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Images, Image Tracking Software and Copyright Law

Recently, we received a worried email from one of our clients. It said he was being sued for copyright infringement for using a photo on his website – a website we designed. <!–more–>

The news was obviously very alarming. We were completely taken aback because we have ensured that our team follows ethical practices. We obviously didn’t want our client to suffer and offered to bear the costs associated in case we are responsible for putting the said photo on his website.

Our challenge now was to locate 2 year old project data and communication files. Once we located it, we found out that we had not added that image on the client’s website. When we logged into the client’s server, we also found that the image had been uploaded on the server a year before we actually started to communicate with the client. Our team had just transfered the page contents (including this photo) to the new design. We also found the old page in the backup folder.

Although we are extremely happy that we lived up to our word, we are very concerned about our client. The picture was obviously used by the previous design company. And our client might now have to live with the consequences.

This brought us to the whole issue of copyright laws and the Internet.

Image Banks are using image tracking softwares like PicScout ( and are now going after websites displaying their images without license.

And it’s the website owners who are receiving the legal notices.

So what can you do now as the website owner?

1. Hire an attorney, now.
2. Dig out the contract if you signed one with the web designer/ independent contractor
4. Contact the web designer and ask him if he has a valid license for the image.
5. Respond to the legal notice immediately
6. Take down the image immediately if you or the web designer don’t have the license.

But as Ivan Hoffman puts it, “Help me is almost always cheaper than fix me”.

Precautions you can take:

1. Have a written agreement/contract with the web designer which leaves nothing to imagination.
2. Confirm if the web designer has the license to use the images that he has used on your website before you even make the site live. Preferably, get the license copy sent to you.

This is just ones of the many issues related to copyright and Internet. Strangely though, I couldn’t find much data online about this specific issue at all. Apart from a brief mention on Ivan Hoffman’s website, Ecademy and a couple of news items, forum, there wasn’t much out there.

This is the kind of information that should be readily available to all. There are so many individuals running their own small websites. How many of them are aware of this? So many people are now going to freelancers outside of their country to get their websites designed. Not being fully aware of the copyright laws can get very expensive.

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