Image Copyright & the risks to your club

Chances are you probably have a website, or if not a social media page or two. If you do, ask yourself one question. Do you own the image copyright on your website, or have you paid for a licence to use them?

And think very carefully about your answer, because getting it wrong could cost you hundreds if not thousands of pounds.

In recent years, unscrupulous companies have found a profit for themselves in trawling the internet for copyright infringement, and levying heavy fines for any violations, however minor.

So let’s take a look at how this might affect you and your club:

What is image copyright infringement?

Put simply, it’s when you use an image (or other unique piece of work) that someone else created without their permission.

What about a google image search? I can use those right?

Nope! This is where most people fall foul of the rules. Just because Google shows you an image, doesn’t mean anyone can use it. Most images will be owned by someone, however obscure, and if you use one of these, you could land in hot water.

Okay, but it was an innocent mistake, and I removed it as soon as I was told?

Tough luck. You’d think that would be acceptable. But frustratingly, more and more companies are seeing this as a way to turn a quick buck. Without a care for the size of your organisation, whether you’re a charity or any other mitigating factors.

There’s no wiggle room. No space for apology. And it’s this that makes these companies so dangerous, and the importance of not infringing copyright so relevant.

How do I know what images I can use?

It’s simple, you use any images you have taken yourself, or a member of your club has taken provided they allow you to use it. You can also use what are known as ‘stock images’ which are licensed for use.

There are free websites where you can access these such as Pexels and Unsplash, or you can access premium photography at a cost from sites like Shutterstock. And make sure you always check the licence of any images you download, to ensure you’re free to use them for your intended purpose.

And what should I do if one of these companies approaches me?

Firstly, check if you are using the image they claim. Then check if you are legal image copyright to use it. This means, if you or a representative of your club took the image themselves, or you paid for a licence to use the image as mentioned above.

If you are legally permitted to use the image, you should provide this evidence to whoever has approached you, and this should be the end of it.

However, if you have used an image by mistake, then your only real option is to pay the fine levied upon you. Before you do pay any fines, you may want to take legal advice, and check the legitimacy of the company that has approached you before handing over any cash.

Where can I get advice?

You can either take independent legal advice from your own advisers, or if you need some guidance, talk to our team. We have resources such as rradar available for our clients, which will offer legal guidance and representation if necessary.

Is it worth me challenging this in court?

If the fine levied against you is legitimate, then sadly it’s probably not worth it. It would cost you far more to take the battle to court than it would be to settle the fine, and chances are you’d be unlikely to win. As however unwitting the infringement may be, it is still classed as illegal.

So what should I do next?

Check your website, social media pages, and anywhere else you have a presence on the internet. Make sure you’re allowed to use every image you using, however old it may be. And if you’re unsure, it’s safer to remove images you don’t know about and replace them with your own images, or licensed stock images.

 We hope you’ve found this guide useful. After seeing several of our vulnerable clients fall foul of these rules, it’s important to us that no other organisation like yours should suffer unfair financial penalties unnecessarily. To find out more about working with us, and the protecting we can offer, you can get in touch here, or access an instant quote here.

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