The Dangers of Using Unlicensed stock Images Online?

The risks of unlicenced stock images:Many local businesses when promoting themselves online are flippant when it comes to copyright.

Imagine, You have just sat behind your desk about to take the first sip of coffee while opening your post or checking how many emails are in your inbox still not replied to!

Websites of course will use images; a site would look pretty bland without them wouldn’t it ?.

    • The innocent-looking letter or email is opened and it appears to be from a stock library or photographer you have never dealt with or even heard of.


Suddenly your morning coffee doesn’t taste quite as good when your eyes notice a demand of several thousands of pounds for your use of an image on your company web site or a blog page that had not been licensed.

Notice about Unlicenced Stock Images – What do you do?

More than likely panic a little, ignore it and hope it may go away.

It is probably simply a scam and not worth bothering with.

However, it is not a scam.

Most of us have a web site which we use to promote our business no matter how large or small.

Maybe it is an ecommerce site or simply a platform to let your clients know what you do and what you can offer.

Unlicenced Stock Images

Unlicenced Stock Images – What do you know about your images?

If you know 100% where all the images came from on your web site and have permission from the license holder to use them or have paid for them by using a recognised stock library; then enjoy your coffee, ignore the letter and you may not even read this article.

If you cannot be sure your Images Are Legally Licenced- then read on.

Maybe you used a web site designer, an intern or the blog page is populated by images and you don’t know where they came from.
Were the images copied and pasted from a search engine and used without checking if they needed to be purchased?

Under UK copyright law the end-user (i.e. you) is responsible for the images on your site. The designer isn’t.  Remember it won’t be them paying the bill.

So firstly don’t panic.

Ask the team member responsible for the site (if it isn’t you) where the image(s) came from;
were they paid for and was the image licensed correctly.
If you used a web designer then ask them for a copy of the license to use the image on your site. This is something you should always do when having your site built. Do not just assume the images are okay to use.

Also remember the license holder of the image is justified in contacting you.

There is now very powerful software available to stock libraries and this is used to trace all their images being used on the good old worldwide web. If you haven’t paid for it they are within their rights to pursue you for copyright infringement;  let’s be honest you wouldn’t like it if someone ‘pinched’ your product.

You may also be asking yourself  ‘why is the fee so high’

It is more than likely the image in question is rights-managed and not royalty-free.

Yes you may argue that you can find a similar image for £5.00, why is the fee for this one so high ?

It is because this image is sold with a specific license, time period and type of use and is often sold on an exclusive basis. Remember you didn’t use a £5.00 image you used this one.

The license holder is also within their rights to charge you a fee for not crediting them, an image detection fee and an unauthorised image use – one image can amount to several thousands of pounds in fees.

Imagine if there are others on your site you are unaware of !

So if you haven’t purchased the image, you have no license to use it or your web site designer didn’t purchase it, what is your best course of action?

Firstly, remove the image, but this does not resolve the situation entirely. The license holder will still have a claim against you for using the image.

Pick up the phone, call the stock agency and explain this was not a malicious use of their image.

It rarely is, most companies would not knowingly use an image that should be licensed and just hope to get away with it.

Most stock libraries will offer you an amicable settlement offer if the case can be resolved quickly. They are reasonable people and speaking to them about the situation is always far better than hoping it will go away and it will save you a possible legal claim at a later date for copyright infringement.

The best scenario is to avoid this situation in the first place.

Take some time to ensure your site is only populated by images you have permission to use then you may enjoy your morning coffee in peace.

Graham at

This is a Guest Post By Graham Everitt owner of Copyright Correct. Graham has expertise in this field so Visit his Website at:

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I specialize in helping Local Businesses, StartUps, and SME's - Promote their business online through Digital Content. We Create - WordPress Websites, Blog Posts, Video and SlideShares. We set up Social Media optimised profiles and accounts. The focus of our business is helping local businesses and start-ups to compete in the online space.

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