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Should Web Hosts Offer Stock Images to Customers to Cut Down on Infringement?

If you have ever done very much posting on the web, you have likely turned to images to help illustrate a point you were trying to make. When you pull that image from somewhere else on the Internet, do you ever consider who made it? Do you know if you have permission to post it on your website? This is an issue that many bloggers and website businesses in the U.S. and abroad face.

Countries all over the world are starting to crack down on copyright infringement, meaning users of images need to be more conscious about the permissions they have to use certain pictures. Should you as a web host offer stock images to customers so as to cut down on rampant infringement? There may be many benefits to doing so. 

The Infringement Predicament 

Nearly everything is just a click away thanks to the Internet. Information all over the world is available in just a few seconds. If you have the technological know-how, then taking information or images off of someone else’s page is also very simple. Many authors and creators attempt to mark their works in such a way that they cannot be used without identifying the original creator. Yet there are still people who take the work of others and tout it as their own. When this kind of use of someone else’s material falsely attributes work to another or infringes financially on the original creator, it is known as copyright infringement. While such infringement has always existed, it has become much easier to do thanks to Internet access. 

More Countries Are Joining the Copyright Battle 

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Although the enforcement of copyright seems to be prevalent mostly in the United States, more and more countries all over the world are joining the copyright battle. Most countries have some sort of copyright law that protects a written piece of work for the life of the creator plus an additional 50 or more years after the creator’s death. Movies are usually copyrighted for 50 years following creation, and images may be copyrighted for at least 25 years after creation. 

Your Role in Copyrighted vs. Fair Use Material 

How does the use of copyrighted material affect you as a web host? It’s not like action is taken as soon as something that is copyrighted appears on a site that you are hosting. In most cases, there is only legal action if the original creator cites infringement. In this case, you and the client accused of copyright infringement would need to be notified and given a chance to take the material down. It’s often more of a nuisance than anything else, since many of your clients might not even realize they are breaking any copyright laws.

Fair use material, on the other hand, can be used on anyone’s website. In fact, there are businesses dedicated to providing customers with a wealth of stock images they can freely use—provided they subscribe to the service. With careful searching, there are also sites dedicated to providing copyright- and royalty-free images for anyone to use at no cost. 

What Options Do You Have? 

You have a few options when it comes to helping your customers avoid copyright infringement. You can notify your customers any time you find out they are using copyrighted material without permission. You can purchase smaller stocks of images and provide them to your clients with your hosting service. You can also create your own images and provide or sell them to your clients for use. 

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Purchasing Smaller Stock Sources 

There are some companies that sell stock images at a specified price per image. If you want your customers to have a variety of images to use that are not tied up under copyright, you may be able to purchase a set of these images. There are many benefits to using stock images from another source.

  • You don’t have to stress about creating them
  • There are a variety of subjects and styles to choose from
  • The images are already appropriately sized for use on a website (in most cases)

There may be specific rules and regulations regarding the use of certain stock images. You will want to make sure that you are allowed to share whatever stock sets you purchase or download with your customers. You also might not be able to charge your customers for certain sets after purchase. Although stock images may help you and your customers avoid copyright infringement, make certain you are using and providing them to your customers appropriately. 

Starting Your Own Image Stock 

If you really want to avoid the risk of copyright infringement altogether, you can create your very own image stock. This may or may not be difficult to do depending on your skills as an artist or photographer. Although it can take some time to build up your very own stock, creating your own set has many benefits, including that you know who created the image and you may be able to charge extra for using them. In fact, creating your own image stock can be a great way to collect a little cash on the side, especially if you make the images available for purchase by more than just your hosting customers. 

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Your Customers Aren’t the Only Ones Affected by Infringement

Although it might seem like a harmless act, copyright infringement is very serious. When someone uses another’s work without permission, it can affect the reputation and even the finances of the original creator. In essence, violating copyright is violating a part of someone else’s livelihood. As a web host, it is your duty to make sure your business is following the laws of your country, and that even images and work created in another country are used in compliance with that country’s copyright laws. When your customers break copyright laws, it affects you and the original creator of the work. If the fear of copyright infringement has you down, then you might consider offering stock images to customers in order to cut down on infringement. This lets you know where the images came from, and it can even earn you some extra income if you sell your own image stock. It also gives you a way to provide your customers with other options if you need to ask them to remove copyrighted images from their sites. You can help to cut down on the spread of copyright infringement. Take action today.

Top image ©GL Stock Images

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