put “Creative Commons” license information on them. This happened to Pamela Vaughan as she explained in her article, Copyright Law on the Internet Is a Total Train Wreck Right Now, June, 2013. Several of her blog photos got tagged by what Pamela called “a popular stock photography website” and her firm was threatened with having to pay for articles she thought she had gotten off Flickr having given them attribution in good faith. I know for a fact that this was Getty.
Pam talks about a series of letters sent to other web owners like the one her legal department received in the spring of 2013 threatening legal action. There was some question about the authenticity of these letters since there was no email of them and the physical letter (what is that?) her legal department received consisted of “a couple pages of blurry, printed out screenshots of the two images in question along with several pages of legal mumbo, jumbo. Umm…seriously?”
Pam then brings up the problem that aligns with Mark Twain’s complaint. She says:
And most of the problem stems from the fact that copyright laws are nowhere near aligned with how people use the web. Content sharing is a huge part of how the internet works. Now, don't get me wrong. We're definitely against violating copyright law -- we never would've used those images had we known they were stock photos -- but I think we can agree that there's a huge need for some internet-friendly copyright laws. My co-worker (funny enough, his name is Jay) likened the problem to jaywalking, which is technically illegal -- but should you really get fined for it? And lawmakers just aren't getting it right. (Remember last year's SOPA scare?)
I'm in the mood for lists
Since change in the laws to become internet friendly isn’t likely to happen any time soon, there are plenty of good suggestions to make sure you don’t get one of those “actual” letters that could scuttle your inbound marketing. TinEye is my favorite, but check all these out from Bruce Gabrielle, who put it into his article Finding Pictures for Commercial Use in PowerPoint Slides, March 2011:
- TinEye – Allows you to do a reverse image search, looking up the license tied to an online image and can generally detect which images are licensed and which are not.
- creativecommons.org – explains copyright and creative commons licenses
- Internet for Image Searching – A helpful and thorough tutorial for understanding the many different ways to search for images online
- 30 Excellent Resources for Graphic Design Freebies - the most comprehensive and helpful list of free images I’ve ever found online
Bruce also included in that article some sources for photos. I was sad that he didn’t mention my personal favorite--Photobucket. I get most of my photos from there after checking them with TinEye. Then I put the attribution at the end of my article. But his suggestions are good ones:
- Compfight.com – searches Flickr for Creative Commons images. Choose “Commercial” in the left nav for images that are approved to be used free for commercial uses
- Flickr – search for Creative Commons licenses
- Wikimedia Commons - an open source movement to share high-quality images for nearly unrestricted use (except attribution)
- Stock.xchng - A free stock photo site now owned and operated by Getty Images.
- Morguefile – high quality images that would have otherwise been on the cutting room floor
- Everystockphoto.com – searches Flickr, Stock.xchg and other free picture sites from one search engine
- Deviant art - select “Resources & Stock Images > Stock Images” to find creative commons images. Each artist has their own rules, so it’s a bit of extra effort to check each image and see the artist’s rules posted underneath the picture
- Government agencies – works created by the Canadian and U.S. governments are in the public domain
- Search your favorite search engine for “free images”, “free vector art
So before you claim you want to use a picture as content curated materials, check out their provenance, pay for them if you buy stock photos; and, above all, be careful. I hope you found this inbound marketing tip useful.
Where to you get your pictures?
Jaco Grobbelaar is the owner of BroadVision Marketing. BroadVision Marketing works with business owners to put in place inbound and outbound marketing strategies that consistently secure new clients. The BroadVision Marketing Training Center is located in Petaluma, CA and primarily serves companies in the San Francisco Bay area.